Disaster relief focus of British Virgin Islands workshop

The Cayman delegation at the regional disaster workshop: From left, Cayman Islands Red Cross Disaster Manager Edward Tinling-Miller, Red Cross Director Jondo Obi, Director of the Needs Assessment Unit Tamara Hurlston, Director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands Danielle Coleman, and Deputy Chief Officer for the Ministry of Community Affairs Andre Ebanks.

A Cayman Islands delegation of representatives from the Red Cross, Hazard Management and the government recently attended the ‘Collaborative Cash Programming’ disaster response workshop in the British Virgin Islands.

The workshop demonstrated the role of emergency cash intervention in response to disasters, provided a framework for a multi-agency mechanism and outlined an action plan for preparedness and response activities.

The British Red Cross Society and the BVI Ministry of Health and Social Development hosted the workshop on March 15.

Danielle Coleman, the director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, said emergency relief items, such as sanitation kits, cleaning kits and tarpaulins, are always in critical need after a large-scale emergency.

“However, these ‘in-kind’ donations can and should be complemented by a cash-based relief programme which empowers recipients to make decisions based on their individual needs and assists rebuilding the local economy,” she said.

She added, “Hazard Management has been working closely over the last six months with stakeholders such as Needs Assessment Unit, Auditor General’s Office, Cayman Islands Red Cross, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Department of Children and Family Services and others to develop the relief/recovery process and we are hoping to incorporate the cash programme as part of a collaborative response to all large-scale emergencies.”

Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the BVI and several other Caribbean islands in September 2017, demolishing 85% of the islands’ infrastructure, homes and schools. The BVI government, in collaboration with the British Red Cross and other international relief agencies, formed the Joint Cash Platform, which was used to benefit 1,076 households for a three-month period. Through collaborative assessments between the government and the BVI Red Cross, the Joint Cash Platform was able to identify beneficiaries using vulnerability indicators such as low to no-income households, people with disabilities or severe health issues, single-parent households and elderly persons. The funds assisted the local economy during the earliest stages of recovery from the storms.

The cash programming workshop, which was held primarily for the overseas territories of Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos and Bermuda, also attracted organisations like the United Nations World Food Programme, UNICEF and Caritas Catholic Relief Services.

Cash distribution, which follows immediate disaster relief, benefits vulnerable individuals, families and households by empowering each family to assess their individual needs.

Tamara Hurlston, director of Cayman’s Needs Assessment Unit, said clients of the NAU are the most vulnerable citizens in the Cayman Islands.

“During a disaster, a combination of cash and in-kind support would empower them to focus on rebuilding their lives,” she said. “Networking and exchanging knowledge with the other Caribbean Overseas Territories was the first major step in developing a disaster management cash programme in the Cayman Islands tailored to our specific needs.”

Over the past decade, cash programming has been used in several countries, such as Dominica, the Philippines, Haiti and the BVI. Introducing cash flow following a disaster aims not only to provide individual assistance to vulnerable people, but also to boost the local economy and assist in nationwide rebuilding efforts, according to a press release from the Cayman Islands Red Cross.

Red Cross director Jondo Obi said cash-based disaster relief programmes provide an additional holistic approach to classic disaster relief.

“2019 marks the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Ivan’s catastrophic impact upon Cayman and our people. Irma and Maria gave the BVI very little room for planning and response, and they had to react very quickly to these emergencies,” she said. “We have had 15 years from which to learn not only from Ivan, but also from every other storm that has impacted our region.”

She added, “It was nice to have colleagues from the Cayman Islands Government attend the workshop, which provided a forum to think about ideas on how we can work together to develop durable mechanisms for cash-based response during emergencies.”

Deputy Chief Officer for the Ministry of Community Affairs Andre Ebanks said, “As a nation, we must continue to ensure that our plans remain reflective of those lessons and that growth because the biggest lesson that Irma and Maria have taught us is that anything can happen. We must be proactive in all of our efforts, and that includes thinking through the best way to help the most individuals within our communities bounce back after disaster strikes. This programme is a new chapter in multi-agency collaboration and response, and we’re excited to turn the page.”