‘Hurricanes can’t be prevented, but you can reduce their impact’

World Food Programme (WFP) opens office in Barbados to boost emergency preparedness in the Caribbean

Tayra Pinzón
Sep 17, 2018 · 4 min read

One year ago, hurricanes Irma and Maria left a trail of devastation in the Caribbean. While many of the affected islands have now recovered to a large extent, others like Dominica will require more time to do so completely.

Regis Chapman, WFP’s Head of Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean, was one of the first humanitarians to arrive in Dominica after Hurricane Maria. Photos: WFP/Photo library

As the new hurricane season has just begun, plans to prepare for and respond to new disasters are of vital importance. For this reason, the World Food Programme (WFP) established an office in Barbados in 2018.

Lessons learned in the response to the 2017 emergency in the Caribbean

As Regis Chapman, WFP’s Head of Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean, explains, when it became clear that Hurricane Irma was developing and approaching the region, WFP was extremely proactive. This was a determining factor in the speed and effectiveness of the response.

Increasing rains and winds in the Caribbean announced the arrival of the two category 5 hurricanes. Photo: WFP/ Photo Library

“By strengthening the preparedness of government systems…we can ensure Zero Hunger in the region, even at times of crisis.”

Pre-positioning: WFP pre-deployed staff from the regional office to different Caribbean islands and airlifted high energy biscuits to Haiti. Emergency assessments were performed within 72 hours to estimate the number of people that would be affected.

High energy biscuits were pre-positioned in Haiti and distributed where needed in the early days of the emergency. Photo: WFP/Photo Library

By the time Hurricane Maria hit Dominica on 18 September 2017, less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma had made landfall on the eastern Caribbean, WFP had in place a significant response capacity to support a larger operation.

“Hurricane seasons will become stronger as the years go by.”

Solid logistic network: WFP had a strong logistic network to support the emergency response and the broader humanitarian community, including the Caribbean Agency for Emergency Management in Disasters (CDEMA) based in Barbados. This allowed enhanced coordination, which in turn ensured the access of people, supplies and equipment to Dominica.

A review of WFP’s logistical work. Video: WFP

Equally important was WFP’s work as the lead of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, which enabled the restoration of communications on the island.

The Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, which is part of WFP, responded quickly to restore connectivity in areas affected by Hurricane Maria. Photo: WFP/Photo Library

Food assistance: After Maria, the market infrastructure was completely destroyed and government capacity was extremely limited. In the initial days, WFP focused on helping the Government with operational know-how to plan, target and carry out the distribution of food and other relief items. WFP provided in-kind assistance as part of the overall government response. Together with UNICEF, WFP supported the government of Dominica in reaching 25,000 people.

The cash provided by WFP, UNICEF and the government helped Dominican families to deal with rising food market prices. Photo: WFP/Zerina Karup

“Hurricane seasons will become stronger as the years go by,” says Chapman.“By the strengthening the capacity of government systems to better respond to crises— including ensuring that national social protection programmes and administrative capacity are used to assist affected populations— we can ensure Zero Hunger in the region, even at times of crisis.”

The new office in Barbados

Through the new office, WFP is now better positioned to respond to large-scale crises and to reinforce CDEMA responses.

Hurricane seasons are expected to become stronger. Photo: WFP/Photo Library

“We can’t prevent hurricanes, but from Barbados we can work to minimize their impact on the affected populations,” says Chapman.

Good preparedness and response plans can minimize the impact of natural disasters on affected communities. Photo: WFP/Photo Library

The new office focuses on providing technical assistance and strengthening capacities in the areas of information management and analysis; integrated supply chain management; development of social protection programmes that can respond to sudden shocks; and linking these programmes to climate change and risk financing.

WFP equipment, trucks and other supplies were shipped from the Dominican Republic to respond to the emergency in the Caribbean . Photos: WFP/Photo Library

The Barbados office has been established with the support of the European Union and the private sector.

Learn more about WFP’s emergency response in the Caribbean.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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