WFP Rallies Support for Vulnerable Small Island States as Worst Atlantic Hurricane Season in Decades Kicks Off

Published May 30, 2024

ANTIGUA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today called for urgent global support for small island nations disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis, including many now bracing for what is expected to be an intense and destructive Atlantic hurricane season. The announcement came as the 4th International Small Island Developing States (SIDS) conference concluded today in the Caribbean twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

This week, heads of state and governments from the Caribbean and the Pacific met with the U.N. World Food Programme delegation – led by Executive Director Cindy McCain – to highlight the need to address the existential threats faced by SIDS and to seize opportunities for resilient and sustainable development in these regions. SIDS nations are in the crossfire of multiple crises: the climate crisis, the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic, fragile ecosystems, a heavy reliance on food imports and high debt burdens.

“Small island developing states are right on the frontlines of the global climate crisis, even though they have done almost nothing to cause it, and face growing threats to the lives and livelihoods of their communities. Island nations urgently need global support to protect themselves from severe climate and economic shocks,” warned U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain. “We must come together and address these challenges head-on to help build resilience and give vulnerable communities the tools they need to thrive.”

The SIDS conference comes to a close as the Atlantic Hurricane season kicks off. This year it is forecast to be one of the most active on record, further endangering the fragile balance of these nations. The U.N. World Food Programme is working with governments in the region on emergency preparedness, strategically positioning food supplies in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, while working with local suppliers in other Caribbean countries to rapidly mobilize food in emergencies.

The U.N. World Food Programme is also enhancing early warning systems and preparedness measures, including insurance programs that ensure vulnerable communities stay secure and recover swiftly when hit by storms and hurricanes. The U.N. World Food Programme helps countries build their capacity, using data – such as monitoring and geographic information systems – so that governments can make informed decisions and rapidly deliver assistance where it is needed.

“After enduring the impacts of prolonged droughts and excessive rains caused by El Niño, we are now facing a hurricane season predicted to be well above average. We’ve mobilized teams across the region for this difficult year. We will ensure that when the next storm hits, the preparedness and response systems we’ve put in place with governments in recent years help save lives and ensure the recovery of affected communities,” said Lola Castro, the U.N. World Food Programme’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

The U.N. World Food Programme uses drones and artificial intelligence to provide rapid, comprehensive assessments of structural damage following disasters. In the Dominican Republic, this technology reduced damage assessment times from weeks to hours following Hurricane Fiona in 2022, enabling a faster and more accurate response. The U.N. World Food Programme is also constructing a Caribbean logistics hub in Barbados to mobilize emergency supplies during disasters.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s leading humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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