The Cayman Islands Red Cross has launched an appeal to help victims of Hurricane Eta.

To donate
Butterfield Bank account #1360350540060
Directly to the Cayman Islands Red Cross office on Hospital Road

One of the fiercest storms to hit Central America in years, Eta struck Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph before weakening to a tropical depression as it moved inland and into neighbouring Honduras and Belize.

While the official death toll is not yet known, the Guatemalan government has confirmed 44 people were killed as a result of the storm. Dozens of others were killed in Nicaragua, Honduras and Belize and tens of thousands displaced.

“Here in Cayman we experienced Eta as a Tropical Depression that passed 45+ miles away from us, and we saw just how vulnerable our Island was, especially in light of the rainfall that we had been experiencing prior to this storm,” Red Cross director Jondo Obi said in a press release.

“The photos emerging out of Central America following Eta’s path of destruction [are] far too familiar, and many of us who lived through Hurricane Ivan here cannot fathom having to respond to a disaster of this magnitude while facing a global health pandemic.”

The Red Cross is appealing for monetary donations only.

“Globally we have decades worth of lessons learned and this has probably been the hardest lesson to implement,” Carolina Ferreira, Red Cross deputy director, said in the release.

“Very well intentioned people have, time and time again, created a ‘second disaster’ through the donation of unsolicited goods that has incredibly serious consequences on the ground.”

She added that “for a really long time disaster response organisations have tip-toed around this because they have been afraid of insulting people. Yet in this day and age of reducing, reusing and recycling it is important for people to know that unsolicited goods not only end up in dumps and landfills, but they also create major problems when it comes to getting necessary items to the places that need them.”

The International Federation of the Red Cross earlier this month released about US$1 million to assist in recovery efforts, and is seeking an additional US$21.8 million through a global appeal.

The Cayman Islands Red Cross has firsthand experience dealing with unsolicited goods during Hurricane Ivan.

“There were hours that were taken out of our day to clear goods from the airport that had arrived and we had no idea we were getting,” Ferreira said.

There were many logistical issues to deal with such as the Red Cross vehicles being damaged by the storm, forcing the organisation to figure out a way to get to Owen Roberts International Airport.

“Then the volunteers had to load everything and off load at our Headquarters where we really didn’t have much space for storage,” she said. “Then came the sorting and that part was always mind blowing: winter coats, dirty underwear, and we even got one box of all left shoes.

“And the most disheartening part was knowing that we had people in real need that we couldn’t get to as fast because our people had been diverted to deal with clearing out these donations which would ultimately end up in the landfill.”

Donations can be made to Butterfield Bank Hurricane Eta Central America Appeal account #1360350540060 or directly to the Cayman Islands Red Cross office on Hospital Road.

For more information, contact the Red Cross on [email protected] or 949-6785.

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