The aftermath of a disaster. Recovery following the volcanic eruptions in Montserrat, West Indies

West Indian Med J. 2003 Jun;52(2):131-5.


The people of Montserrat have experienced serious volcanic eruptions since the middle of 1995. These resulted in the evacuation of the capital town Plymouth in 1997. An exclusion zone was declared and two-thirds of the original population of 10,324 migrated abroad. The remainder was left to initiate the recovery process. This paper reviews the action taken to maintain and then restore the health services and the health of the people. The recovery process is now well advanced and is following a characteristic pattern described as the Post Disaster Recovery Scenario. A new hospital was set up in the North of the island and the four remaining clinics refurbished. The health service was restored to a reasonable standard by the end of 2000. A Disaster Preparedness Team is kept on full alert to deal with any emergencies. The disaster caused serious disruption to the health services and to the way of life of the people. It had a number of adverse health effects which included immediate harm to respiratory health followed by other more serious problems such as mental illness, poor nutrition and violence. These were due to the disruption caused by resettlement, overcrowding, breakdown of family life and economic hardship. The lessons learned may be of benefit to countries experiencing similar events in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Relief Work / organization & administration*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Volcanic Eruptions / adverse effects*
  • West Indies