St. Vincent and the Grenadines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Annual hurricanes and floods, exacerbated by the effects of climate change and combined with less frequent but devastating geological events, adversely affect the pace of growth and development. In response, disaster management has been accorded priority on the national agenda.
The La Soufrière volcano experienced effusive eruptions from December 28, 2020 to April 8, 2021, culminating in large explosive eruptions on April 9, 12, 13 and 22. Preliminary assessments suggest that episodic volcanic activities may last for an additional three to nine months. This pattern would follow a similar pattern experienced during the 1902 eruption which lasted for 11 months from May 1902 to March 1903. The 2021 series of eruptions spread layers of ash across the entire country, with the heaviest concentrations in the northwestern part of the island of St. Vincent. The explosive eruption generated massive amounts of gas and ash as well as several superheated pyroclastic flows, which resulted in the distribution of ash and boulder-sized rocks across the northern (red zone) portion of the island, and destroyed virtually everything in their path, removing trees and structures and leaving behind rocks and boulders in the accumulated tephra (volcanic debris) deposits. On April 29, 2021, heavy rains mobilized ash concentrations along with fallen trees on the slopes of the volcano, which resulted in lahar flows; these lahars will remain a threat in the rainy/hurricane season. While the eruptions caused significant and direct damage to the island, it is extremely important to note this disaster is an ongoing event, albeit at a lower level. The volcano continues to be in a ‘live’ stage, and future eruptive activity cannot be discounted at this time. The recent eruptions covered the entire country in layers of ash, with the heaviest concentrations occurring in the northwestern part of the island closest to the volcano. The eruptions also generated massive amounts of gas and superheated pyroclastic flows, which destroyed virtually everything in their path, including trees and structures. Additionally, large accumulations of tephra and debris remain perched in the upper watersheds, particularly in the northern reaches of the island of Saint Vincent. The steep topography of the island coupled with rainfall events will more than likely cause the movement of the accumulated material to downstream inhabited areas, further threatening lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure.
Due to an effective monitoring system, evacuations were completed before the explosive eruptions began, and there was no loss of life. The eruptions prompted a mass evacuation of about 20,000 persons from the northern end of the island. Infrastructure, especially in the north, was damaged from ash and volcanic ejecta. Subsequent rains further damage by mobilizing accumulated ash and lahar formation. The agriculture sector was particularly negatively affected as croplands were damaged, and crops and livestock were destroyed. At present the government is still providing food, water, sanitary and safety supplies for some displaced persons, who have either lost the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their families, lost their homes, and are still in shelters.
Environmental and Social Safeguards
The GoSVG recognizes that the sustainability of infrastructure investments, and of its physical development planning in general, is conditioned on improving the understanding of adaptation options to strengthen their resiliency to disaster and climate risks. The disaster vulnerability reduction works and capacity-building initiatives at technical and policy levels implemented under the project will require the ownership of the participating national authorities and the participation and support of local communities as well as the continued support of regional technical agencies.
The project has adopted the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) to ensure environmental and social sustainability at the project level to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.
The Environmental and Social Standards (ESSs) that are currently relevant to the project are:
ESS 1: Assessment and Management of Environmental and Social Risks and Impacts;
ESS2: Labor and Working Conditions;
ESS3: Resource Efficiency and Pollution Prevention and Management;
ESS4: Community Health and Safety;
ESS5: Land Acquisition, Restrictions on Land Use and Involuntary Resettlement;
ESS6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Management of Living Natural Resources;
ESS8: Cultural Heritage; and
ESS10: Stakeholder Engagement and Information Disclosure.
Labour Intensive Temporary Employment (LITE)
This program will provide income support and short-term employment due to the disaster risks associated with heavy rains mobilizing ashfall and volcanic debris during the coming rainy and hurricane seasons, while also supporting the longer-term resilient recovery of community infrastructure. The component will comprise two subcomponents: (a) Provision of cash grants, support services and – on an as needed basis - LITE, and (b) strengthening of institutional capacity to administer and monitor the ERISP.
The Family Life Education Program
This program will enhance beneficiary households’ self-agency to support a resilient recovery. The family life education program will be delivered by social facilitators, who will provide implementation, follow-up support and liaising with the community about the program. This will be documented through periodic reports. The family program will take into consideration the specific needs of women and vulnerable populations. Such needs will include aspects related to childcare/parenting, as specified hereafter. Life skills sessions will focus on improving the capacity of the beneficiaries to enhance self-agency, using modules already developed. The modules provided will cover the following topics:
i. Coping Skills Development;
ii. Parenting Education - Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of the child and enriched food for the mother; brain development and early learning activities for the child from 0 to 59 months: language; motor skills; cognitive activities; care of children from the first signs of illness and immunizations for children
iii. Reproductive health (pregnancy, childbirth, birth spacing and contraception);
iv. Social Inclusion Education - Gender Role Development, Disability Awareness, GBV Awareness inclusive of Child Abuse Awareness
v. Health education – hygiene (food, body and environment), COVID, Dengue, Sexual Reproductive Health
This program will be delivered in collaboration with the MoA.
The modules would amongst others cover the following topics:
i. Commercial Farm Attachment I (Traditional Farming) & potential land identification & indicative budget planning for farming;
ii. Cooperative Development Readiness Planning;
iii. Farm Development & Management I (Land & Farm Preparation)
iv. Use of innovative farming tools and techniques, including safe use.
v. Theory, Practice & Marketing for Agri. Production Training.
vi.Conscious and safe use of the farming tools provided during the training.
Activities will be conducted in the form of training sessions delivered by facilitators: Farming: maximum of 2 days per week (3hrs/day) trainings per community during three months;