The UN launched a $29.2 million global funding appeal on Monday 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”.
The funding will 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.
The designated red zone in St. Vincent and the Grenadines tells a powerful story of the devastation caused by the La Soufriere volcano. @UNICEFECA Representative, Dr Aloys Kamuragiye visited the red zone in St Vincent and the Grenadines to have a firsthand look. pic.twitter.com/lWdzG6SFQH— UNICEF Eastern Caribbean (@UNICEFECA) April 19, 2021
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.
Call to action
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 Mr. Trebucq to launch the funding appeal, alongside multiple representatives from UN agencies and international organizations, including the World Food Programme (WFP), and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Joining the launch online were representatives from UN Women, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UN refugee agency (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.