Antigua and Barbuda + 4 more

Caribbean - Hurricane Georges Appeal No. 29/1998 final report

Originally published


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals
The Federation's mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. It is the world's largest humanitarian organization and its millions of volunteers are active in 178 countries. For more information:

Appeal No. ; Launched on: 2 October 1998 for 6 months for CHF 10,221, 000 to assist 272,500 beneficiaries.


Appeal coverage: 126.8%


The Disaster: Hurricane Georges ripped through the Caribbean in late September 1998 with power and destruction unseen in the region in a decade. Its intense winds at times approached speeds of 150 mph, wreaking havoc in Antigua and St. Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean before crossing the islands of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and two thirds of Cuba. As recovery efforts began in the Caribbean, Georges continued its attack on the Florida Keys and the US coast. In the Caribbean, the storm threatened 90 percent of the region's 37 million people, and after six days left more than 500 dead and 600,000 homeless. Many more were placed at risk from disease, contaminated drinking water and food shortages. In some areas, flood waters washed away small communities. In Hispaniola, 80 percent of the agricultural crop was destroyed, resulting in long-term food needs.

Severe agricultural damage resulting from a prolonged drought in the Eastern Provinces of Cuba was dramatically worsened in October by the devastating effects of hurricane Georges. UN estimates indicated losses of USD 305.8 million with damage to some 202,000 hectares of land dedicated to crops and cattle. In the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as much as 90 percent of some crops were destroyed with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimating that 80 percent of the important banana plantations in the south west of Haiti were wiped out by the storm.

Dominican Republic: The Dominican Republic was the hardest hit by Georges with the hurricane's path following two directions and resembling two different storms. In the east, the hurricane entered the country with winds approaching 130 mph, ripping apart buildings, knocking down trees, and causing extensive damage to the region's agriculture and tourism industries. As the hurricane passed over the island, its wind intensity diminished as did the storm's speed itself, hovering over the south and west, resulting in heavy rains and deadly floods. Over half the national territory was affected by this calamity, with major damage inflicted in the provinces of La Romana, La Altagracia, San Pedro de Macoris, Barohona, Bahoruco, Azua and the National District. Georges turned peaceful streams into raging rivers, washing away small villages, and left communities isolated by flood waters and blocked roads for weeks. Hundreds, if not thousands, perished in flooding and mudslides. Across the country, the storm's damage was severe. More than 80 percent of crops were destroyed resulting in acute food shortages anticipated to last for more than a year.

Haiti: In Haiti, hurricane damage was particularly severe in the areas where the poorest parts of the population lives. The most serious damage was created by the torrential rains and the ensuing flooding of low-lying areas. In the provinces of Cap-Haitian, Jacmel, Cayes, and in the capital Port au Prince, people were washed away by the flood waters, disappeared and presumed dead. In the poorest suburbs of the major Haitian cities, hurricane survivors faced incredibly poor living conditions and grave health risks: food was virtually non-existent, domestic goods had been swept away, and water was polluted.

Cuba: As hurricane Georges approached Cuba on 23 September, as a preventive measure, a total of 494,194 people were evacuated from the potentially affected provinces in the eastern region of the country: Guantanamo, Tunas, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Camaguey, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spiritus, Ciego de Avila and Matanzas. An estimated 147,000 Cuban citizens were severely affected by the hurricane, with 2,100 houses destroyed and approximately 40,000 damaged. Many vulnerable families in the eastern provinces suffered from food shortages until well into the year 2000 as a result of the hurricane and a prolonged drought in the region.

St. Kitts and Nevis: The small island state of St. Kitts & Nevis suffered the brunt of hurricane Georges in the eastern Caribbean with long-time island residents calling the storm the worst in living memory. More than 60 per cent of all roofs were damaged or destroyed, including the roof of the St. Kitts & Nevis Red Cross Society headquarters which also sustained damaged to its radio communications equipment. In total, 1,400 homes suffered major damage with 216 houses completely destroyed. Half of the designated shelters suffered major damage to the extent that they were henceforth unusable. Infrastructure damage across the county was severe, with economic losses estimated at USD 445 million. Most tourism facilities were closed for more than two months, forcing at least 2,300 people out of work during this period. Some hotels had yet to reopen in the year 2000. Relief and recovery efforts were further complicated and delayed by heavy rains resulting in severe flooding in December, in itself a major disaster.

Antigua and Barbuda: The eye of the storm passed over Antigua & Barbuda, producing winds in excess of 115 mph. Electricity, water and telephone facilities were all greatly affected. In addition, main roads were blocked for several days. The initial damage assessment also estimated that 15% of the corporate buildings were badly damaged, many hotels had to close for repairs, and at least 15% of the telephone lines in Antigua were down. Main damage to housing was caused by high winds, with houses structures and roofs worst affected. 420 houses were totally destroyed and 1,525 suffered major roof damage. National disaster areas were declared in Liberta, Crabbe Hill, Five Islands, All Saints Village, and Bolans. More than 6,200 people were evacuated and housed in 125 temporary shelters; a total of 3,230 were homeless, becoming the main target group for Red Cross assistance.

The Appeal: In response, the Federation launched its largest relief effort ever in the Caribbean. On 2 October, the International Federation issued an appeal for CHF 10,221,000 to assist 272,500 beneficiaries for six months, including the rehabilitation of 14,500 homes. The Federation and the region's National Societies concentrated relief efforts in the worst-affected countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and particularly the Dominican Republic which bore the brunt of the storm.

The Operation: The main objective of this relief operation was to reduce the high level of vulnerability of the people affected by hurricane Georges across the 5 most impacted islands in the Caribbean:Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba, the Dominican Republic Haiti and St. Kitts & Nevis and, through a well-targeted response to emergency and rehabilitation needs, assisting 272,500 beneficiaries.

The emergency operation and distribution relief supplies started in late September 1998 and continued until late March 1999. Rehabilitation and capacity building efforts continued in the Caribbean after the emergency phase. In the Dominican Republic, the country hardest hit by the storm, a 9 month feeding programme, supported by the American Red Cross, began in mid March 1999 for 156,000 beneficiaries to address the critical food shortages resulting from 80 percent of the local agriculture crop having been destroyed by the hurricane. This concluded on the last day of the year. Meanwhile, the Spanish Red Cross supported the rehabilitation of more that 1,500 houses in San Juan de la Maguana.

Phase One: Emergency Phase: October - December 1998

TARGET POPULATION: 272,500 people (45,916 families). Emergency and relief operation to assist people living in shelters and/or with houses partially/totally destroyed


  • Population affected in prioritized areas are provided with emergency relief and food supplies.
  • Efficient management of warehouses is established.
  • Relief efforts are conditioned with other NGOs, authorities and official agencies.
  • Coordination and support is provided to regional and international fund raising efforts.
  • Handling of disaster welfare enquiries ensured as capacity improves in Dominican Republic.
  • The profile and visibility of the Red Cross and donors relationships are increased among authorities, general public and other organizations at the national level.

Antigua & Barbuda

Prioritised areas: Five Islands, Bolands, Crabbs, Muck Pond and Liberta, people living in shelters.

Red Cross Donation to shelters

Emergency food
11,000 parcels
Hot meals
3,000 meals
Plastic sheeting
525 sheets
3,205 blankets
Beds and cots
315 beds/cots
1,314 litres
68 boxes
Comfort kits
292 kits
210 lanterns
15 cases
9 cases
6 cases
Cooking oil
1 pallet

St. Kitts & Nevis

Prioritised Areas: Basseterre and other affected communities island-wide;

Survey Area
Estimated Population
Target Population
Plastic Sheets
Tons food
House pack 1
House pack 2

Dominican Republic

Prioritised Areas: Communities from provinces of La Romana, San Pedro de Macoris, Distrito Nacional, San Juan de la Maguana, Higuey, Hato Mayor, el Seibo, Azua and Barahona.

In November 1998, a three month distribution programme commenced, funded in part by the Netherlands Red Cross, the Italian government, ECHO and other international donors, to provide approximately 13,000 destitute families with cooking sets, hygiene kits, and food parcels. The distributions started on 26 November 1998, and on 25 February 1999 the last of the three distribution cycles was completed. A total of 41,400 family rations were distributed to the target population. In addition to monthly food parcels composed of rice, maize flour, beans, salt, canned sardines and vegetable oil, each family received a housing kit (soap, tooth paste and brushes, toilet paper as well as some clothes, blankets/mattresses, shoes) and most also received a kitchen set (pots with lids, frying pan, drinking cup, soup spoon), as is shown on the table below:

Families assisted
Food (MT)
Kitchen set (MT)
Housing kit (MT)


Prioritised Areas: Port-au-Prince, South East (Jacmel), North (Cap Haitien) and Artibonite.

The National Society identified the beneficiary families among the most vulnerable in a total of 15 districts in the three provinces during October to November, and carried out the distributions in three phases from December 1998 to February 1999. The content of the hygiene kits were established to cover the various needs for personal and family hygiene, and orders placed with local suppliers.

Number of beneficiary families
TOTAL: 3 provinces


Prioritised Areas: Communities from provinces of Guantanamo, Las Tunas, Granma, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba

During the first weeks, Red Cross volunteers dispensed emergency assistance in the form of first aid, food, water, personal clothing, hygiene kits, and kitchen sets to 92,760 of the 202,513 persons in more than 900 temporary shelters managed by the Cuban Red Cross in the hurricane affected areas. In the wake of the hurricane, the Cuban Red Cross was also requested to distribute food and provided medical care to vulnerable families, particularly those with small children, elderly people and disabled persons. The National Society also conducted training courses in waste disposal and water purification and activated its system for social welfare enquiries and disaster welfare messages.

Phase Two: Rehabilitation and Capacity Building - October 1998 - March 1999

TARGET POPULATION: 72,500 people (14,500 families) affected by Hurricane Georges in four of the five affected countries in the Caribbean.


  • The number of people living in houses with roofing damage is reduced.
  • Rehabilitation supplies are distributed to affected communities.
  • Disaster preparedness training is conducted at National Society and community levels.
  • Communities in prioritized areas are better prepared for a future disaster.
  • National Societies have a better system of communications with branches and at headquarters level.
  • Branches have more capacity to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable.
  • The profile and visibility of the Red Cross are enhanced and donor relationships are improved with the authorities, the general public and other organizations at the national level.
  • Evaluation of the operation of the 1998 hurricane season and its implications for the regional disaster preparedness programme is conducted.

People living in houses with roofing damage is reduced
Rehabilitation supplies are distributed to affected communities
- Constructed in partnership with Spanish Red Cross and with funds from ECHO 1,738 new homes in the flood-ravaged San Juan de la Maguana district.
- Distributed rehabilitation material for 1,157 houses
Disaster preparedness training is conducted at the NS and community level Programmed & implemented as part of the community based disaster preparedness programme.
Communities in the prioritized areas are better prepared for a future disaster
NS have a better system of communications with branches and at HQ level
Branches have more capacity to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
- Reactivation/creation of dormant or non-existing branches in affected areas.
- Branches provided with key resources (building, computer, radio equipment).
- Branch members trained in emergency relief through a series of provincial courses.
- A Toyota Land Cruiser was bought to facilitate Red Cross action at local level.
The profile and visibility of the Red Cross is enhanced among authorities, the general public, and other organizations at the national level - Several Caribbean media contacts were made during the passage of the Hurricane; in all five countries affected by Georges, the National Society was the main source for different regional and international media.
- National Society gained credibility as the leading relief agency.
- Government decision to give the National Society the lead national role for coordinating all non-government disaster aid.
- Strategic alliance developed with advertising company to improve National Societies' external image.
- Guide for Communications developed to improve internal and external information flow.
- Marketing programs developed.

Phase Three: Extension of Rehabilitation and Capacity Building - March 1999 - December 1999

Dominican Republic

Target Population: 156,000 people (26,000 families): Supplementary Food Distribution

Nearly six months after the passage of hurricane Georges, the Dominican Red Cross, in partnership with the Federation and the American Red Cross, continued its assistance to the most affected populations by launching a massive supplementary food distribution programme, providing around 1,000 MT of food per month to 26,000 vulnerable families - or 156,000 persons - throughout the Dominican Republic. The USD 7.8 million programme ran for 9 months and addressed the critical food shortages threatening the country's poorest families as a result of 80 percent of the local crops being destroyed by the hurricane. Food staples of rice, beans and cooking oil were provided to the affected population in shelters, farming communities and poor rural and urban areas. All scheduled distributions of commodities were completed by 31 December 1999. Surplus commodities were provided to the World Food Programme for distribution in December 1999 and January 2000

As part of the programme, an extensive post-disaster evaluation was conducted by the American Red Cross with support from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC, Atlanta) to assess the health and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable hurricane affected population. The study confirmed that a critical food crisis existed in the nation's poorest hurricane affected communities. In some population groups, 33 percent of the families reportedly would go without food for 5 or more days of the week, with 50 percent of the targeted beneficiaries relying on relief as their main food source following the hurricane.

Commodities (Metric Tons)
Cereal CSB/SFB
TOTAL RECEIVED- incl. damages
* According to original call-forward requests and projected loan from USAID / CRS Haiti.

** 13.4 MT beans (peas) were received from WFP for Santo Domingo.

*** Commodity Loss = commodity received that cannot be accounted for in distributions or in damages In the case of rice, the number 209 represents reported distributions in MT that are in excess of the actual amount received. After review, this number represents approximately 3% of total rice received. It has been determined that this percentage error or variation in ration weights is due primarily to the major challenge of re-packing by hand 468,000 individual family rations, over the space of nine (9) months, using small commercial scales and local warehouse labour.

TARGET POPULATION: 9,000 People (1,500 families): House rehabilitation in hurricane - ravaged San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Red Cross began coordinating rehabilitation efforts in affected communities, revising its plan of action based on community needs, and complementing rehabilitation efforts with other organizations. An ECHO funded project in cooperation with the Spanish Red Cross was drafted to support partially the reconstruction of at least 1,500 damaged houses in San Juan de la Maguana. The project originally consisted of provision of basic roof and wood structures for 32 square metre houses. The construction programme was to start in February 1999; however, in March 1999, after the signature of a cooperation project which included USAID and Fudasep as additional donors, the programme was revised and the rehabilitation of houses was expanded from 1,500 houses of 32 square metres to 1,738 family houses of 40 square metres with a cement floor, and increasing the beneficiaries to almost 10,000 people.

Cuba: TARGET POPULATION: 4,266 people (1,157 families): House rehabilitation programme.

Although efficient community prevention activities previously implemented in the country clearly reduced the damage inflicted on people and property by hurricane Georges, extensive damage to housing was reported by local volunteers and branches of the Cuban Red Cross following the storm. Addressing this need, the Cuban Red Cross carried out a rehabilitation programme supported by the Netherlands Red Cross and other international donors to assist 1,157 vulnerable families whose homes were partially or totally destroyed. The programme mainly involved the replacement of roof beams and corrugated iron roofing sheets according to the initial needs assessment in the eastern provinces:

Nature of Assistance
Roof sheets
Roof beams
Santiago de Cuba
Las Tunas

While the distributions started in February 1999 and terminated in early May, the total value of the items distributed was USD 126,727.26, and the total transport costs were USD 49,016.

St. Kitts & Nevis: TARGET POPULATION: 1,200 People (200 families) House rehabilitation programme

The St. Kitts & Nevis Red Cross Society assisted in the repair of 44 homes and built four new houses for the most vulnerable families. As part of the rehabilitation phase, the St. Kitts & Nevis Red Cross Society assisted 60 additional families to repair their homes damaged by the hurricane (primarily roof repairs) and provided 20 families with new household supplies and basic furniture to replace what was damaged in the storm and subsequent rains.

The Caribbean Regional Delegation

Until its move from Kingston to Santo Domingo in August 1998, the Caribbean regional delegation consisted of five regional delegates: head of delegation, institutional development, disaster preparedness, resource development and finance/administration delegates, as well as a regionally recruited disaster preparedness consultant. With hurricane Georges, more than 20 delegates from the National Societies of Belgium, Britain, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United States augmented the Federation's presence in the region during the emergency response phase, with a team of delegates supporting the continued operation and working closely with the affected National Societies, particularly in the Dominican Republic (18) and Haiti (2). In October 1998, the new head of delegation arrived, and in December 1998, the regional disaster preparedness delegate terminated his mission. Two disaster preparedness delegates were since appointed. In January 1999, a regionally recruited information/reporting delegate arrived; and in May 1999, a regional youth delegate was appointed to coordinate the Caribbean Red Cross youth development programme.

The Federation's response to Hurricane Georges - as well as operations following Hurricane Mitch and the Venezuela floods - has been the subject of an extensive in-depth review.

(Review of Major Operations in the Americas 1998-1999: Hurricane Georges, Hurricane Mitch and Venezuela Floods) Many of the lessons learned and subsequent recommendations have been incorporated in disaster response and preparedness programming in the Americas region.

Participation of the Operating National Societies

Dominican Republic

Immediately after the storm passed, more than 3,350 Dominican Republic Red Cross relief workers went into action and operated in shifts around the clock to provide emergency medical assistance and distribute food and other supplies to hurricane victims. Only days into the disaster, the Red Cross assumed the critical role of coordinating the national relief distribution, working closely with more than 30 NGOs, government agencies, and local Embassies. 24-hour Red Cross reception centres were set up at Santo Domingo's commercial and military airports to receive the incoming international aid. In the first six weeks of the disaster alone, the Dominican Red Cross distributed more than 500 metric tons of relief supplies to more than 230,000 beneficiaries, helped more than 200,000 people relocate from temporary shelters, where they were exposed to dangerous sanitary conditions, and return to their homes.

Red Cross staff and volunteers played an integral part in the implementation of food distributions. Approximately 52,000 individually hand packed and weighed rations were produced on a monthly basis from the three regional warehouses, for a total of approximately 468,000 rations produced, transported and distributed. In addition to this, during the supplementary food programme funded by USAID and implemented by the Dominican Red Cross with the support of the American Red Cross, 31 Red Cross volunteers were trained to develop the nutritional survey. Moreover, 50 Red Cross volunteers were trained to conduct national surveys at the 100 points of distribution across the country. During the final three months of distributions, evaluations and assessments were undertaken to reduce overall project costs specifically in trucking/transport and local warehouse storage costs.


Just hours after the hurricane, the Federation sent a team of two delegates to assist the Haitian National Red Cross Society in the emergency phase. In close coordination with the government's national disaster office and several local NGOs, the National Society offered emergency assistance to the hurricane affected areas of the country. The Haitian National Red Cross Society distributed hygiene kits to 10,000 vulnerable families in the provinces of Nippes, South-East and West.


More than 8,700 volunteers were mobilized to support the Cuban Red Cross relief and rehabilitation efforts, assisting the pre-hurricane evacuation of nearly 500,000 people and providing rescue and medical assistance to communities following the storm. During the first weeks, Red Cross volunteers dispensed emergency assistance in temporary shelters. In the wake of the hurricane, the Cuban Red Cross was also requested to distribute food and provided medical care to vulnerable families, particularly those with small children, elderly people and disabled persons. The National Society also conducted training courses in waste disposal and water purification and activated its system for social welfare enquiries and disaster welfare messages. The Cuban Red Cross emergency assistance during the evacuation phase, its subsequent multi-sectoral assistance to the victims in the temporary shelters, as well as the on going efforts to help 1,157 vulnerable families regain their dignity by assisting them in the rehabilitation of their home, received the recognition of the general public in the hurricane-affected areas as well as of local and national authorities

St. Kitts and Nevis

Following the passage of the hurricane, the St. Kitts and Nevis Red Cross Society mobilized its resources and provided emergency medical assistance, temporary shelter and food for hurricane victims. Through local purchasing, international aid shipments, and using pre-disaster warehoused stock, local volunteers distributed 73,000 pounds of food, as well as blankets, water, kitchen sets, and comfort kits to all 27 shelters around the country, as well as hard hit communities. 1,164 plastic sheets for roofing as well as donated and purchased building materials were distributed to affected vulnerable families to make temporary repairs to their home. A team of volunteers from the Antigua & Barbuda Red Cross Society arrived in St. Kitts one week following the hurricane and assisted the Society in conducting a detailed damage assessment, as well as establishing its logistics and distribution systems. Personnel support was also provided by the Dominica Red Cross and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Red Cross.

Antigua and Barbuda

The Antigua & Barbuda Red Cross Society mobilized its volunteers, providing first aid assistance and distributing relief supplies, including blankets, tarpaulins, flashlights and batteries, together with food to shelters and affected communities.

Co-operation with Authorities and with International Agencies and Non - Governmental organizations

In all five affected countries, the Red Cross National Societies worked closely with local authorities, Civl Defence, military and airport authorities. In the Dominican Republic, the Red Cross met daily with representatives from the government, and also coordinated the action of a broad coalition of some 35 NGOs and community groups. In Haiti, the Red Cross consulted fully with the government authorities and PAHO/WHO in particular, to ensure that its capacity was deployed to the best advantage on the behalf of the most vulnerable. For the damage and needs assessments, the Red Cross had access to a wide variety of information from other sources, including the governments of the region; PAHO/WHO, UN-OCHA, UNDP, CDERA, the Civil Defence and Church organizations.

More than 350 experts from affected countries, donor organizations, the UN system and the media attended an evaluation meeting on hurricane Georges and Mitch in February 1999 in Santo Domingo, organized by the Pan American Heath Organization (PAHO). The Red Cross in the Caribbean was strongly represented with 17 representatives from 10 National Societies and the regional delegation. The four day meeting discussed lessons learned, including early warning, needs assessment, water and sanitation, medical care, psycho-social aspects, disease surveillance, food and nutrition, supply management, civilian-military co-ordination, information management, mass media, and the transition from emergency to reconstruction.

Red Cross participants from the Caribbean held their own two-day evaluation session following the PAHO meeting to analyse the organization's response to hurricane Georges and identify possible implications for disaster preparedness in the region. The National Society delegates recommended that measures to improve capacity building in the Caribbean Red Cross National Societies should be considered for immediate implementation, including training programmes in the main phases of emergency relief and the developing of a cadre of delegates within the Caribbean for regional deployment. Both suggestions have been incorporated in subsequent regional DP programming.

In a continued partnership with the Red Cross, regional telecommunication provider Cable & Wireless included a hurricane Georges Red Cross fund raising appeal "bill stuffer" in their monthly phone bills to 130,000 customers in Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Cayman Islands. Within days after Hurricane Georges devastated the region, Cable & Wireless announced a gift of USD 50,000 to the Red Cross relief effort, the largest corporate gift received from within the Caribbean. And in October, C&W again demonstrated its concern by co-sponsoring a regional radiothon on world disaster preparedness day and in mid November 1998 to raise funds for the hurricane appeal and promote the importance of disaster preparedness for families year-round.

As the storm approached the Caribbean region, the Red Cross issued public warnings and provided safety tips for the media to distribute. Following the storm, all affected National Societies issued regular press releases to inform the public of the Red Cross response as well as providing security information for hurricane victims starting their recovery efforts. Daily "Red Cross Fact Sheets" were issued to the media to highlight the latest disaster information. The regional delegation was responsible for international media and fielded more than 150 interviews with major news sources, including CNN, ABC News, NBC News, BBC, Sky Television, The Miami Herald and the Caribbean News Agency (CANA). The Federation, given to its high credibility, was contacted frequently as the official source of information on the population affected by Georges, and also as the focal point to follow up enquiries for relatives at home and abroad. In the three weeks following the hurricane, the regional delegation responded to more than 900 e-mail enquires and registered over 175,000 hits on the Caribbean Red Cross Societies web site.

Analysis of the Operation

Needs assessment: Most vulnerable areas needing assistance were identified in the first week after the disaster. These areas were surveyed by several teams across the affected countries. The teams were made up of experienced Red Cross volunteers and relief workers and were supported by regional delegates. During the assessments, priority was given to the most isolated communities which had fewer opportunities to be assisted by the national government and to those individuals who had to evacuated to shelters during the storm. No public announcement was made before the Red Cross assessments teams carried out a house to house visual inspection, documenting the needs of individual families; they interviewed the head of family, verified the number of persons in the family, relief goods already received, relief items required and damage to the home. To avoid duplicating efforts, the communities and families most affected were identified for Red Cross assistance in close collaboration with other organizations such as WFP, PAHO, WHO, UN-OCHA, National Disaster Commissions, the Ministry of Health, the Civil Defence, Churches and other community organizations.

A soon as the emergency needs and damage assessments efforts were completed, the Federation's regional delegation drew up a plan of action targeting more than 272,500 vulnerable people across the region during the three months emergency phase addressing medical, hygiene, food, water and shelter needs; a further 72,500 people were included in the six month rehabilitation phase. In line with the plan of action, the overall goal for the emergency phase in all five countries was reached, together with the achievement of successful rehabilitation efforts and capacity building programmes planned in four of the five countries. The beneficiaries in the five affected countries were provided with the basic needs for a mid term period, allowing them to begin to rebuild their lives whilst attempting to find a job or otherwise secure an income. An important capacity building element was implemented across the region to encourage better coordination with other relief agencies, promote vital radio communications between the islands, strengthen the visibility of the Red Cross, promote the organization as a valued source of preparedness information, and to replenish emergency stocks depleted during the hurricane.

Objectives/Plan of Action

As the storm so severely affected such a large percentage of the Caribbean population, more in-depth and analytical post-disaster evaluations to improve the basis for future disaster management planning is needed to strengthen the general preparedness and response capacity of the public as well as relief agencies.

In the Dominican Republic, members of the original Red Cross assessment team which ran the supplementary food programme together with the USAID Mission and Red Cross staff felt that it was critical for the programme to include supplementary cereal food rations, targeted at children under five. Corn-Soya-Blend (CSB) or Soya-Fortified-Bulger (SFB) was distributed to approximately 12,250 households with children under five, in 25 and 50 kg sacks, one sack per family, every two months, for a period of six months (June - October).

A significant delay in the arrival of the commodities in country and at appropriate regional warehouses was experienced, due in part to high demand of USDA agricultural surplus commodities in response to relief efforts for both hurricane Georges in the Caribbean and hurricane Mitch in Central America.

The main constraints in the hurricane Georges operation in Haiti were related to the unstable and volatile political situation in the country and people's material poverty, the combination of which led to a difficult security situation all over the country, but particularly along the main roads and in the major towns. One important consequence for the Haitian National Red Cross Society's distribution of hygiene kits to the affected populations was that it was more time consuming than foreseen: local suppliers of relief commodities were unable to deliver on time; Haitian National Red Cross Society local committee members could not always move as planned from one village to the other to identify beneficiaries; in the provinces fuel was not always available when needed; when vehicles broke down, it might take weeks to find spare parts and so forth.

The regional delegation's relief response capacity was challenged in supporting five operations simultaneously. Most of the delegation's support was provided to Dominican Red Cross, with the other National Societies - particularly those in the eastern Caribbean - receiving technical assistance to the extent possible, which was not always provided as promptly as needed. Several National Societies were also slow in providing information needed for reporting to donors and for press contacts. The regional disaster preparedness programme is addressing this issue.

Attention for the hurricane Georges operation in the Caribbean was shifted to a large extent to Central America following the impact of hurricane Mitch in late October 1999 - this may have impacted negatively on the ability to mobilise adequate and timely financial and human resources. In general, the process of recruitment of regional technical delegates was lengthy, particularly the search for qualified delegates in the areas of information, planning, monitoring and reporting who had a sufficient level of competence in the Spanish language.

While the regional delegation and Caribbean National Societies were strong and acted with determination in the emergency phase when appropriate human resources were abundant, the lack of technical support personnel became a weakness for the development and implementation of rehabilitation and capacity building components.


Through its regional delegation in Santo Domingo, the Federation was active in the Caribbean throughout the crisis, working closely with the National Societies of the five affected countries to assist the most vulnerable victims of hurricane Georges and to alleviate their despair. The regional emergency relief and rehabilitation operation covered the basic needs of the beneficiaries for a mid term period and allowed them to begin to rebuild their lives.

The affected populations in the five countries also received direct support from their neighbours as Red Cross Societies and overseas branches across the Caribbean launched national appeals to support the relief efforts, solicited in-kind donations of food, shelter material and other emergency commodities, and sent relief workers and containers of supplies to the five countries to help to respond to this tragedy. More than 12,200 Red Cross volunteers were mobilized across the region and provided assistance to over 343,000 hurricane victims; more than 20 delegates from sister National Societies augmented the Federation's presence in the region during the response operation.

The Red Cross relief operations which were developed in the five hurricane Georges affected countries contributed largely to improve the logistic capacities of the National Societies, and also fostered good relations with national and local authorities, the media, NGOs, Embassies and other humanitarian and relief organizations. These relations built with other agencies facilitated the work of the Red Cross across the region, integrating the National Societies in each country with all levels of government and civil society, and ensuring regional, national and local coordination of Red Cross relief efforts necessary to reach the most vulnerable populations in the affected countries.

Suggestions for the future: With the presence of stratospheric winds, continuing warm North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, and persistent La Nina conditions, early forecasts predict active hurricane seasons in forthcoming years, compared with the average, with projected intense storm activities. Experts warn that recent hurricane activity suggests the beginning of a "new era" of more major hurricane activity and more intense-storm landfalls in the Caribbean Basin.

In anticipation of increased disaster activity in the region, the importance of the regional disaster preparedness programme is heightened. This comprehensive programme, which is built around the Federation's community based disaster preparedness (CBDP) programme with its strong prevention and mitigation profile, as well as more traditional disaster management structural and training activities for disaster prone communities and for the Red Cross, has been expanded to include Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and St. Kitts and Nevis, all impacted by the extremely severe hurricanes Georges and Mitch in 1998.

The programme was initiated in the beginning of 1997 with funding from one donor - the Netherlands government through the Netherlands Red Cross - for two years: 1997 and 1998, and has been of the utmost importance for the Caribbean Red Cross efforts to develop coordinated regional solutions to the dispersed geography of the region and its reduced resource base. The programme has been particularly important in the eastern Caribbean where small island states are neighbours to other small islands, overseas territories of industrialized countries. The regular networking which has developed between the National Red Cross Societies of Antigua & Barbuda and St. Kitts & Nevis and the local Red Cross branches of overseas dependencies such as British Anguila and Montserrat, and Dutch Saint Maarten, has several times showed its efficiency during times of disasters, as well as in the case of the emergency phase of the hurricane Georges operation in St. Kitts & Nevis and Anguila & Barbuda.

On the other hand, the regular monitoring established during the hurricane Georges operation disclosed several weaknesses in regional and national Red Cross response mechanisms. The lessons learned from the emergency and rehabilitation phases of the hurricane Georges operation were integrated into regional disaster preparedness programming in 1999 for application and implementation as from the year 2000.

The most important learning point could be that it is yet too early in the life of the regional disaster preparedness programme to focus almost exclusively on the community preparedness component, and that this component must be coordinated and link up with more traditional disaster management activities including training within the National Red Cross Societies, at local and community levels, but also at provincial and national levels. It is therefore suggested that any remaining funds from the Hurricane Georges operation be earmarked for capacity building initiatives in the region, focusing on disaster preparedness at community and institutional level, as well as organisational strengthening in the wider sense.

For further details please contact: Leon Prop, Phone : 4122 73 0 4258 Fax: 4122 733 03 95; email:

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. The procurement for this operation was carried out in full compliance and conformity with the Federation's standard for international and local procurement. For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

This operation sought to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or long-term capacity building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation's website.

John Horekens
External Relations Division

Santiago Gil
Americas Department

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