La Soufrière volcanic eruptions: Red Cross warns of immediate and long-term humanitarian needs


Near 20,000 people have been directly affected by La Soufrière volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and The Grenadines (SVG).

As La Soufrière volcano remains highly active, these numbers may increase in the coming weeks and months.

So far, almost 1,500 families in SVG have been displaced and more than 8,000 people have been evacuated and are staying at public and private shelters. Almost all of the 110,600 residents of the island have been indirectly affected by ashfall, water restrictions and the destruction of their livelihoods. An unquantified number of people have also been affected in neighboring islands.

SVG Red Cross volunteers have been supporting the evacuation efforts, providing first aid, promoting COVID-19 prevention, and distributing water, blankets, hygiene kits and basic needs items to the sheltered families. Immediate needs include access to water, food, health care, and hygiene, as well as cleaning and COVID-19 prevention items.

In response to this crisis, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal that seeks a total of 2 million Swiss francs (CHF) to support the Red Cross Societies in SVG, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada to deliver assistance and support for 18 months to 5,400 people.

The Red Cross actions will be focused on the distribution of major household items, and providing health care, psychosocial support, and access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Protecting people’s livelihoods will also be a priority.

“We are here for the long run, we were here for the COVID-19 and dengue outbreaks, and we will be here when people go back to their homes. Upon returning, thousands of them will need support in reactivating their family economy and generating new income,” said Ariel Kestens, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for the Dutch- and English-speaking Caribbean. “Using cash and vouchers is key not only to strengthen their resilience and recovery from these overlapping emergencies but also the local economy.”

Since the initial explosive eruption on 9 April, La Soufrière has erupted several times. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency has reported that explosions of similar or larger magnitude are likely to continue to occur over the next few days, resulting in ashfall affecting not just St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but also Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda.

The IFRC warns that if the eruptions continue into the coming hurricane season, this could lead to an even more complex humanitarian crisis.

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