UN launches $29.2M appeal for volcano-stricken St. Vincent

Local residents fill containers of water after a series of eruptions from La Soufriere volcano covered the area with a thick layer of ash in Biabou, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, April 13, 2021.
REUTERS/Robertson S. Henry

The United Nations launched a $29.2 million global funding appeal to aid citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines affected by the major eruptions spewing from La Soufrière volcano, pledging to remain a “steadfast partner”. 

The UN said the funding will provide immediate lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including clean water, and support a sustainable recovery for everyone impacted. Working with its partners, the UN 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.  

Another UN priority is to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19. 

St. 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 tall, La Soufrière dominates the largest island of St. Vincent. Silent since 1979, the volcano began spewing smoke and rumbling in December, before a full-blown eruption on April 9.  

With over 12,700 evacuees now registered in public shelters and in private homes, the UN said, 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.  

“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.  

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves joined Trebucq to launch the funding appeal, alongside multiple representatives from UN agencies and international organizations, including the World Food Program (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 Program (UNDP), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the UN refugee agency (OCHR).  

Trebucq said 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. 

The UN said 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 US$1 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Respond Fund (CERF) to urgently assist affected people, especially those who have had to be evacuated.

The UN said it stood “in deep solidarity” with St. Vincent and the Grenadines after devastating volcanic eruptions.   

“This crisis comes at the most difficult time, as the world is grappling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and ahead of the hurricane season”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement issued by his spokesperson. 

“The Secretary-General commends the local response efforts underway and reiterates the full support of the United Nations”, said Stéphane Dujarric.

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