After a series of meetings last November in which the BVI Red Cross asked East End/Long Look residents to identify the greatest risks to their community, the BVIRC is planning a series of events this year to help residents combat these threats, BVIRC Disaster Manager Kristi Creque said on April 14.
The Red Cross documented residents’ concerns in the Enhanced Vulnerability Capacity Assessment, a 41-page report that highlighted hurricanes, Covid-19, and mosquitos as the biggest risks to a community that was found to be particularly vulnerable because of its large Spanish-speaking and immigrant population, its proximity to storm surges, its often shoddy housing, and its limited waste management infrastructure.
“The assessment work that we are doing in the communities throughout the territory allows us to have vital information that is specific to the community, which will aid in our response efforts in times of emergency [and] disaster,” BVIRC Director Stacy Lloyd said in an April 11 press release.
“We thank the members of the East End/Long Look Community for seeing and understanding this concept, and we look forward to continuing our work in the community and future communities of which we hope to undertake this process.”
Beyond recounting the testimonies taken from the 16 public officers, teachers, ministers and other community members who attended two November meetings, the BVIRC also created maps of the area, walked its streets, and analysed its history and figures from the Central Statistics Office to compile the report, which was completed by Nov. 25.
Handed over last month to Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, whose Seventh District includes much of the EE/LL community, the report is part of a larger effort by the BVIRC to help four vulnerable communities across the territory guard against the harms they face, Ms. Creque said.
In February 2020, the BVIRC and government officials presented the findings of an EVCA focused on Sea Cows Bay to a crowd of roughly 50 people inside the Valerie O. Thomas Community Centre, and Ms. Creque said the BVIRC hopes to hand over a report on Purcell by the end of the month and then begin studies of Virgin Gorda.
Sea Cows Bay shares many of the characteristics that make East End vulnerable, including a large immigrant population, waste management issues, and a history of flooding.
In East End, which contains low-lying flood-prone areas as well as exposed elevated areas, debris from hurricanes can block access to Road Town and the banks, medical facilities, and other services located there, the new report states.
Additionally, some East End residents suffer from drug addiction and other mental illnesses that render them especially vulnerable during a natural disaster, while others get their food from farms or gardens that could be destroyed by a storm, according to the BVIRC.
However, when it comes to hurricane threats, the close-knit community benefits from social cohesion — friends and family members are likely to shelter displaced residents — as well as direct access to government ministers and non-profit organisations, the report states.
To mitigate the dangers of hurricanes, the report recommends a slew of disaster preparedness activities, such as creating a list of elderly or vulnerable residents, holding community meetings before the start of hurricane season, repairing storm shelters, and conducting Community Emergency Response Team trainings.
Ms. Creque said the BVIRC will hold hurricane preparedness meetings in East End and Purcell, while basic first aid trainings have already been held in East End and more are upcoming.
She also noted that East End’s recovery from Hurricane Irma was hindered by a lack of construction and manufacturing companies headquartered in the community, and the report recommends that government incentivise business investment in the area.
The report was compiled in November, a month that saw low cases of Covid-19 in the territory before numbers shot up in December as the delta and omicron variants circulated.
Although cases dipped into the teens by the beginning of this month, Ms. Creque said that much of the report’s findings and guidance on Covid-19 are still valid.
Among the most prominent threats from Covid-19 are the heightened health risks it poses to older and unhealthy residents, though the report also notes that children were impacted by the loss of in-person learning, and some residents suffered from an increase in domestic abuse and a lack of social connectivity.
The community had been able to blunt these negative effects in part because of access to two health clinics in the area, as well as vaccination drives and the delivery of sanitisation packages from the BVIRC to families in need of assistance, the report states.
The report advocated for continued public awareness campaigns, additional vaccination drives, and distribution of health supplies.
Also, it encouraged the government disbursal of cash vouchers to needy residents, an initiative that Ms. Creque said she still supports as not everyone has benefited from the ongoing economic recovery, with some residents still reeling from the loss of family members and struggling to manage their finances after going into debt or losing the income of a spouse or family member.
“Even up to this point … we’re still feeling the effects, especially from the loss of jobs,” Ms. Creque said.
The report also examined threats from the diseases transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
The biggest risks stem from the poor garbage disposal in the community and collection of stagnant water in the low-lying areas, but these risks can be countered by fogging areas susceptible to large amounts of mosquitos, as well as improved community clean-ups and educational sessions, the report states.
According to Ms. Creque, the BVIRC is planning to partner with the Department of Environmental Health and Green VI to lead a series of informational meetings about these mosquito-borne diseases in vulnerable communities.
She added that the BVIRC has mosquito nets the group hopes to donate to the community.