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Caribbean: OCHA - CDEMA Joint Interoperability Manual

The Caribbean is one of the most hazard-prone regions in the world. It is exposed to a wide range of natural hazards, including tropical cyclones (hurricanes and tropical storms), earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, floods and volcanoes, which have significant economic, social and human costs across the region. Since 2000, the Caribbean has been impacted by more than 300 natural disasters which have affected some 39 million people and caused over US$114 billion in total damage. The annual losses from catastrophic climate events alone are estimated at $3 billion.

Storms are the most significant natural hazards affecting Caribbean countries. The storms impacting the region are becoming increasingly more powerful, producing increased rainfall and higher storm surge due to climate change. More frequent and intense storms in the region means less time for recovery between disaster events, making the transition from emergency relief operations to post-disaster recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction increasingly more difficult for impacted countries and people.

The 2017 hurricane season was highly active and extremely destructive, featuring 17 named storms and multiple Category 5 hurricanes. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the north-western islands of The Bahamas as an extremely powerful Category 5 hurricane, becoming the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record to directly impact a landmass. A key feature of these hurricanes was their rapid intensification, sustained strength and catastrophic impact on Caribbean countries.

In the Caribbean, more than 70 per cent of residents reside in low-lying coastal areas and the region’s urban population is growing two to three times faster than the current average for Central and South America, increasing its physical vulnerability to climate change and disaster impacts. Caribbean countries are highly vulnerable to external shocks in commodity prices, remain dependent on the highly volatile tourism industry, and are among the most highly indebted in the world. In addition, poverty and economic inequality remain high and persistent throughout the region, hindering the capacity to prepare for, cope with, and recover from the impact of disasters, which often exacerbate and deepen existing vulnerabilities.

As recurring climatic shocks will likely bring greater impacts on communities, economies and livelihoods throughout the region, the effective coordination of emergency preparedness and response is a key priority for humanitarian stakeholders in the Caribbean. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (OCHA ROLAC) are working together to strengthen coordination among humanitarian actors to ensure better preparedness for, and a coherent and efficient humanitarian response to, disasters and emergencies across the region.

This manual is part of the “Strengthen integrated and cohesive preparedness capacity at a regional, national and community level in the Caribbean” project that supports concrete actions for an effective early warning system, as well as aims to improve information management and operational capacity to improve the disaster preparedness mechanism for the Caribbean Regional Response. Working with regional early warning and response actors at the Caribbean level, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent (IFRC) are partnering with the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid of the European Union (ECHO) to reduce the risk of disasters in the region.

Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Original Publication Date: 
17 Jun 2020
Document type: