Kingston, Jamaica, October 9, 2021– Hundreds of people affected by the explosive eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines six months ago are still unable to return home despite being given the all-clear to do so. Since the initial eruption on April 9, Red Cross teams have been supporting more than 4,000 people with water, emergency relief supplies, as well as hygiene and cleaning items and are now assisting families with recovery.
“The Red Cross has taken a holistic approach to the response. In the initial stages, we provided the basic relief items such as food, water and hygiene kits and now we are going into the livelihood recovery and housing support phase,”said Bernard Morgan, President of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross (SVGRC), adding that psychosocial support, especially for children impacted by the disaster, is also a critical component of the response. The Red Cross provided over 400 children with psychosocial support kits including learning and recreational items and collaborated with partners, like UNICEF, to ensure child friendly spaces in shelters.
At least 1500 people (500 families) still require shelter support due to the level of damage sustained to their homes. The Red Cross is working closely with the Ministry of National Mobilisation as well as the Ministry of Education to help these families move into transitional rental accommodation, so the communal shelters (mainly schools) can be closed and handed over back to the Education ministry for the reopening of schools.
“Through the IFRC’s emergency appeal, we have issued cash vouchers to families who are returning home so they can purchase well-needed items and for those who are unable to return home just yet, we are providing them with financing to rent temporary housing for a few months, until their houses are repaired and habitable,” said James Bellamy, Deputy Operations Manager with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Americas.
This emergency is another example of overlapping crises, as the eruption affects a country already impacted by an ongoing dengue outbreak and the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has hit the tourism industry, one of the main economic activities of the island. The IFRC is concerned that the long-term effects of the eruption and the pandemic, combined with the possible development of more storm systems during the remainder of the hurricane season, could lead to an even more complex humanitarian crisis.