Regional and international agencies as well as corporate entities have wasted no time in rendering monetary and other assistance to St Vincent and the Grenadines which has been severely affected by eruptions from the La Soufriere volcano during the week.
The European Union (EU) has mobilized €740,000 (EC$2.4 million) in emergency humanitarian aid to support those affected by the extremely damaging consequences of the volcano.
Explosive eruptions started on April 9, prompting the local government to order an immediate evacuation of the most directly exposed areas. The pyroclastic flows descending downhill and the approximately 10km-high ash column, whose falling debris have covered villages, damaged the country’s electricity grid and disrupted the water supply.
According to local authorities between 16,000 and 20,000 people have already been evacuated, with at least 4,000 of them currently living in temporary public shelters.
The volcano’s increasing activity has affected more than 110,000 people – almost the entire population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – at a time when the country has been facing a dengue outbreak in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our thoughts are with those who have been displaced, including those who have been left without clean water or electricity, due to the La Soufriére volcanic eruption.
We announce this emergency funding that will support St. Vincent and the Grenadines in their efforts to overcome this disaster, in the context of the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, which will target in particular support to the evacuees, access to clean water and sanitation.
The EU stands ready to step up humanitarian support for those in need in this urgent crisis,” said Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head of the EU Delegation in Barbados.
The emergency funding will be managed by the EU humanitarian aid department and implemented by humanitarian partners already active in the area.
It will prioritise interventions to guarantee immediate access to water, sanitation, hygiene, healthcare and distributions of non-food items, in addition to the protection of the most vulnerable.
Also playing its part was CIBC FirstCaribbean which has sent a shipment of much-needed supplies to the island.
The shipment which was coordinated by the Barbados Coast Guard left the island on Thursday evening aboard the Admiral Bay which was due to arrive in St. Vincent early this morning and will be presented to the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO).
The relief supplies which include over 40 pallets of food, water, cleaning supplies and sanitary items were purchased by funds donated by the bank’s charitable arm the FirstCaribbean International ComTrust Foundation.
The foundation’s chair and the bank’s Chief Executive Officer Colette Delaney said the bank shared a “deep concern for the wellbeing and safety of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as they are confronted with the twin threats of an erupting volcano and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic”.
Delaney said the eruption in St Vincent and the subsequent ash falls in Barbados and neighbouring islands demonstrated how interconnected the islands of the region are.
She also noted the sense of community demonstrated within the Caribbean in times of disaster, which she observed was borne out in how quickly the Caribbean reached out– within hours of the first eruption – with offers of aid to the people of St. Vincent.
“It is a testament to the closeness and sense of family of our region. We’ve seen this in times of disaster and need over and over again.
It proves that despite our differences of opinion and sometimes our squabbles, family always comes first. Our thoughts immediately go to the people of St. Vincent and our prayer is that they will continue to be safe,” Delaney said.
With Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean upscaling their humanitarian support for that Caribbean island, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has allocated US$1 million to the relief efforts.