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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and surrounding countries: La Soufrière Volcanic Eruption Emergency Appeal n° MDRVC005 - 6-month Operation Update

Saint-Vincent et les Grenadines
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On 29 December 2020, the La Soufrière volcano alert level in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was elevated to orange due to increased volcanic activity. On 8 April 2021, the alert level increased to red, with government authorities issuing immediate evacuation orders. On 9 April 2021, La Soufrière erupted for the first time after 40 years, sending an ash plume of 10km into the sky. Subsequent multiple eruptions occurred, and several severe tropical storms and rain events hampered clean operations and slowed down the recovery phase of the operation. While heavy ashfall initially impacted the surrounding islands, this did not continue, and the surrounding islands of Barbados, Grenada and St Lucia avoided having significant damage or evacuation notices.

At its peak, the eruption displaced more than 13,300 people across public and private collective centres. Almost all of St. Vincent's 110,600 population was indirectly affected by ashfall, water restrictions, loss of income, and house rental shortages.

The red and orange zones were designated as being safe for people to return in September by NEMO. This decision, along with ash clearing works, the reopening of schools, and government lead house repair activities, has resulted in a significant portion of impacted households returning to their homes. The latest data from the Ministry of National Mobilisation as of 30 November, lists eight collective shelters that remain open with 117 people in total. However, based on secondary data, it is estimated that approx. 500 households continue to live with host families in non-government shelters, and rental accommodation as their homes remain too damaged to return to their homes.

Among the government’s efforts to support households in St Vincent & the Grenadines to recover in the aftermath of the eruption are:

  • Cleaning and clearing of ash from all roadways

  • Support to the agriculture sector through monthly payments of 500 Bahamian Dollars (XCD)

  • Support to farmers to clear ash from land and carry out mechanical tilling

  • Construction of several transitional schools to fill the gap created by permanent schools that remain damaged

  • Provision of food parcels (with SVGRC supporting with distributions)

  • Supply of construction materials for house repairs

  • Construction of 27 new homes in Orange Hill for households that cannot return to their pre-eruption home.

Summary of the current response

Overview of Host National Societies Response Action

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross (SVGRC) has worked closely with the national authorities supporting families to evacuate from the red and orange zones and has continued to provide food parcels and other in-kind Public donations that they have received through bilateral donations and partnerships. The following actions have been implemented by the National Society so far:

  • SVGRC has a representative present at the bi-weekly National Emergency Conference meetings with the Prime Minister and the heads of key government departments.

  • Provided 291 Multipurpose cash grants distributed to households during the emergency phase of the response.

  • Distribution of relief items such as blankets, water bottles, jerry cans, mosquito nets, cleaning kits for 1,765 families living with host families and in non-government managed shelters.

  • 67 families (227 people) have been supported to relocate out of communal shelters and into transitional rental accommodation.

  • 3,231 food parcels (purchased with bilateral funds – delivered under the appeal) have been delivered to families in St Vincent and Bequia islands

  • 1,498 hygiene kits have been provided to households.

  • 257 shelter tool kits have been distributed

  • Supported the establishment and provisioning of 11 child-friendly spaces in communal shelters.

  • Prepared Psychosocial (PSS) teams to assist with ‘Return to Happiness’ programme in collaboration with UNICEF, the Ministry of Social Development, and the Department of Child Welfare.

  • Continued distributed PPE items, including face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers to ensure a COVID19-safe environment.

Overview of Red Cross Red Crescent Movement Actions in country

The Americas Regional Office (ARO) supports the Port of Spain Country Cluster Delegation (PoS CCD) and other regional Movement partners. IFRC is closely working with and supporting the SVGRC to implement and monitor activities under the La Soufriere operation. There are currently three IFRC staff (Operations Manager, CVA delegate and Livelihood delegate). Additional staff (Finance Officer, Human Resources and Appeal Manager) are being provided through the PoS delegation.

The Canadian Red Cross and Government of Canada have continued to partner with SVGRC in the Community Resilience Building Caribbean Region (CRB) project. This project was initially put on hold after the eruption of 9 April, with the CRB project colleagues supporting the National Society through various activities and interventions. This program has now recommenced and aims to have all targets achieved by 31 December 2021.

Overview of non-RCRC actors’ actions in country

IFRC and SVGRC have been attending the weekly National Emergency Conference meetings that the Prime Minister has chaired, these meetings moved to bi-weekly events in September, and it is anticipated that they will continue through to the end of the year.

IFRC also attended and coordinated with the CVA working group and the WASH coordination working group. Both groups are regularly attended by representatives from FAO, WHO, UNICEF, Caritas and representatives from the Ministry of Health and the national water authority.

The Ministry of Public Works has completed a detailed damage assessment, including damage to major infrastructure, waterways, bridges and homes across the island of St Vincent.

IFRC and SVGRC are collaborating closely with the Ministry of Education through the provision of hygiene promotion, COVID-19 awareness activities, the supply and installation of hand sanitiser units and supporting COVID safe protocols in schools to help students return to school after they were closed and used for Communal shelters from April through to September.