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
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”