UN Seeks $29.2 Million for Caribbean Island Sacked by Volcanic Eruptions  

United Nations has launched a $29.2 million global funding appeal to aid citizens of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines affected by the major eruptions spewing from La Soufrière volcano, pledging to remain a “steadfast partner”.

Volcanic eruptions in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, affected around 30,000 people, and left the entire population of the main island without clean water and electricity.

Reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), showed that about 30,000 evacuees on the Caribbean island are currently in need of shelter.

“The eruption has affected most livelihoods in the northern part of the island, including banana farming, with ash and lava flows hampering the movement of people and goods”, the UN agency said.

Although the volcano had been dormant since 1979, it started spewing smoke and actively rumbling in December.

La Soufrière erupted last Friday, blanketing Saint Vincent in a layer of ash and forcing some 16,000 residents to evacuate their homes to cruise ships and safer parts of the island.

Along with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the UN has mobilized pre-positioned water and sanitation hygiene supplies, currently stored in nearby Barbados.

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General spoke to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves and the Government officially asked for UN assistance.

The aid includes relief items, food and cash distribution and technical advice while neighbouring countries are contributing emergency supplies and assets to support evacuation, according to the UN spokesperson.

Meanwhile, OCHA reported that intervals between tremors have lasted between 1.5 to 3 hours, which, based on visual observations and satellite imagery, are associated with periods of explosive activity or enhanced venting of the volcano.

“Explosions and accompanying ashfall of similar or larger magnitude are likely to continue to occur over the next few days”, according to the UN humanitarian office.

At the request of the Prime Minister, the UN has also mobilized experts through the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)to develop and implement a debris management plan, including to clean up ash and promote environmental health and safety.

The funding will however, provide immediate lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including clean water, and support a sustainable recovery for everyone impacted.

The UN and partners will also assess the economic, social and environmental toll on all the countries touched by the fallout, including ash removal and improving environmental health provisions.

Another UN priority is to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19

Caribbean island rocked 

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, located in the southern Caribbean, consists of more than 30 islands and cays, nine of which are inhabited.

At 4,000 feet or 1,220 metres tall, La Soufrière dominates the largest island of Saint Vincent. Silent since 1979, the volcano began spewing smoke and rumbling in December, before a full-blown eruption on 9 April.

With over 12,700 evacuees now registered in public shelters and in private homes, close to 20,000 people are expected to be displaced.

Entire villages have been covered in ash, buildings damaged, schools and businesses closed, crops and livestock destroyed, and residents left with limited access to clean drinking water.

And further eruptions are expected in the coming weeks.

“The level of destruction that has befallen this beautiful country and the widespread disruption caused by this event will forever be etched in my mind. The devastating impact of this event on thousands of people is undeniable”, said UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Carribean, Didier Trebucq.

A call for international solidarity has been made to provide a lifeline to the most vulnerable people in St. Vincent as well as in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada and Saint Lucia, which have been hit with severe ashfall.

“The UN will be a steadfast partner, working with the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to ensure strong and resilient recovery”, assured the Resident Coordinator.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves joined Trebucq to launch the funding appeal, alongside multiple representatives from UN agencies and international organizations, including the WFP and UNICEF.

Joining the launch online were representatives from UN Women, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UNEP, and OCHR.

The financial resources will also be used for crucial recovery efforts to immediately assist citizens to regain their footing.

“This Global Fund appeal will mobilize international solidarity to enhance our efforts”, he said.

Country in crisis 

This crisis comes as St. Vincent and the Grenadines is recovering from its largest COVID-19 surge amid the pandemic, the region’s worst Dengue outbreak in recent history, and a new deadly hurricane season.

Meanwhile, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock announced the allocation of $1 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Respond Fund (CERF) to urgently assist affected people, especially those who have had to be evacuated.


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