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Strengthening disaster management capacity in the Caribbean region

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Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population :

1.1. - Rationale :

The Caribbean region experiences multiple natural disasters. Tropical storms often take the form of a hurricane1, and the hurricane season lasts for six months. There are also floods, flash floods, tsunamis, landslides and mudslides. Some islands suffer from earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The physical risk is combined with socioeconomic factors, such as high population density, fast demographic growth and great poverty. The combination of these factors results in very vulnerable communities, with few coping capacities in the event of disaster.

The hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 demonstrated tragically the Caribbean region's exposure and vulnerability to disaster. The hurricanes and tropical storms which devastated Grenada and parts of Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas claimed more than 3,000 lives. Moreover, some 2,000 people perished in floods in South-eastern Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In Guyana in January 2005, the most severe floods recorded in over 100 years devastated the coastal areas, taking communities off guard. In 2006, despite the hurricane season being less drastic than predicted, torrential rainfall affected Guyana, Suriname and Haiti, flooding vast areas in the interior of these countries(1).

The Red Cross has always been at the forefront in responding to disasters, as demonstrated by the following list:

- May 2004 - Floods in Dominican Republic and Haiti

- August 2004 - Hurricane Charley in Jamaica, Cayman Island and Cuba

- August 2004 - Hurricane Frances in Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos and Bahamas

- September 2004 - Hurricane Ivan in Grenada, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Cuba and Mexico

- September 2004 - Hurricane Jeanne in Haiti, Dominican Republic and Bahamas

- January 2005 - Floods in Guyana

- July 2005 - Hurricane Denis and Emily in Haiti and Jamaica

- October 2005 - Hurricane Wilma in the Bahamas

- February 2006 - Floods in Guyana

- May 2006 - Floods in Suriname

- September-October 2006 - Floods from Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ernesto in Haiti

As in other parts of the world, the National Red Cross Societies of disaster-affected countries are supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). In 2001, IFRC established the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU), in order to respond more effectively to natural disasters in the Caribbean and Latin America. PADRU has two main roles. When disaster occurs, it coordinates and facilitates the international response of the Red Cross in the Caribbean and Latin America. When not responding to disasters, it contributes to strengthening the local and regional disaster response capacity of the National Societies.

PADRU provides technical support by means of disaster management tools and systems which can be applied in an emergency. These have been developed by IFRC, based on experience, and have demonstrated their value frequently:

- Community Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA), a Disaster preparedness tool

- Rapid response to natural disasters via guidelines for Well Prepared National Societies (WPNS), coordinated by the Federation's secretariat

- Mobilisation and coordination of trained teams at different levels, such as National Intervention Teams (NIT), Regional Intervention Teams (RIT), and (at international level) Field Assessment & Coordination Teams (FACT) and technically specialised Emergency Response Units (ERU)

- Disaster Management Information System (DMIS), which supports assessments, strategic decision-making, and coherent planning.

The purpose of this funding decision is to support IFRC / PADRU in fulfilling its role in the Caribbean region, especially concerning its mandate to help National Societies (NS) to reduce risk and to prepare for, respond to and recover from disasters. As such, the funding decision supports the IFRC Appeal 2006-2007 (Appeal No. MAA42001)(2) as far as the Caribbean is concerned.

1.2. - Identified needs :

There is great need for effective disaster management / response in a region as exposed to disasters as the Caribbean. With its universal mandate and presence, the Red Cross is well placed to provide this, given adequate support. This reinforcement is extra important for those Caribbean states whose governments and institutions do not have sufficient capacity to manage their own disaster response completely.

The ongoing development of the disaster management tools and systems described above is a complex and time-consuming process. They require constant updating and refining, whilst the people who implement them need retraining to ensure effective functioning before, during and after disasters. Each new catastrophe can entail fresh challenges and lessons to be learned.

Key areas being addressed by IFRC / PADRU which require ongoing development are:

- Preparedness; to the level required to manage a disaster

- Response; adequacy and timeliness of this

- Capacity-building; activities should improve local response capacity in a sustainable manner

- Coordination; enhancement of internal coordination between NS and the Secretariat of the Federation, and external coordination with non-Red Cross actors.

1.3. - Target population and regions concerned :

This decision targets the Caribbean region. The support that IFRC will be giving, through PADRU, to the NS in the region will contribute to protecting and saving lives of the most vulnerable population in these countries:

Country/OCT(3) Population Country/OCT Population
Anguilla 8,000 Grenada 80,000
Antigua & Barbuda 86,000 Guyana 859,876
Aruba 66,000 Haiti 7,180,000
Bahamas 276,000 Jamaica 2,530,000
Barbados 255,000 Montserrat 14,000
Belize 215,000 Saint-Kitts and Nevis 40,000
British Virgin Islands 17,000 Saint-Lucia 150,000
Cayman Islands 30,000 Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines 125,000
Dominica 85,000 Suriname 431,303
Dominican Republic 7,910,000 Trinidad and Tobago 1,240,000
Dutch Antilles 200,000 Turks and Caicos Islands 15,000
Total 21,813,179

1.4. - Risk assessment and possible constraints :

There is risk of strikes, demonstrations or social violence disrupting disaster operations, especially in Haiti. Moreover, in case of a huge disaster, IFRC / PADRU could be overwhelmed.


(1) Pronounced rotary circulation, with constant wind speed of 74 miles per hour / 119 kilometres per hour or more

(2) The Appeal seeks a total of CHF 5,439,497 or EUR 3,528,242 for the Caribbean and Latin America, 2006-2007

(3) Overseas Country / Territory