Gavin White – Independent consultant
Background: The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest tropical cyclone season on record. Hurricane Irma had a directly hit on Barbuda in the early morning hours of 6 September 2017 while also affecting the islands of Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis. With the immediate threat of Hurricane José, the government of Antigua & Barbuda evacuated all Barbuda’s inhabitants to Antigua, where they were placed in government-run collective centers or hosted by relatives. The Red Cross’s assessment identified urgent needs for shelter; livelihoods and basic needs; health; water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; and disaster risk reduction.
Design: The methodology for the final evaluation adopted a cross-sectional study design, with both quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection. Over a two-week period, site visits were conducted on all four islands (Antigua, Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis), 29 key decision makers were interviewed, door-to-door surveys were conducted with 109 households and 16 fishermen in Barbuda, a focus group discussion was conducted with representatives from 4 Barbudan organizations and a Lessons Learned workshop in Antigua convened 31 actors of the operation. This mixed method approach allowed for the triangulation and corroboration of information, which was then presented back to (and endorsed by) representatives of key organizations in both Antigua (27 participants) and St Kitts (25 participants).
Key achievements of the operation:
Antigua & Barbuda: A successful response to clear and pressing needs
In Antigua & Barbuda, respondents agreed that the response effort would have been very different had the Red Cross not been present, with a response that was very well received:
- 100% of respondents in Barbuda considered the initial cash distributions to be “very important” (91%) or “important” (9%);
- 86% thought the in-kind assistance matched their needs well;
- 84% rated the overall Red Cross assistance as “good” or “very good”, with less than 1% of respondents considering it was “bad”;
- The local hospital benefited from “Red Cross assistance [that] came when it was the most needed”;
- The psychosocial support program received very little recognition from the beneficiaries, yet it was unanimously praised by the NS and partners alike as filling a critical gap for a highly stressed population.
This success was credited to the successful management of the operation by the IFRC, strong leadership skills within the NS, the close partnership between the NS and the IFRC, as well as an openness of the NS about its challenges as it underwent dramatic internal change processes.
St Kitts & Nevis: Laying the foundations for enhanced response capacities
In St Kitts & Nevis, the impact of the hurricane was relatively limited, damaging roofs and pulling off shingles. Yet the disaster management system was quickly stretched, with NEMA relying on the SKNRCS’s limited stocks. Via the IFRC’s broad Appeal:
- The SKNRCS benefited from generous support to tackle structural weaknesses in the country’s response capacity;
- Containers and stocks were prepositioned across both St Kitts and Nevis;
- Both the Red Cross and the national response systems benefited from thorough reviews.