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Washington, D.C., 7 January 2014 (PAHO/WHO) - The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization is helping to respond to the emergency and manage resources after floods affected the islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and Grenada between December 23 and 25, and left hundreds of people displaced from their homes.

The United Kingdom's government gave EC$1 million (Eastern Caribbean dollars), about 228,000 sterling pounds, for St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — two of the islands most affected by the intense rains — that will be managed by PAHO/WHO. This financial help will go towards medicine and essential supplies, such as water and sanitation equipment, to mitigate the rains' impact on both health systems and the risk of water- and vector-borne diseases.

A team of experts from the PAHO/WHO's Regional Response Team are working in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to support the Ministry of Health in needs assessment, psychosocial support, water and sanitation, and in health services (both structural and functional).

Severe rains and high winds from December 23 to 25, 2013 had a large impact on the four islands. The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines declared a Level Two Disaster and reported severe damage to health facilities, infrastructure, housing, water and sanitation, roads and bridges.

At least 15 people died (six in St. Lucia and nine in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), another five people are missing and hundreds have been displaced to temporary shelters. Some health facilities are damaged (including loss of supplies and equipment) and remain inoperable or with their operation capacity significantly reduced.

Among the response actions, efforts are also being made to strengthen access to water and sanitation, epidemiological surveillance and vector control measures, and support to the affected population.

Through its Department of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief, PAHO/WHO technical cooperation focuses on reducing the impact of emergencies on health, especially in vulnerable populations. In emergency situations, PAHO/WHO supports ministries of health in their humanitarian response, and in major disasters, PAHO/WHO activates its Regional Response Team, made up of experts in key areas of public health.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO and is part of the Inter-American system.