Special Session - Disaster Risk Reduction & Management

Following the devastating 2017 hurricane season, a special session of the 13th CaribVET Steering Committee was dedicated to the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. The session was organized in Antigua and Barbuda, the first country affected by IRMA in Sept 2017.

On June 13, 2018, the Steering Committee of the Caribbean Animal Health Network, CaribVET, convened a Special Session to discuss challenges and lessons-learned on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) in the Caribbean region.


• Increase awareness of Veterinary Services in the Caribbean on tools and expertise available for countries to improve their Disaster Risk Reduction and emergency management capacity;
• Better understand the role of CVOs in DRRM planning at the national level;
• Contribute to the Emergency Assistance Strategy and Action Plan of Caricom for the Agriculture Sector following a natural disaster.


The session highlighted the crucial role of livestock in island communities and the large amount of work needed to improve disaster preparedness and response. The session aimed to provide specific inputs to the Emergency Response Strategy and Action Plan (ERS & AP) for the Agricultural Sector in CARICOM, at the request of the Climate Change, Disaster Risk Management and Natural Resource Management (CC-DRM-NRM) thematic group of the Agriculture Food and Nutrition Cluster.

Furthermore, regional recommendations were translated into actions and a workplan proposal with several immediate actions that are being finalized.

CaribVET reiterated its desire to remain in communication with CDEMA and FAO as they work together to strengthen planning and response for disasters in the Caribbean region.

A variety of countries share their experiences post-hurricanes Maria and Irma

The countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Martin/Saint Barthélémy, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, and Cuba represented by their Chief Veterinary Officers were invited to share their experience with a specific emphasis on:

  • Activities taken for the livestock sector before and after the hurricanes;
  • Gaps in the current response system;
  • Recommendations of interventions and tools supporting interventions;
  • Lessons-learnt and continued impact on food security and the livestock sector.

In addition, other countries that were severely affected by recent disasters such as Martinique, were invited to provide comments and contribute the discussion.

The session evidenced most common issues post disaster

Some countries had pre-disaster activities, which included educational outreach to producers on disaster plans and visits to provide advice on structures and drains. Despite these efforts, the severity of the hurricanes resulted in severe structural damage to livestock facilities and poultry houses, leading to immediate animal deaths and losses to the livestock sector in the majority of countries. Many countries highlighted welfare issues that occurred when animals are left behind due to evacuation or when farms were inaccessible due to challenges with infrastructure. Loose animals, starvation, lack of shade and water, injuries/disease and lack of access to veterinary care or medications, and predation by starving dogs were problems that occurred very quickly. Immediate needs post-disaster that were emphasized by many countries included: fencing materials; kennels; animal feed, including food for pets such as dogs and cats to avoid predation; refrigeration for veterinary medicines and vaccines; repair and re-establishment of the slaughterhouse/abattoir; and re-establishment of a system to address loose livestock and pets such as the humane society or pound. The issues of pet management and movement were of particular concern to many countries, and while not related to livestock, our participants emphasized that this is an area that must be strengthened as part of community planning and response. Many countries experienced increased cases of diseases, such as leptospirosis, and other sanitation issues due to the inability to bury carcasses or move animals.

Countries were also able to share their recovery efforts.

Animal containment was slowly addressed on many islands, with many relying on support of humane societies or other non-profit organizations to help manage loose animal populations, and repairs have been done to key structures such as veterinary clinics and abattoirs. Targeted activities aimed at improving resilience, such as using more local breeds to increase hardiness, stronger site selection and structural integrity of livestock farms, providing a secure source of drinking water for populations, and improved feed storage and conservation approaches were also discussed.

Overall, the session highlighted the critical role of livestock in island communities and the large amount of work needed to improve preparedness and response.

Lastly, a group met concurrently during the 18th CARICOM Chief Veterinary Officers Committee Meeting to address matters arising from the CaribVET Special Session. The group members agreed to form a CaribVET Disaster sub group with an executive committee. This executive committee made up of Jamaica, Belize, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, CENSA (Cuba) and Curacao will facilitate input on the Emergency Response Strategy and Action Plan (ERS & AP) for the Agricultural Sector in the CARICOM by providing detailed notes from the discussions, as well as a list of currently available training, resources, and materials that were compiled.

In addition, the group plans to prepare a letter to circulate to the Permanent Secretaries and other government heads of Veterinary Services to inform on CaribVET activities on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) and request for the nomination of a focal point on DRRM for animals. The group will also work collaboratively to finalize a proposal on strengthening capabilities for DRRM in the livestock sector by August.


The special session was supported by USDA-APHIS

CaribVET & the 2017 hurricane season

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