Red Cross braces for hurricane season in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says it is mobilising and ramping up the efforts of hundreds of Red Cross teams across the Americas to prepare for another hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts predict 13 to 20 named storms forming in the Atlantic Ocean only, six to 10 of those developing into hurricanes, and three to five possibly becoming major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

The federation noted that these storms could bring further devastation to a region that is still heavily affected by last year’s storms and hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. It said that during the next six months, deadly rains, landslides and floods could further affect communities already grappling with the pandemic, where vaccines are not yet widely available, and where livelihoods have been destroyed.

IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain explained that, “In Central America and Colombia, thousands of families are still recovering from damage caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which affected more than 7.5 million people just six months ago. Recovery has been hindered by the pandemic, which has wiped people’s economic resources, strained health systems and caused challenges to the response.”

“The pandemic adds another layer of complexity. We are now, once again, facing an extremely challenging scenario, with overlapping crises increasing the vulnerabilities of women, children, migrants and other groups. We are supporting regional efforts to prepare for this hurricane season, including strengthening an equitable response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that no one is left behind,” Chapagain continued.

According to the federation, to mitigate the logistical challenges caused by COVID-19 restrictions, the IFRC has prepositioned humanitarian goods in Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and across the Caribbean to provide immediate response to the humanitarian needs to people.

The federation said it is paying particular attention to the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean, where several countries have been affected by La Soufrière’s volcanic eruption and where COVID-19 cases and deaths are currently reaching a record high and the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is particularly severe.