ST VINCENT and the Grenadines prime minister Ralph Gonsalves says he hopes and expects the good wishes extended by governments around the world to materialise into substantial support for the countries affected by La Soufriere’s eruptions.
Gonsalves and UN resident co-ordinator for Barbados and Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq, held a press conference on Tuesday to make a global appeal for US$29 million intended for clean-up efforts, humanitarian aid, and to rebuild infrastructure on the affected islands.
Two days earlier, Trebucq, along with representatives from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) World Food Programme (WFP) and Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) took a ten-hour boat ride to SVG to assess the situation for response and recovery efforts over the weekend.
Trebucq described the scenes as "apocalyptic and desolate" at Tuesday's press conference, saying, “The devastating effect on thousands of people is undeniable.
"The images (will) stay engraved in my memory for many, many years."
Trebucq said humanitarian aid is critical for 15 per cent of the population, who are displaced.
There is many on-the-ground relief efforts still being made, but the UN representative said thist was not "really sustainable after weeks of humanitarian assistance. That is why we're launching this (appeal) today."
He said much more is needed immediately but much more is also needed long-term.
Gonsalves added that the situation in St Vincent remains dire, and strongly backed the appeal, although he said it would cost much more to rebuild.
"We (still) have problems with water. It’s fragile (because of the ash fall). It’s going to take months for crops to grow.
"There are health challenges, public health challenges, in addition to covid.
"Remember, this is a country with a reasonable level of development. (But) we have all these challenges coming from us from outside, we don’t have the money and the technical skills to deal with these multiple issues."
With the hurricane season coming up, he said, "It’s a bad time to be having these challenges."
Gonsalves said many people do not want to leave SVG but want to “stay and rebuild their country.
"We hope it turns into substantial support, because without help, we cannot build back. It’s a herculean task for any government.
"We are expecting the international community to come to our aid."
Gonsalves said scientists don’t expect SVG to be "out of the woods, from the perspective of the volcano erupting, for another four months."