Belize + 7 more

Caribbean Region Appeal No. 01.49/2003

Originally published


(In CHF)
(In CHF)
1. Health and Care
2. Disaster Management
3. Organizational Development
4. Federation Coordination
5. International Representation
1 USD 1,748,927 or EUR 1,730,392.
2 These are preliminary budget figures for 2004, and are subject to revision.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working from its regional delegation in Santo Domingo, has developed a variety of programmes in support of the 16 National Societies and 16 overseas branches of the British, French, and Netherlands Red Cross Societies which exist in the Caribbean region. An initial concentration on organizational development and disaster management issues has been modified over time with the addition of an important range of projects in health and care, to meet the growing incidence of HIV/AIDS in the region.

In developing programmes to support and build the capacities of Caribbean National Societies and overseas branches, the Federation has worked closely with the Caribbean Coordination of the Red Cross (CCORC), the representative body of the Red Cross in the region. One aspect of Red Cross work in the Caribbean in recent months has been a closer harmonization of activities, involving regular consultation not just between the Federation and individual National Societies, but also between the Federation and the CCORC, the ICRC and bilateral programme managers. A series of meetings, most notably the Inter American Conference held in the Dominican Republic in 1999, and the Sixth Caribbean Red Cross Biennial Conference (CRCBM) held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001, contributed greatly to a coherent and cohesive Movement approach to the humanitarian challenges facing the region. This approach will be further strengthened during the period covered by this appeal. In addition, the Federation's work with National Societies and overseas branches in the Caribbean, to be coordinated as of 2003 through sub regional offices in the Dominican Republic and Trinidad and Tobago, will be synchronized with that in the neighbouring region of Central America. Both regions will be managed from a new Federation regional office in Panama from the beginning of 2003.

The Caribbean, although seen by many as a region of holiday resorts and tax havens, is in reality the scene of serious humanitarian problems - entrenched poverty, declining economies, growing social disparities, and an accelerating HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, it also hosts one of the densest regional concentration of Red Cross entities - National Societies and overseas branches - found anywhere in the world, many of them with years of experience in confronting the humanitarian challenges of their countries and their region. Through its role as serving leader, the Federation continues to assist these entities to prepare themselves for effective service to the most vulnerable.

Regional Context

The countries and territories of the Caribbean region are characterized by a great variety in area, population and wealth, as well as rich cultural diversity and a broad spectrum of economic models. As an essentially archipelagic region, the Caribbean faces particular challenges in the fields of transportation, communication, and economic integration. Many of the region's nations are small island states, with limited resources and a particular vulnerability to natural disasters and sudden changes in the economic climate. Additionally, like other regions of the globe, the Caribbean has felt the impact of significant geopolitical, economic, social, and climatic changes over recent years. The growth of economic conglomerates such as the North American Free Trade Area has deprived countries in the region of some of their leverage in the marketing of products such as sugar, coffee, and bananas, while leaving them vulnerable to the negative effects of global recession. Globalization has added its own pressures, while unemployment and poverty remain unabated. The region proved particularly vulnerable to the economic downturn in the United States triggered by the events of 11 September 2001. The crisis hit the airline and tourism industries particularly hard - two sectors of the economy vital to the Caribbean nations. In addition, the domestic recession in the United States reduced remittances (an important source of income for some Caribbean states) and security restrictions in the post-11 September environment closed one traditional safety-valve for struggling island economies - legal and illegal immigration to the US.

Although the exponential growth in the tourist industry in the years up to 2001 brought in its wake additional income, it also resulted in environmental degradation and the proliferation of disease and social problems. Climate change, and in particular the phenomena associated with global warming and the El Niño effect, has introduced a new severity and unpredictability to the weather in a zone already vulnerable to meteorological extremes. The increasingly deadly impact of the annual hurricane season reflects this. As in years such as 1998, when hurricane Georges worked its way up the Caribbean island chain, and 2001, when the region was devastated by hurricanes Iris and Michelle, such storms can cost hundreds of lives and cause millions of dollars worth of damage. Apart from the regularly recurring disasters of the hurricane season, the region is also subject to unpredictable catastrophes such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

These external influences have impacted on a region rendered vulnerable by demographic pressures and, in some instances, entrenched poverty. The largest country in the region, Cuba, remains the subject of a trade embargo imposed by the United States, with serious consequences for its economy and level of social development. Haïti, with a literacy rate of only 58% and a per capita annual income of USD 250, is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Even in the relatively prosperous Dominican Republic, unemployment in mid 2002 was running at close to 17%. Throughout the region, rapid population growth has outpaced economic expansion, generating an influx of migrants to urban areas, as well as deforestation and pollution of air, water, and soil. The 2002 human development index published annually in the UNDP Human Development Report, showed in that most Caribbean nations had dropped significantly in the 173-nation ranking, including some countries generally considered to be among the more robust economies in the region - Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, for instance.

With limited revenues available to governments, state-provided services such as communications, health, and education have suffered accordingly.

There has also been a rapid growth of negative social phenomena such as drug-use and crime, and an explosive increase in the number of people infected with HIV-AIDS. The HIV-AIDS prevalence rate in the Caribbean is second only to that in sub-Saharan Africa, and the disease is now the major cause of death among men under the age of 45. Young people are also particularly vulnerable to the personal disorientation caused by the weakening of family ties and traditional ethical values.

The Red Cross in the Caribbean, as represented by the National Societies and the overseas branches, is well-positioned to help address the humanitarian issues generated by this socio-economic context. With a wide network of branches extending down to the level of local communities, with an excellent reputation from its past humanitarian interventions, with generally good relations with state authorities, and with a close working relationship with the Federation representation in the region, the Red Cross in the Caribbean has the potential to make a major contribution to alleviating the most pressing humanitarian needs.

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