Thu | May 13, 2021

UN launches funding appeal for St Vincent

Published:Thursday | April 22, 2021 | 12:11 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
A plume of ash rises in the air and is seen from Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A plume of ash rises in the air and is seen from Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

The United Nations (UN) has launched a global funding appeal to raise US$29.2 million for relief efforts in St Vincent and the Grenadines and other affected countries, following a series of eruptions of the La Soufrière volcano.

Eruptions began on April 9 and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said the country will not be out of the woods for at least another four months.

In a virtual event on Tuesday, UN resident coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, described the volcanic impact as “apocalyptic”.

There has been widespread disruption with some 15,000 people displaced from the red and orange zones and the evacuation of patients and staff from two hospitals.

“We are dealing with a crisis within the COVID crisis. We fear the risk of spike in COVID cases, especially with people in shelters. Moreover, this is a very uncertain and complex situation where new eruptions may occur. Another one occurred two days ago, so the situation can deteriorate rapidly,” Trebucq said.

A team of experts will be deployed this week by the UN in collaboration with the European Union, to support clean-up efforts and the disposal of ashes.

With the Atlantic hurricane season six weeks away, the UN resident coordinator said predictions that it will be above average illustrates even further the complex challenges small island states like St Vincent and the Grenadines face.

He explained that the launch of the global funding appeal reflects the commitment of the UN to the region and the funds are expected to provide support for at least six months.

Funding raised will provide immediate, lifesaving humanitarian aid, including cash assistance, food, clean water, shelter and support for sustainable recovery in agriculture, education and health.

Gonsalves said the country has been put into a “veritable economic and social tailspin” where lives and livelihoods have been threatened immensely.

“Without an enhancement of this cooperation, the relief effort will be stymied and the prospects for our recovery and reconstruction will be dismal. Please help St Vincent and the Grenadines in its midnight hour of need,” he appealed.

He reasoned that the country, having improved the living standards of its people over the years, has been set back by decades and the uncertainty is troubling.

The 2020 Human Development Report ranked the country in the high human development category – positioning it at 97 out of 189 countries and territories. The rank is shared with Suriname.

The World Bank’s preliminary disaster resilience analysis revealed that in the volcanic hazard zones, that is the red and orange areas, the total built assets at risk are evaluated at approximately US$387.5 million.

“In the red zone alone, the replacement value of residential buildings is US$64 million, non-residential buildings US$106 million and infrastructure, much of which has been damaged, is US$83 million,” Gonsalves said.

Meanwhile, director general of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Dr Didacus Jules, shared that a ‘Stronger Together’ campaign has been launched to raise US$100 million towards rebuilding the country’s economy.

With schools disrupted because the majority of shelters are educational institutions, Jules said the OECS is exploring the concept of school on a mobile learning application.

Further, emissions of ash since April 9 are in excess of 100 million cubic metres with some areas covered by up to 16 inches of ash.

Jules said discussions are being held with the government of Norway about the possibility of turning ash to cash, as in the Pacific, ash spewed by the Taal volcano in January 2020 has been mixed with plastic waste to make bricks.