Eastern Caribbean Seek Basic Necessities After Irma
By admin September 15, 2017


Residents of Eastern Caribbean Islands are struggling amidst the wreckage left my Hurricane Irma. A category five hurricane which did not hit US inland territories until Sunday, struck Wednesday in the Caribbean. Among those affected were French territories Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Martin and British Territories Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands. While rebuilding efforts are already underway in US affected territories, many of the hardest hit Caribbean areas are seeing mounting desperation in the face of food shortages, electrical outages and a general disintegration of law and order. According to the World Food Program (WPF) 200,000 people are in need of aid in the East Caribbean.

With scant resources available there are reports of looting for simple necessities such as water and food. In the US Virgin Islands residents on Monday ignored curfew and began lining up early to receive government supplied water and food. Despite President Trump’s promise to attempt to provide adequate resources to these territories it was clear on Monday that many residents would continue to wait for government resources. With almost 80 percent of its infrastructure destroyed many residents of the US Virgin Island are awaiting relocation to Puerto Rico or neighboring Islands that were less affected. Due to damages there is little access to roads or electricity, leaving many of the residents feeling trapped and creating a situation in which the paucity of legitimate information as engendered rumors regarding the current situation.

The administrative and geo-political complexities of these tiny islands make it harder to coordinate a successful aid response. Each country is attempting to mitigate damages as well as control the spread of false information given the lack of coverage. The French government denied rumors of a prison break on St. Martin despite violence there, but lack of reliable information has caused rumors as such to spread. European officials have garnered criticism for their failure to respond quickly to the ongoing crisis in their territories. Following criticism from his opponents for not doing enough, Emmanuel Macron the French prime minster has agreed to deploy more troops in French territories so as to enable law and order. He arrived in Martinique on Tuesday. The British government has received perhaps the most criticism for failing to adequately prepare residents for the storm. Foreign secretary Boris Johnson arrived in Anguilla on Monday to survey the damage and pledge reconstruction efforts. The EU has pledged 2.4 million for relief.

Cuba was also devastated by Irma. While the country’s relief efforts have been more organized than those in other affected areas of the Caribbean, Cuba’s infrastructure, which is a vital source of the economy, has been destroyed. The Cuban government has deployed extra security forces as well as sent conveys of food and equipment to remove fallen debris. Despite such efforts, Cuba’s economy will likely suffer economically given the immense destruction of infrastructure on its coast- a vital tourist area.

The UN has called for a coordinated international response regardless of national territory lines. On September 15th the UN Migration Agency deployed a team of six experts to assess the current situation in the Caribbean. The team of six is surveying camp management and implementing displacement tracking among other things. The agency  also allotted a quarter million dollars for emergency aid. The UN Development program is also sending experts to assess the damage and provide support for the people of the Caribbean.

It is clear that a coordinated effort is needed to rehabilitate the areas of the Caribbean devastated by hurricane Irma. The extent to which such an effort is possible will require a concerted effort both on behalf of international organizations and national governments.

Further Reading:

European Leaders Arrive in Irma Struck Caribbean as Aid Effort Ramps Up

Hungry Residents in ‘Survival Mode’ on U.S. Virgin Islands

Desperation Mounts in Caribbean Islands: ‘All the Food Is Gone’

Don’t forget about us: Irma’s desperate Caribbean survivors

 UN Migration Agency Deploys Experts to Support Islands Affected by Hurricanes Irma

UN supporting national relief efforts as Hurricane Irma threatens nearly 50 million people

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