Belize: Tropical Storm Arthur DREF Operation No. MDRBZ001 Final Report

Situation Report
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GLIDE No. TC-2008-000078-BLZ

The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of national societies to respond to disasters.

Summary: CHF 90,000 was allocated from the Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 4 June 2008, with an additional CHF 69,000 allocated on 10 June 2008 to support the national society in delivering assistance to some 2,500 beneficiaries and to replenish prepositioned stocks.

This final report will describe the results and achievements of the operation in accordance with the objectives set out in the Tropical Storm Arthur DREF Operation that began on 4 June 2008 and was completed on 4 September 2008. In total 2,500 beneficiaries (500 families) received emergency relief items, safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene promotion allowing them to recover from the disaster. Pre-positioned stocks were replenished in view of preparedness for the second part of the hurricane season, which proved vital for the recent tropical depression response.

The situation

Tropical Storm Arthur formed on Saturday 31 May 2008 and made landfall in Northern Belize before becoming the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. Heavy rains throughout Belize caused rivers across the country to overflow. The rains from Tropical Storm Arthur compounded the effects of Tropical Storm Alma that had developed in the Eastern Pacific on 27 May. Together, the two storms brought approximately 15 inches of rain over 36 hours across Belize causing flash flooding in low lying areas, affecting 10,000 people and causing the death of seven people. Two thirds of the country was flooded. Agriculture and aquaculture were severely affected and it is estimated recovery could take months.

The area most affected was Stann Creek where roads and bridges were washed away preventing access to the area for several days. Although Belize had experienced hurricanes in the past, the flooding was unexpected and its effect on the population was different from previous disasters being larger in duration and scope.

The experience gained from last year's Hurricane Dean allowed for timely and appropriate response to the disaster. From National Society headquarters to branch level the response was immediate, rapid, orderly and controlled.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action

Belize Red Cross Society (BRCS) immediately responded to the disaster, all eight local branches in the six districts of the country were prepared and able to respond in a timely and appropriate manner. Within 24 hours over 30 National Intervention Team members (NIT) were deployed to the most affected areas: the districts of Corozal, Orange Walk and Stann Creek.

Coordination and cooperation with the government's National Emergency Management Office (NEMO), Partner National Societies (PNS) in country and NGOs were ongoing throughout the operation to share information and avoid duplication.

A Plan of Action was elaborated and implemented at the start of the operation with the support of a disaster management delegate (DM) from the Pan American Disaster Response Unit (PADRU) and a finance delegate from the International Federation's Caribbean Regional Representation Office (CRRO) in Trinidad.

The BRCS continues to receive in-country support through a bilateral programme with Norwegian Red Cross via two in-country delegates working on DIPECHO programmes. The knowledge of these delegates in terms of Water and Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion, proved useful during the assessment phase of the operation.

The Mexican Red Cross deployed a team of 12 delegates trained in assessments and distributions to support the operation, thanks to the funding of the American Red Cross (AmCross). The delegates helped identify beneficiaries in Stan Creek, Orange Walk and Corozal. They donated radios to headquarters and five branches and trained local staff on their usage. This capacity building was essential to the BRCS's capacity to respond quickly to disasters with proper communication between all branches and headquarters.

PADRU deployed a Regional Intervention Team (RIT) specialized in logistics, a RIT specialized in health (AmCross), and a RIT specialized in reporting and information (Canadian Red Cross), over the course of the operation to support the BRCS. A disaster preparedness programme took place in Belize during September to further develop the disaster preparedness response strategy for the BRCS at the national level. A Revised Disaster Response Plan was drafted. This programme was made possible by the Federation - PADRU and AmCross. The programme's second phase is being planed for January 2009 to develop the disaster response strategy at the branch level and provide staff training.