La Soufriere Volcano: Building from the ashes

The Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the UN and humanitarian partners rally to bring relief to thousands affected by the erupting volcano – global funding appeal launched

UNICEF
Aerial view of an ash-covered community in the red zone around La Soufriere
BajanPro/UN Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
28 April 2021
Sandy Bay, one of the worst affected areas.
Orvil Samuel
Sandy Bay, one of the worst affected areas.

Grey devastation falls from the skies   

On 9 April 2021 La Soufriere Volcano in the north of the island of Saint Vincent finally did what it had been threatening to do for months: it erupted explosively – raining tonnes of dust and ash on surrounding communities and transforming the landscape.

Residents take to the road, evacuating the red zone on 18 April 2021.
BajanPro/UN Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
Residents take to the road, evacuating the red zone on 18 April 2021.

What we leave behind

Just hours before the first eruption, the government had organized a mass evacuation from the red zone. Now some 13,000 people have been displaced, with movement ongoing.

More than 6,000 people are staying in 88 government shelters, 1,000 of them children.
(As of 22 April 2021). 

Dr Hon. Ralph Gonsalves leads UN representatives on a fact-finding mission to discover how Vincentians have been affected by the eruption
BajanPro/UN Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
Dr Hon. Ralph Gonsalves leads UN representatives on a fact-finding mission to discover how Vincentians have been affected by the eruption.

Assessing the needs

The UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq and Dr. Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF’s Eastern Caribbean Representative, joined Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves on a fact-finding mission. The PM introduced them to a plantain farmer, Suzanne, describing her as “a strong farmer, and a very strong woman in every respect,” whose crops have been damaged by the ash.    

A team of UN partners, led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), has embarked on a Detailed Damage Sector Assessment to explore how the needs of those affected by La Soufriere can be met.

An impromptu press conference during the fact-finding visit
Craig Williams
An impromptu press conference during the fact-finding visit.

Dr. Kamuragiye took the opportunity to talk to the media about the extent of the crisis and the need for comprehensive, effective and immediate action in a number of sectors. During the visit, he praised the resilience of the people of Saint Vincent and their determination to rebuild their lives. He stressed UNICEF’s particular commitment to children in this process, 
“We are making sure that children are protected, especially in the shelters and private homes, and that key services such as water, sanitation, hygiene, health care, psychosocial support are available to them.”

These hygiene kits and recreational kits sent by UNICEF arrived at a distribution centre in Saint Vincent within hours
Courtesy of the Barbados Defence Force
These hygiene kits and recreational kits sent by UNICEF arrived at a distribution centre in Saint Vincent within hours

Emergency assistance from a range of UN agencies and humanitarian partners began almost immediately after the eruption. UNICEF – the lead in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector – sent several tonnes of supplies, including water tanks, containers and hygiene kits within 24 hours. 

Young girls in the Diamond Government School shelter in the capital of Kingstown
Craig Williams
These young girls are now staying with their family in the Diamond Government School shelter in the capital of Kingstown. Vincentians are trying to make the best of things in hugely difficult circumstances.
Young girls and family in the Diamond Government School shelter in the capital of Kingstown talking with Dr. Kamuragiye.
Craig Williams
Talking things through — The family meets Dr. Kamuragiye to share their experiences of escape and sheltering. They tell him about the need for learning and services in the shelter to help them start the journey back to normality.
Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves explains the dire situation in his country during the launch of the UN global funding appeal.
BajanPro/UN Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
Dr. Hon. Ralph Gonsalves explains the dire situation in his country during the launch of the UN global funding appeal.

“Help us in our midnight hour”

On 20 April 2021, the UN launched a US$29.2 million global funding appeal to provide aid and recovery to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as other countries affected by ashfall, in a number of critical areas.  

Dr. Hon. Gonsalves took part in the launch and thanked the UN for the initiative which came, he said, at his country’s darkest moment. “Without effective cooperation between our country, the United Nations and our regional and subregional organisations, our life and living would be wholly unbearable…and the prospects for our recovery and reconstruction would be dismal.”