Winds and rain ripped across the country, tearing up the electrical lines and shredding homes and buildings throughout the island of Granada. Chaos reigned as not only were buildings crushed, but a prison saw its walls torn down, allowing criminals to escape and run free. As Hurricane Ivan passed, a staggering 90 percent of the infrastructure was destroyed and 34 people reported dead, according to the non-profit relief organization Oxfam.
"This is the worst devastation I have witnessed," noted Tim Foster, the Public Health Engineer for Oxfam, in a report immediately after the disaster in 2004.
Occurring roughly a year ago, the island of Granada has still not recovered from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ivan, with the United Nations and other relief organizations noting just how much more attention is needed for the island community to make even a partial recovery. While the world's attention shifted to the crisis of the tsunami in the East and the devastation that occurred in Florida and other places hit by the hurricane, Granada remains largely forgotten. A sustained effort and commitment by the international community is desperately needed here.
"The world responded generously," the United Nations noted in a recent press release, but "most of the country's housing remains in ruins." Such a housing crisis for the population demands the attention of the international community, and indeed more attention should be focused on rebuilding the people of Granada's homes.
As Hurricane Emily swept through the island this summer, the relatively mild hurricane nonetheless added to the damage and created more havoc for the already unsteady rebuilding process on the island.
Besides the immediate damage suffered by the population as the people of Granada lost homes, schools and businesses, the industries that brought income to the island also took severe hits. Known as the "Spice Islands," Granada's nutmeg, cinnamon and mace industries are largely devastated, something experts predict will cause long lasting economic troubles.
"It takes at least seven years for nutmeg trees, when replanted, to grow and bear fruit. Consequently, Grenada faces a long-term decline in its foreign exchange earning capacity," said UN in a Humanitarian Appeal in 2004.
Restoring the agricultural sector will take time and assistance. The tourist industry similarly took a major hit on the island.
According to the CIA Factbook, Granada "relies on tourism as its main source of foreign exchange." While a recent UN press release notes that cruise ships and other tourist activities are slowly returning to the island, it is important to note most of those who are employed by such ships do not have homes to which they might return.
"The country is still in a process of recovery," notes Jean Gough, the UNICEF representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in a recent report. With the added problem of Hurricane Emily, the need for assistance by people everywhere is becoming dire for the island.
Often when such international disasters occur, we as a community are only too willing to help out immediately, which is a wonderful thing. However, sustaining support is a struggle for many relief organizations and humanitarian efforts around the globe. As we shift our focus to other disasters and international events, we must be careful to avoid dropping assistance for crises such as those we have witnessed in Granada.
Even as struggling college students, we can request that our community and government organizations do not forget other communities throughout the world that need our support. This stands for places such as the Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, the city of Bam in India and a variety of other places around the globe. Such events should continue to be on our minds and in the news, as after the initial shock such events are all too invisible in our daily newspapers and television stations.
"Disaster recovery is a long term affair that needs sustained support from the international community," a UN press release pleads. Continuing support for Granada is imperative, and remembering the need for sustained support and generosity for crises around the globe is similarly essential.