One month after the explosive eruption of La Soufrière volcano, uncertainty remains, as ongoing volcanic activity prevents people from returning home and hurricane season approaches. Red Cross has supported more than 2,000 people with water and emergency relief supplies since the initial eruption on 9 April.
“We are responding to an emergency within another emergency as the eruption affects a country already impacted by an ongoing dengue outbreak and the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent heavy rainfall resulting in landslides and flooding and leading to damage and destruction of property makes the situation even more difficult. Responding to and recovering from these overlapping crises is challenging and will take time,” said Harvey Farrell, Vice-President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross (SVGRC).
As long as people are unable to return home, they will need ongoing support. In partnership with the national emergency management organization, SVGRC is working to help those who are not staying in government shelters by delivering food, water, clean-up kits, essential household items, hygiene supplies, and PPE. Volunteers deliver messages about staying safe and healthy during COVID-19, even while living with many families under one roof. Over the next 18 months, Red Cross is working to support more than 5,000 people during this difficult time.
“Not knowing when you can go home, especially in the middle of a pandemic, is incredibly difficult. Risk and fear remain as volcanic activity continues. Many Red Cross volunteers are impacted themselves, either evacuated or hosting friends and family from the evacuated areas. Despite this, they continue to support their communities,” said Daniel Arango, Disaster Management Coordinator with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Americas.
The theme of this year’s World Red Cross Red Crescent Day is ‘Unstoppable’, and the work of the SVGRC volunteers proves this to be true. The strength of the Red Cross is our community teams, combined with global support. International teams on the ground are working not only with SVGRC, but also alongside Red Cross volunteers in Barbados, St. Lucia, and Grenada, as they deal with ash from the eruption and prepare for the hurricane season.
Recent rain storms causing flooding and landslides show the increased vulnerability of people living on the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the 2021 hurricane season begins. This year, the Caribbean region is expected to face an above average season, with a predicted 17 named storms of which eight might become hurricanes.