IOM Responds to Devastation Caused by La Soufriere Volcanic Eruption in St. Vincent

St. Vincent – The first members of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)'s emergency response team arrived today (23/04) in St. Vincent to support displacement tracking activities and the delivery of essential shelter and emergency items to thousands of people who were forcibly displaced by the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. 

The team will also provide technical guidance at shelters where more than 6,000 Vincentians now live. A shipment of approximately 1,200 hygiene kits and cleaning equipment will arrive from Trinidad and Tobago in the following hours.  

"The situation in St. Vincent is still uncertain. As the eruption can go on for months, this is a crisis that will require a humanitarian response but also a response in terms of rehabilitation," said Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM´s Emergency Response Coordinator for La Soufriere Eruption.  

"This is a crisis that is not only affecting St. Vincent, but also, directly and indirectly, the other islands in the subregion.” 

After months of heightened activity, La Soufriere Volcano erupted on 9 April. The volcano has erupted several times since then and continues to expel clouds of ash that have reached the neighboring islands of Barbados and Grenada. The latest explosive eruption occurred on 18 April. According to national and regional experts, the volcano is likely to erupt for days and weeks – possibly months.   

As of April 21, the government registered 13,303 displaced persons. Nearly 6,600 are being housed in 85 public shelters, while more than 6,700 displaced persons are staying with family or friends. 

"There are some people who want to go to different countries, but it is not a large number," explained the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves during a TV programme in Grenada. "They said they want to stay at home. I have been around several of the camps, and that's the message." 

On Tuesday, 20 April, the United Nations and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines launched a USD 29 million global funding appeal. The appeal hopes to finance interventions to cover immediate needs – shelter, water, sanitation, food security and protection – and recovery-related activities on housing, education, and livelihoods.  

IOM will begin supporting the ongoing emergency operations by responding to the shelter and housing needs of some of the most vulnerable households affected. IOM will also support the emergency shelters and shelter management sub-committee, and a coordinator for these activities will be deployed to St. Vincent.  

These activities have been made possible with funding from Australian Aid and IOM’s Migration Emergency Fund Mechanism.  

For more information, please contact Jan-Willem Wegdam at IOM San Jose, email:  Tel: +1 (242) 805-8501