When Disaster Strikes – Who Is There to Help?

International Relief Efforts in the Caribbean and Around the World



On February 24th the Permanent Mission of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations hosted an event on global disaster relief where representatives from several international organizations shared best practices and projects happening around the world. As climate change plagues our planet, extreme weather conditions are causing an increasing amount of natural disasters. Geographic areas like the Caribbean are particularly susceptible to catastrophic levels of destruction following hurricanes, floods and earthquakes, which consequently lead to economic and developmental setbacks that often take years of recovery. According to Ordell Barman, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Trinidad, the main areas of focus for disaster relief must include a focus on social protection, infrastructure, health, operational readiness and the environment. For impact areas to receive the attention and resources they need, there must be better collaboration between communities, organizations and governments. Moreover, Barman acknowledged the vital contributions that civil society and women make to disaster relief and the need to leverage their knowledge and experiences.


Natalie Samarasinghe from UN75 shared that 90% of natural disasters are climate-related, but also affect other urgent global issues such as peace and security, conflict resolution, inequality, migration/displacement and the increased marginalization of vulnerable communities. Many of the panelists agreed that disaster relief efforts directly relate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In order to achieve some of these goals by 2030, partnerships must be created that lead to better innovation and outreach to remote communities that are often left on the fringes of relief efforts. Natalie also stressed that 2020 is the ”Decade of Action,” a time for mobilization across all sectors to implement urgent action today to alleviate the deep suffering that results from natural disasters and the climate crisis.


Isaac Reshad, from Global Access Partner, mentioned the importance of providing jobs and mental health services to communities impacted by natural disasters. Through his new initiative, the SDF Relief Fund, he is making strategic connections and securing funding to carry out this important work. Trauma healing and mental health support are crucial necessities for communities who have experienced the devastation of natural disasters and these are areas to focus on for long-term, sustainable development.


Paige Propper-Sanborn, founder of the Intellination app that’s designed to improve communication between rural communities and aid partners during disaster recovery, also shared this sentiment. She emphasized the importance of leveraging today’s technology to improve operation capacity and use innovation to best help those in need. By using an app like Intellination, locals are empowered to take part in their own nation’s recovery by reporting conditions in their communities and corresponding directly with organizations and government. Empowerment through job creation, opportunities to practice agency, mental health services and trauma healing can all ensure that a community is able to thrive in all aspects of recovery following a natural disaster.



Kunal Soof, the founder of NOVUS and the #WeThePlanet campaign, spoke on the principal of “placing service before self” in regards to engaging people at all levels to take action against the climate crisis. He mentioned the use of technology as a major disruptor and tool for better solving some of the world’s most pressing issues. Kunal reiterated the Importance of including women in the global climate action movement and disaster relief aid, not only as participants or consultants, but as authoritative figures and experts. The panelists agreed that bringing people together and creating a platform to listen and actively adopt solutions shared from communities, youth and women can make a major difference in protecting our environment and creating more peaceful, just societies around the world.