International Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Latin America and the Caribbean   

Newsletter ISDR Inform - Latin America and the Caribbean
Issue: 13/2006- 12/2006 - 11/2005 - 10/2005 - 9/2004 - 8/2003 - 7/2003 - 6/2002 - 5/2002 - 4/2001- 3/2001

Partners in Action


VCA successful in the Caribbean

The Vulnerability and Capacity Assessment (VCA) tool and methodology was successfully introduced by the Federation in 1995 through the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Since then the use of the tool has grown significantly and is now more widely appreciated.

The VCA approach has offered new life to the Caribbean Based Disaster Management (CBDM) activities and has created somewhat of a “mini revolution” in communities where the Red Cross is currently working.

In an effort to find a more holistic approach to community based activities in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas, the Santiago de Chile Commitment (www.caribbean took into consideration that VCA might offer a more integrated approach to programmes in the community. VCA results from other regions have shown that it can assist in development, health, information and communication to raise awareness and promote increased support from communities as well as improve their perception of risk. It has also revealed that when VCA is part of CBDM programmes, it is possible to base future actions on the results of the analysis.

Xavier Castellanos, the Disaster Preparedness (DP) Delegate with the Port-of-Spain Sub Regional Office of the Federation in Trinidad noted with great enthusiasm that the Caribbean has done a lot of work on the CBDM programme. What was missing though, was actually how to link disaster management with compiling and analyzing information and making it available for future use by communities, the Red Cross or other organizations.

The implementation of the VCA tool and methodology in the Caribbean has shown us that there is a lot to learn. Red Cross Societies have collected large amounts of data through the years, but systematization of this data has been a significant problem. What National Societies (NS) are realizing is that while VCA means gathering information through a participatory process, it also means that they have to focus on systematizing the information, producing analysis while at the same time focusing on community participation, partnerships and empowerment towards the reduction of risks. The analysis of the information has offered communities a better c omprehension of their risk and facilitates communities’ decisions in working towards their own development.

The inclusion of VCA into the CBDM affected NS in two ways – on the one hand NS were overwhelmed with the amount of work associated with collecting information and on the other hand, they were anxious about how to combine the collection of information with the analysis and systematization. In both cases, the motivation from NS is high because the technical people have seen the relevance of the approach, while communities have felt more integrated into the planning process.

So far, in the Caribbean, seven Red Cross societies and five National Emergency Offices (NEO), have participated in the VCA Training of Trainers (ToT) workshop which was held in Trinidad in October last year. Of those NS, four countries including St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Jamaica are using the VCA tool and methodology in a total of 22 communities as part of the DIPECHO IV Project.

Castellanos explained that the Federation recognizes people’s capacity and resources in the whole process of working with communities and makes them aware that they are the first ones to contribute to the promotion of their further development, risk reduction and management.

We are not saying that communities by themselves should solve their own problems all the time. In fact, the Federation encourages communities to enlist the support of other organizations through proper co-ordination with local and national authorities.

The networking between the Red Cross and other national and local organizations in the countries where VCA is being implemented as part of the CBDM project has changed the way different organizations view the work of the Red Cross at the community level. In the four countries where we have implemented the project, good, strategic alliances have been established.

Response to the new approach has been positive. One NS said that VCA has been an “eye-opener” for them and they have recognized the value of the tool. NS have also recognized that this is something that requires a lot of work but nonetheless, it has become an extraordinary experience. Castellanos added that the main challenge was getting the NS to accept the use of the tool and the amount of work that it requires.

Red Cross should also ensure that local and national governments have access to the training and information gathered.

Development of trainings, without any concrete future plans and funds will not have the same level of impact.

“Support from donors to continue with this process will make a significant change on mind sets. The VCA process requires time, but time is also necessary to progressively buy into this different approach,” said Castellanos.

The future of VCA in the Caribbean is very bright. The Federation has developed a full set of training materials which includes a facilitator’s guide, work book for communities, a set of ten posters for training aids and three songs that are related to disaster management. The theme of the material “Make the Change” reflects some of the challenges of the Red Cross and the countries with whom we work.

Fore more information, please contact:
Allison Ali
Information Officer
Port-of-Spain Sub Regional Office,
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.