Red Cross warns of immediate and long-term needs following La Soufrière eruption

Photo Caption From left: Coordinator of the Red Cross Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Reference Centre, Reynette Royer, Regional Director IFRC, Walter Cotte, Executive Director CDEMA Ronald Jackson, President of the Barbados Red Cross Society Winston Smith and Head of the Country Cluster Support Team for the Anglo Caribbean at lFRC, Ariel Kestens.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has warned that there will be immediate and long-term humanitarian needs following the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Noting that some 20,000 people have been directly affected by the eruptions and that the volcano remains highly active, IFRC said the number of people affected is expected to increase in the coming weeks and months.

”So far, almost 1,500 families in SVG have been displaced and more than 8,000 people have been evacuated and are staying at public and private shelters. Almost all of the 110,600 residents of the island have been indirectly affected by ashfall, water restrictions and the destruction of their livelihoods. An unquantified number of people have also been affected in neighbouring islands,” the IFRC said in a statement.

The association said Red Cross volunteers in St Vincent have been supporting the evacuation efforts, providing first aid, promoting COVID-19 prevention, and distributing water, blankets, hygiene kits and basic needs items to the sheltered families.

”Immediate needs include access to water, food, health care, and hygiene, as well as cleaning and COVID-19 prevention items,” the statement said.

The IFRC said it has launched an emergency appeal that seeks a total of two million Swiss francs (CHF) to support the Red Cross Societies in SVG, Barbados, St Lucia and Grenada to deliver assistance and support for 18 months to 5,400 people.

The IFRC noted that its actions will be focused on the distribution of major household items, and providing health care, psychosocial support, and access to water, sanitation and hygiene as well as protecting people’s livelihoods will also be a priority.

IFRC’s Head of Delegation for the Dutch- and English-speaking Caribbean, Ariel Kestens said, “We are here for the long run, we were here for the COVID-19 and dengue outbreaks, and we will be here when people go back to their homes. Upon returning, thousands of them will need support in reactivating their family economy and generating new income.”

“Using cash and vouchers is key not only to strengthen their resilience and recovery from these overlapping emergencies but also the local economy,” she added.

La Soufrière has erupted several times since the initial explosive eruption on April 9,.

The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has reported that explosions of similar or larger magnitude are likely to continue to occur over the next few days, resulting in ashfall affecting not just St Vincent and the Grenadines, but also Barbados, St Lucia, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The IFRC also warned that if the eruptions continue into the coming hurricane season, this could lead to an even more complex humanitarian crisis.