After Hurricane Thomas, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Strengthens its Resilience

September 25, 2014

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Improved flood defences on the River Teviot

World Bank

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Tomas in 2010, the project supported the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure serving highly vulnerable population and advanced the Government’s ability to manage disaster risk data. Financed by an International Development Association (IDA) credit of US$5 million and prepared following rapid response procedures, the project focused on retrofitting social infrastructure, integrating gender and social focus in the rehabilitation works.

Challenge

Historical data indicates that in the Eastern Caribbean, the regional probability of a hurricane in any given year is about 18%, underscoring the need for disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness.

SVG’s vulnerability to natural hazards has been exacerbated by its deeply dissected topography, making the country prone to landslides and flash flooding. Furthermore, increased disaster events have resulted in significant expenditures, generally not accounted for in the national budget, thus constraining economic growth.

Hurricane Tomas took a heavy toll on the country’s socio-economic development, with significant damage to schools and community centers that are part of the national network of emergency shelters. Critical roads were cut by landslides or by the flooding of major rivers.

During and after the hurricane, community residents in certain areas were isolated and shelter facilities were damaged or inaccessible for several days. As a consequence, the impact of the hurricane was even more severe on the most vulnerable groups.

Solution

The Hurricane Tomas Emergency Recovery Project (HTERP) accelerated the recovery of critical infrastructure following Hurricane Tomas. The project retrofitted schools, community centers, road and river defense infrastructure that were heavily impacted by Hurricane Tomas, and also made provisions for advancing risk analysis skills and tools used by the government for hazard mapping.

The investments under the HTERP focused on increasing the resilience of physical infrastructure, while including functional considerations, for instance introducing gender-specific restrooms for reducing gender-based violence and improving disabled access at shelter facilities.

Under the project, civil works targeted areas with the highest levels of poverty, hence most vulnerable to natural hazards. Moreover, the HTERP recognized the importance of enhancing institutional capacity in order to improve post-disaster responsiveness as a framework for encouraging mitigation and risk planning complimentary to the country’s response mechanisms.



Results

The project supported the increased resilience of physical infrastructure, and the enhancement of institutional capacity to improve disaster preparedness and risk reduction through:

  • Rehabilitation and hurricane retrofitting of schools and community centers which double up as emergency shelters. Three schools and three community centers were retrofitted with critical improvements, including roof repair, hurricane-resistant windows and gutters, emergency water supplies, etc. Special consideration was taken in building gender-segregated washrooms and disability access ramps, and the most vulnerable communities (highest poverty levels) were targeted for intervention. In the December 2013 storm, which resulted in flooding and landslides, four out of six of these facilities were activated as shelters and housed people for over eight weeks following the disaster.
  • Road repair and river defense works. The rehabilitation of Hopewell Road and the flood protection works on the Teviot and Zenga rivers improved the main communication artery between the capital Kingstown and its airport with the Eastern side of the island, with daily traffic flows of 3,000 vehicles on average.
  • Increasing the government’s risk mapping capabilities. Through training and the establishment of a Hazard and Risk Modeling Database, the country is better equipped to undergo predictive planning. When the December 2013 storm hit, the impact assessments were able to utilize the baseline conditions of some buildings to better assess the damage that occurred.

Bank Contribution

The total amount of the Project amounted to US$5 million, financed by the IDA.

Moving Forward

Ensuring complementary among its disaster risk management initiatives, the Bank continues to support vulnerability reduction and climate resilience in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines through the larger Regional Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (RDVRP) operation.

This project scales up rehabilitation to other critical vulnerable infrastructure as well as continues to strengthen the government’s capacity to analyze disaster risk with more advanced analyses. Furthermore, in May 2014 the Bank approved an Additional Financing to the RDVRP of US$40.6 million of which US$19 million were provided by the IDA Crisis Response Window as emergency response to the December 2013 storm.

Beneficiaries

The project particularly prioritized the most vulnerable groups, namely poor communities lacking access to emergency shelters as well as those needing gender-segregated washrooms and disability ramps.

The investments have benefitted more than 2,175 school users and community centers during regular operations and as shelters. At project closure, in December 2013, over 225 people made homeless by exceptionally severe floods were sheltered in two community centers rehabilitated by the project. Similarly, some of the newly installed school emergency water systems were used to provide water to neighboring communities at the peak of the emergency.