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FEATURE STORY

Small Caribbean States Work Together against Big Natural Disasters

October 10, 2012

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Vulnerable housing resettlement at La Sagesse and Beausejour, Grenada: in 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through the country, causing damage to 90% of the local buildings.

World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The largest World Bank project in the Eastern Caribbean aims at protecting Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from the effects of natural disasters.
  • By late 2016, both countries will display investments in research, infrastructure, and disaster response.
  • One of the most important goals is to minimize the population’s risk to failure of roads, bridges, and public buildings.

When Hurricane Ivan swept through Grenada in September 2004, devastation was widespread: damages were equivalent to 200% of the country’s GDP, 9 out of 10 buildings were affected, and 39 people were killed. More recently, in October 2010, 1,200 persons were displaced after Hurricane Tomas lashed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

While still highly vulnerable to heavy rainfall, hurricanes and landslides, the two small island states will make it possible – in a near future – to mitigate the impacts caused by these events. Through the $47 million Regional Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project, both countries will have the opportunity to invest in research, more climate resilient infrastructure, and disaster response.

This is the largest World Bank initiative in the Eastern Caribbean. Its implementation began in November 2011 and is expected to end in December 2016. By then, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be able to share their knowledge with neighboring countries – which also struggle with natural hazards.

Domino effect
In the Eastern Caribbean, disasters account, on average, for almost 20% of the variation of real GDP growth every year. And, as demonstrated by Hurricane Ivan, when one country is devastated by an event such as a hurricane or drought, it directly affects the regional economy.

“One of the greatest challenges for the region is to finance the many investments needed to correct decades of maladaptation and better prepare for future changes in the climate,” says Niels Holm-Nielsen, Disaster Risk Management Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank.

“Through the program, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines get access to resources from the Climate Investment Funds and the International Development Association (IDA). It is an important outcome for the Caribbean,” he adds.


" When such events take place, generally the poorest are more affected because they do not have the resources to ensure that the level of preparedness is what it should be. "

Terence Walters

Acting disaster coordinator at Grenada’s Natural Disaster Management Agency

Ambitious goals

“When such events take place, generally the poorest are more affected because they do not have the resources to ensure that the level of preparedness is what it should be,” says Terence Walters, acting disaster coordinator at Grenada’s Natural Disaster Management Agency.

To protect the most vulnerable, the project sets out ambitious goals for both island states. One of them is to minimize the population’s risk to failure of roads, bridges, and public buildings. In a country such as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where eight schools were severely damaged by Hurricane Tomas, this is critical.

Another one is to reduce as much as possible the risk to potable water shortage due to natural hazards or climate change impacts. In Grenada, for example, 41,200 people (40% of the population) experienced shortages in 2010 – a figure expected to drop to 5,000 in 2016.


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