Early warning services in the Caribbean get boost

The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Barbuda.
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Barbuda.
Photo credit: UNDP/Michael Atwood

The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported on Monday that Caribbean countries have been equipped to better prepare for hurricanes and other hazards following the conclusion of a three-and-a-half-year project to strengthen weather, water and climate services.

WMO said the US$6.5 million projects showcased practical tools and policy-making priorities in line with a UN plan to ensure all people on the planet are covered by Early Warning Systems by the end of 2027. 

WMO said Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean (CREWS Caribbean) targeted countries that are members of the regional bloc, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with “the ultimate goal of saving lives and incomes.” 

CREWS is the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative, a multilateral fund that supports the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), WMO said. 

It said the project addressed gaps in Early Warning Services, which were identified in an assessment of the devastating 2017 Caribbean hurricane season, characterized by high-powered hurricanes, such as Irma and Maria, that left a trail of damage, devastation and casualties across 12 territories.  

“The Caribbean is highly exposed to hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, landslides, and other severe hydrometeorological hazards, and exposure and vulnerabilities vary across the islands,” WHO said. 

The World Bank said that, each year, the region suffers from over US$1.6 billion in damages triggered by natural disasters. 

“Advances in science and technology make it possible to forecast hazards and disseminate warnings, but more can be done to strengthen understanding of the potential impact of complex hazards so that countries and communities can take appropriate anticipatory action,” WMO said

Through the project, it said Caribbean countries were equipped with tools that included the development of a Strategic Roadmap for Advancing Multi-hazard Impact Based Early Warning Systems. 

WMO said additionally, model legislation and policies, adapted to national circumstances, were developed in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Other measures included supporting the implementation of the Common Alerting Protocol in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, and Turks and Caicos, and development of the Caribbean Severe Weather Case Database, WHO said. 

The project was led by WMO in collaboration with a World Bank partnership that supports low and middle-income countries to reduce their risks from natural hazards and climate change, and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). 

It was funded by CREWS, which in June approved funding for a new three-year project to strengthen multi-hazard early warning systems in the region. 

WMO said the US$7 million project is currently in the development phase and is expected to begin in the last quarter of the year.