La Soufrière volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines erupted again on Monday morning – its largest and most violent eruption thus far.
The eruptions began on Friday, a day after the volcano was determined to be an imminent threat and evacuations of the area began. Approximately 16,000 people have been evacuated thus far, although unknown numbers have refused to leave.
Even aside from the immediate threats to those in the area, the volcano poses a much larger health risk. Eruptions have caused the ash that first rose miles into the air to rain down on St. Vincent and even on neighboring countries, creating conditions that are especially dangerous to people with respiratory conditions and other health concerns. The nation’s food and water supplies have been compromised by the contamination, according to the Associated Press.
Direct Relief began responding to the crisis on Thursday. A nine-pallet shipment, organized in consultation with St. Vincent’s chief pharmacist, is currently being readied for shipment to the nearby nation of St. Lucia. There, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, a Direct Relief partner, will deliver it to St. Vincent’s Ministry of Health, Wellness, and the Environment.
The shipment contains respiratory medications, N95 masks, burn creams, cots, first aid kits, hygiene supplies, and two Direct Relief wildfire kits. Wildfires and volcanoes pose many of the same health risks, including respiratory complications; skin burns and irritation; contaminated water supplies; and exacerbation of chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, as many people evacuate without their medications.
In addition, the organization has prepared a four-pallet shipment for shipment to Barbados, where the Pan American Health Organization, the branch of the World Health Organization focused on the Americas, will receive it. That shipment includes more wildfire kits, PPE, and emergency medical backpacks intended for first responders working in the field to respond to medical needs.
Two Direct Relief donations not originally intended for the eruption will also be partially diverted to response efforts. Two containers of personal protective equipment (PPE) are scheduled to arrive in St. Lucia on Wednesday. The Barbados Defense Force, which is deploying to St. Vincent in response to the volcano, received a significant donation from Direct Relief in March to support its work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The organization is preparing to provide additional supplies if requested, including tents, PPE, emergency medical backpacks, water, and more.