The Saint Lucia Red Cross (SLRC) as a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is one of hundreds of Red Cross Societies in the Americas, currently engaged in mobilizing and ramping up the efforts to prepare for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. During the next six months, deadly rains, landslides and floods could further affect communities already grappling with the pandemic, where vaccines are not yet widely available, and where livelihoods have been destroyed.
Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General said :
“In Central America and Colombia, thousands of families are still recovering from damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which affected more than 7.5 million people just six months ago. Recovery has been hindered by the pandemic, which has wiped people’s economic resources, strained health systems and caused challenges to the response.
“The pandemic adds another layer of complexity. We are now, once again, facing an extremely challenging scenario, with overlapping crises increasing the vulnerabilities of women, children, migrants and other groups. We are supporting regional efforts to prepare for this hurricane season, including strengthening an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that no one is left behind.”
To mitigate the logistical challenges caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the IFRC has prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs of up to 60,00 people. In addition, Red Cross teams share early warning messages and urge people to have food, water and other basic necessities at hand, as during the pandemic it might take longer for help to arrive.
The IFRC is paying particular attention to the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, where several countries have been affected by La Soufrière’s volcanic eruption and where COVID-19 cases and deaths are currently reaching a record high and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is particularly severe.
Roger Alonso, IFRC Head of Disasters, Crises and Climate Unit, said:
“These weather events are cyclical and becoming more frequent and intense. In many cases, we can predict them, so we urge government and donors across the region to invest in early warning systems, disaster preparedness efforts and climate change adaptation initiatives that engage vulnerable communities and put them at the heart of the humanitarian response. The Red Cross experience shows that being better prepared before a disaster hits can save lives.”
This year, the Saint Lucia Red Cross is also considering the implications of COVID-19 and the volcanic activity in St Vincent in its planning process. Preparedness is key is the main message of Hubert Pierre, President of the Saint Lucia Red Cross.
According to Pierre: ‘We’ve given full consideration to the presence of COVID-19 and the on-going volcanic activity in St Vincent as these can exacerbate the given situation in a hurricane or storm. There is no doubt that sheltering will be critical, give and take the specialized needs for these threats. We better be ready!’
Saint Lucia Red Cross preparation activities include the prepositioning of non-food items (NFIs) and the signing of MOUs for the supply of food items at the community level. Additionally, training and retraining of volunteers and staff in areas of needs assessment, community engagement and infection and prevention control continues.
Experts predict 13 to 20 named storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean only, six to 10 of those developing into hurricanes, and three to five possibly becoming major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. These storms could bring further devastation to a region that is still heavily affected by last year’s storms and hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.