Residents of the red, orange and yellow volcano hazard zones are now beneficiaries of an award-winning EC$133 million Volcano Eruption Emergency Programme (VEEP) which has been put in place by the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The VEEP project won the World Bank’s Vice President’s award, even as it seeks to cushion the impact of the 2021 volcanic eruptions on vulnerable communities across the country.
Disclosure of the prestigious award was made on Thursday, July 28 at the official launch of the VEEP project by the World Bank’s Senior Disaster Risk Management Specialist, Elad Shenfeld.
The World Bank official said the project won the award based on the World Bank’s core values of impact, integrity, respect, innovation and teamwork.
He said VEEP is not just a simple project, but one that has “innovative approaches to disaster preparedness and response.”
Shenfield stated that VEEP won the Bank’s Vice President’s Award, from a field of 70 nominations across the region.
Addressing the launch at the NIS conference room in Kingstown, Shenfeld added that this achievement was made possible due to the commitment, professionalism and excellence of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The World Bank official also lauded the resilience of the Vincentian people, in being able to bounce back after last year’s catastrophic volcanic eruptions.
“There is no Word Bank loan, or EU grant that can build the resilience of a nation,” Shenfeld declared.
He also made the point that “there can’t be development without resilience.”
According to Shenfeld, resilience is about the human spirit and about hope, faith and togetherness.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Camillo Gonsalves, described VEEP as “a massive project for the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”
The Minister recalled that last April, La Soufriere Volcano erupted 32 times and expelled over 500,000 tons of ash and other derbris across SVG and elsewhere.
There was damage to over 700 houses and farmers took a devastating blow.
Minister Gonsalves indicated that a preliminary count of loss and damage from the eruptions stands at EC$635 million.
Although the all clear was given last September for persons to return to areas from which they were evacuated, the minister said there are “still people today who have not earned their first dollar since the volcano erupted.”
Additionally, there are persons today who do not “have a roof over their heads, that they can call their own.”
The finance minister noted that based on the Volcano Explositivity Index, the volcanic eruptions in April last year were 10 times larger than the eruption of 1979.
“Tremendous displacements took place.”
“Immediately, we had to reach out to our partners to see what could be done to help fill this $635 million hole that was created by the eruptions,” said Gonsalves.
The VEEP project is being financed by a US$40 million soft loan from the World Bank and a US$2 million grant from the European Union (EU).
Minister Gonsalves expressed appreciation to both the World Bank and the EU for their timely assistance. He noted that although the eruptions have ceased, people still have bills to pay and people still have to live.
Describing VEEP as a “transformative programme,” the minister adds that ” it is a significant contribution to the lives and livelihood of people.”
Under the VEEP programme, beneficiaries were given a debit card from the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines and money is added to the card monthly by the government.
The first payout through the cards was made on July 1 for close to 4000 families.
Gonsalves noted that such a programme has never been done in the Caribbean before .
Interim Project Coordinator Roxanne John states that VEEP seeks to provide short term income support and to improve the capacity of the government, to prepare for and respond to emergencies; and to build back better, critical services in the aftermath of the eruptions.
John noted that the sum of $7.5 million has been allocated for early recovery income support.
The programme has a five year duration and will also include a Labour intensive phase.
Last Thursday’s launch was also addressed by Director of Economic Planning, Ricardo Frederick who noted that the project began in May 2021, as a direct response to the volcanic eruptions.
VEEP is being implemented through the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.