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Identifying gaps in Eastern and Southern Caribbean resilience

We found critical gaps and outlined key recommendations for USAID to support building resilience in the region.

Results at a glance
regional losses in 2000-2017 from natural hazards
estimated average reduction in annual GDP in the region due to natural hazards

The United States Agency for International Development Eastern and Southern Caribbean Mission (USAID/ESC) directs programming in 11 countries in the region: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.


The ESC region is made up of mostly island nations known for their beautiful beaches—and unique vulnerability to natural hazards such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and drought. Climate change is exacerbating conditions such as extreme heat and precipitation and increasing the intensity of the most powerful storms.

The enormous toll on people and the economy from losses and damages due to natural hazards frequently leaves these Caribbean countries struggling to recover. In particular, coastal communities and infrastructure risk increased loss and damages, displacement of communities, permanent migration, and diminished income from tourism activities. Tourism-dependent economies are highly sensitive to natural hazards because they are built on the premise of biodiversity richness and health, and rely on functional infrastructure services (e.g., power, water, and information and communications technology) that are impacted by natural hazards and climate change. Essential public services—including healthcare, education, emergency response, and public safety—likewise rely on robust power, communications, and transport systems.

After each disaster, these countries face devastated infrastructure and thousands of people living without shelter, livelihoods, and basic services. USAID/ESC wanted to know what could be done to move beyond disaster preparedness and response and toward achieving long-term resilience in the region.


We partnered with Environmental Incentives and USAID to conduct a resilience assessment of the ESC region. The study considered the region as a whole, with a special focus on six nations in particular: Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.

Our team analyzed more than 160 relevant reports and other documentation to identify climate and disaster impacts, resilience capacities, policy and institutional frameworks, the status of resilience efforts within the region, and gaps in both funding capacity and in the available information.

To better understand the unique local context, we also met with more than 60 stakeholders across the region. This included representatives from regional organizations and national disaster offices, as well as program implementers and experts from civil society, non-governmental organizations, academia, and private sector organizations. The team also consulted USAID and other donors.


damages to Caribbean countries in 2017 from category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria


Grenada’s annual GDP in damages from Hurricane Ivan in 2004

27–30 cm

sea level rise predicted by 2050, exacerbating storm surges, coastal flooding, and erosion

Read the resilience assessment


Together, the team developed a nuanced understanding of current and future risks and key gaps in how decision makers are working to build resilience. The countries of the ESC region vary tremendously in size, geography, economy, and culture—and in regional capacity of their institutions and communities to prepare for and recover from hazards.

Our assessment found that USAID/ESC could most effectively invest in strengthening the region’s resilience by focusing on core capabilities and sustainable programming that supports and strengthens coordination at all levels. While individual countries varied in their resilience capabilities, we identified seven key gaps that provide opportunities for USAID/ESC to strengthen regional resilience. Five of these gaps relate to strengthening the integration of resilience across systems and sectors, and two gaps relate to strengthening citizen and community resilience. Addressing both types of gaps is essential for building resilience.

Gap #1: Lack of alignment in mitigation, response, and recovery across multiple hazards
Solution: Promote and support a multi-hazard approach

Gap #2: Siloed disaster risk management and climate change adaptation across sectors and services
Solution: Build national capacity for sector and inter-ministerial integration

Gap #3: Economic and resource dependence exacerbates risk of natural hazards
Solution: Build sustainable and equitable economic independence to increase resilience and self-reliance

Gap #4: Financial management capacity is low and financial products limited
Solution: Build financial capacity and financial products that support and sustain integrated resilience

Gap #5: National disaster legal frameworks and regulations are predominantly inadequate
Solution: Support national governments in strengthening legal and policy frameworks, and regulations, for resilience

Gap #6: Limited community-level capacity undermines absorptive and adaptive resilience
Solution: Strengthen and scale local capacity for resilience

Gap #7: Untapped potential in human capacity to support disaster preparedness, response, and reconstruction
Solution: Engage and empower youth to build resilience

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