Bridgetown, 7 January 2014 – In response to serious damage caused by a Low Level Trough System in the Eastern Caribbean region, the European Commission’s Department of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has released more than €300,000 to bring immediate relief to the population most affected by floods.
“Damage in the Eastern Caribbean has been very significant, mainly because the Low Level Trough System unexpectedly occurred outside the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The European Commission wants to help the emergency relief effort with this immediate allocation of aid,” said Jocelyn Lance, Head of the ECHO Caribbean Office.
On 24 December 2013 severe rains and high winds struck due to an unexpected Low Level Trough System passing through the Eastern Caribbean. The trough caused severe floods, landslides and damage in St Lucia and St Vincent & Grenadines, leaving 15 people dead and around 220,000 affected, mainly jeopardizing access to safe water.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines, critical infrastructure was affected by flooding and landslides, including the airport and main hospital, as well as several bridges and roads. The damage has been so extensive that the government declared a Level 2 disaster, which calls for regional assistance, as local resources and capacities are limited.
In Saint Lucia water systems collapsed due to flooding leaving the entire population without access to water. Electricity blackouts, landslides, damage and blockage of roads, bridges and homes took place island-wide. Hospitals and health centres reported damage to equipment and medical stocks. Agricultural crops, especially bananas and vegetables, were also severely affected, with damage of up to 90% of the crop.
The immediate priorities are access to safe water and sanitation, distribution of relief items (hygiene kits, cleaning tools, jerry cans….), health and housing. The potential for an increase in water and vector borne diseases, especially dengue, is of concern.
As a major contributor to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) of the IFRC, the European Commission has agreed to use €104,834 of its DREF contribution to help bring relief to the victims. The aid will be channeled through the Red Cross National Societies of Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which operate with funding from the DREF (€ 56,054 and €48,780 respectively). Assistance includes distribution of food, relief items, access to water and sanitation, and hygiene promotion to minimize the risk of diseases. In addition, €200,000 has been granted to the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to restore health services and reduce the impact of the disaster on public health.
The European Commission’s disaster preparedness programme (DIPECHO) is currently funding four projects in the affected region, specifically in St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica.“Despite the damage registered, disaster preparedness actions once again proved relevant and lifesaving. In St Lucia, for example, the Community Disaster Response Teams (CDRT), formed under the disaster preparedness programme of the European Commission (DIPECHO) provided first aid, psychosocial support and distributed relief items,” the Head of the ECHO Caribbean Office said. “This is why ECHO will continue to support these initiatives in the Caribbean,” he added.
Current DIPECHO projects, lasting until December 2014, will keep working to strengthen the most vulnerable communities’ capacities to anticipate, withstand and recover from natural hazards. The funds will also be used to establish and upgrade early warning systems and reinforce health centres’ preparedness.
The European Commission has signed a €3 million humanitarian contribution agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters – those that do not give rise to a formal international appeal. The Disaster Relief Emergency Fund was established in 1985 and is supported by contributions from donors. When a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF. For small-scale disasters, the IFRC allocates grants from the Fund, which can then be replenished by donors. The contribution agreement between the IFRC and the European Commission enables the latter to replenish the DREF for operations (that fit in with its humanitarian mandate) up to a total of €3 million.