The Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization is helping to respond to the emergency and manage resources after floods affected the islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada between December 23 and 25, and left hundreds of people displaced from their homes.
At least 15 people died (six in Saint Lucia and nine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), five people are missing and several persons displaced to shelters. Some health facilities are damaged (including loss of supplies and equipment) and remain inoperable or with its operation capacity significantly reduced.
Re-establishing health services and emergency medical care in affected areas is a priority. Access to potable water is also a major concern, as well as reinforce disease surveillance and vector control measures and provide psycho-social support.
In emergency situations or disasters caused by meteorological events, changes in environmental conditions are usual and they increase the risks to public health, particularly in those places where it is necessary to shelter the affected population.
It is important to take action for the timely identification of risk factors and take immediate decisions to ensure the population with protection measures and health promotion in these situations in order to avoid water-borne and vector-borne diseases.
Based on recent weather patterns and climate change, it is highly probable that there will be future such events. Therefore, it is necessary to implement mitigation measures, including the relocation of medical storage supplies to safer locations.
Experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)'s Regional Response Team are working in St Vincent and the Grenadines to support the Ministry of Health in needs assessment, water and sanitation, health and water facilities structural/nonstructural assessments and psycho-social support, among others.
The European Commission's Department of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) has granted Euros200,000 to PAHO/WHO to restore health services and reduce the impact of the disaster on public health.
The United Kingdom's government gave EC$1 million (Eastern Caribbean dollars), about 228,000 sterling pounds, for St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines - two of the islands most affected by the intense rains - that will be managed by PAHO/WHO. This financial help will go towards medicine and essential supplies, such as water and sanitation equipment, to mitigate the rains' impact on both health systems and the risk of water- and vector-borne diseases.
PAHO/WHO also offers several guidelines and technical documents with useful recommendations for damage and needs assessment and response teams being deployed:
- PAHO/WHO Regional Emergency Response Team - Field manual. PAHO/WHO, 2009.
- Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis in the Health Sector in Disasters Situations. PAHO/WHO, 2010 (Spanish only)