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Improving resilience to disasters leads to a more secure and equitable future for the Caribbean, according to a blog post by the UN Resident Coordinator.
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Improving resilience to disasters leads to a more secure and equitable future for the Caribbean, according to a blog post by the UN Resident Coordinator.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions frequently result in devastation and loss of life in the Caribbean region.

On the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction marked annually on 13 October, UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq and Nahuel Arenas, regional chief of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) consider the connection between disasters and inequality.

In the Caribbean region, there is a strong recognition of the complex connection between disasters and inequality. This story highlights the unequal distribution of essential resources, which results in the most disadvantaged being more susceptible to the consequences of disasters. When disasters occur, they disproportionately impact marginalized groups, intensifying current disparities and pushing them further into destitution.

UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq (left) visits St. Vincent and the Grenadines six months after the volcanic eruption.

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Didier Trebucq, the UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, visits St. Vincent and the Grenadines six months following the volcanic eruption.

Reducing inequality is crucial in creating a more robust and secure future for all individuals.

Interconnected challenges 

The current conditions in this area present various difficulties, including financial uncertainties, growing inequalities, interruptions in supply chains, scarcity of energy, sudden price increases, and inflation. These factors all contribute to the negative effects on economies and people’s livelihoods, making disasters even more devastating. As stated in the UNDRR’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, disasters are projected to increase the number of people living in poverty by 100.7 million by 2030, and an estimated 37.6 million more people will experience extreme poverty due to the effects of climate change.

New studies show that the most vulnerable are disproportionately affected by disasters. An example of this is the Port-au-Prince Earthquake in 2010, which was the deadliest disaster in the Caribbean and had a significant impact on Haiti, the poorest country in the region. The effects of this disaster are still evident more than ten years later.

A man walks through the rubble of collapsed buildings in downtown Port au Prince, Haiti, following the earthquake in January 2010.

MINUSTAH/Marco Dormino

In January 2010, a man strolls through the debris of destroyed structures in the city center of Port au Prince, Haiti, in the aftermath of the earthquake.

From 1970 to 2019, a shocking 91% of fatalities resulting from weather, climate, and water-related hazards took place in developing nations such as the Caribbean. Additionally, the World Bank states that 82% of deaths caused by disasters were concentrated in low and lower-middle-income countries.

Cycles of inequality 

Around 75% of severe weather occurrences are currently connected to climate change, largely driven by the release of carbon into the atmosphere. Interestingly, those who suffer the greatest consequences from these disasters are often the ones who have had the smallest impact on the issue.

Basically, inequality serves as a channel that transfers the risk of disasters from those who benefit from taking risks to those who suffer the consequences.

Poor communities are at a higher risk of living in areas that are prone to hazards, have insufficient funds to implement measures to reduce risks, reside in inadequate and unstable homes, and have limited availability of essential services such as healthcare, public transportation, and basic infrastructure.

Certain groups, such as women, children, and individuals with disabilities, bear a greater burden of the consequences of disasters. For instance, research has shown that women in the Caribbean are at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving official alerts about approaching disasters. Likewise, individuals with disabilities have often been the most susceptible during previous disasters.

Strengthening resilience through timely alerts.

At the UN Office in the Eastern Caribbean, our focus is on fulfilling our obligations to the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Our main priority is to effectively decrease poverty and inequality, while also taking steps to mitigate disaster risk and vulnerability. We are committed to providing protection and assistance to the most at-risk communities.

Decision-makers at a global level are considering restructuring the financial system to better cater to the needs of the most vulnerable countries in the world. The ability to withstand economic shocks is crucial for those who are most susceptible to disasters and is an essential aspect of our unified approach to tackling future challenges.

Disaster preparedness drills can help reduce the impact of disasters on communities.

© UN Barbados & the Eastern Caribbean

Practicing disaster readiness techniques can lessen the effects of disasters on societies.

In addition, the Early Warnings for All program will be put into action in Caribbean nations like Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda, guaranteeing that all regions of the world have access to multi-hazard early warning systems by the next four years.

By giving priority to the most vulnerable communities, we provide them with the crucial resources of readiness and advanced notifications.

Through participation in disaster risk reduction, nations will increase their ability and give authority to a variety of individuals in every decision-making procedure. It is crucial that women, older individuals, and those with disabilities take a leading role and are actively involved in our endeavors.

The involvement of state and civil society organizations, as well as local, national, and regional actors, is crucial for the success of humanitarian and resilience efforts. This is because local actors are typically the initial responders in times of crisis.

On this year’s International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, let us renew our dedication to facing this difficult challenge. Let us not forget that in the midst of disasters, we have the ability to change the course of the future.

“Collectively, we have the power to break free from these restraints and pave the way towards strength and fairness for everyone, as a brighter future awaits in the Caribbean.”

UN Resident Coordinator:

  • The UN Resident Coordinator, also known as the RC, is the top representative of the UN development system in a specific country.

  • UN News is periodically featuring RCs to write blog posts on topics that are significant to both the UN and their respective country of service.

  • Find out more about the United Nations’ efforts in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean on this page.

  • Find out more about the UN Development Coordination Office here.