Kingstown: The housing of hundreds of people in shelters across the island of St Vincent is an unsustainable solution for citizens displaced by the eruptions at the La Soufriere Volcano.
This is one of the major findings of a Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) team, which recommends the sheltered Vincentians be moved to temporary housing as soon as possible.
The Regional Security Service (RSS) Training Institute Manager, Retired Brigadier General Earl Arthurs, who is leading the CDEMA detail, revealed that while the “one-room hotels” are being used in the short-term, these conditions should not continue for more than a few weeks.
“The shelters are school rooms and even if you put one family in a classroom and there are six of them, you have no privacy,” Arthurs told Barbados TODAY.
“Now if you have them in emergency housing, it could mean you could build some wooden houses for them on a piece of land and at least you would have your family in some privacy and able to operate for a while until you can build back your house.
“Of course you have to look at the money, but I know for sure that if they agree and identify a piece of land and want to put up 100 wooden houses, that can be done easily, because there is a lot of wood in Belize and Guyana and we actually export houses in containers already cut and shaped and everything,” contended the Retired Brigadier General, who is a former Chief of Staff of the Belize Defence Force (BDF).
Tens of thousands are said to be housed in the government shelters, while thousands are staying with friends and relatives in the island’s ‘green’ and ‘orange’ zones.
The five-day mission comprising officials from the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is also examining the impact of La Soufriére on then sectors including food, water and agriculture.
Arthurs added that the long-term plan is to ‘build back better’, though they remain challenged by the possibility of further eruptions.
He revealed that in the shelters, there has also been some concern about the safety of the water supply, although water tests have come back negative for contamination.
Health officials on the CDEMA team have also found no significant increase in COVID-19 cases and clusters, despite a massive evacuation of 20,000 people, some in cramped vehicles and small boats. ([email protected])