Two Months After Hurricane Maria, Reconstruction in Dominica Picks Up PaceAfter it made landfall on September 19, 2017, as a category five hurricane, Hurricane Maria devastated the island nation of Dominica. The storm was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history, damaging 98 percent of the island’s buildings, and killing 57 in a nation of only 73,500 people. Two months after the devastation, a robust domestic response from international donors and the government of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit is helping reconstruction in Dominica pick up pace.

The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) is partnering with the government’s housing ministry and local stakeholders to undertake a major nationwide study to analyze and assess all of the damage caused by the storm on the island and prepare for reconstruction in Dominica. With damages running into the billions of dollars, the analysis will help the government make decisions on the process of reconstruction in Dominica and assess which areas need the most funding.

“We have more than 100 people going throughout the island to assess all the buildings in Dominica, using an app provided by Microsoft,” said UNDP representative Massimiliano Tozzi to the Jamaica Observer. “The app will collect some very important demographic information that will allow the Dominican government to plan evidence-based policies for the next phase.”

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency, is assisting and training local construction workers to help with reconstruction in Dominica. Teams of local workers trained by the IOM are rebuilding 400 of the most damaged and vulnerable households across Dominica, with building supplies provided by donors including the U.K. and the Netherlands.

Still, the island country needs more outside assistance to build a sustainable recovery, and the road to full reconstruction in Dominica may be a long one. “Housing projects are a great way to keep locals from leaving the island, but we need stronger funding to create as many employment opportunities as possible and to rebuild the lost dwellings,” said Jan-William Wegdam, IOM team leader in Dominica, to the UN News Service.

– Giacomo Tognini
Photo: Flickr

Making Dominica Climate-ResilientAfter two category five hurricanes ripped through the Caribbean in the space of two weeks, the small nation of Dominica is forced to reassess how it will deal with future storms and become climate-resilient.

Hurricane Maria hit Dominica on September 18, 2017 in the middle of the night. It flattened approximately 22,000 homes, killed 26 people (with 31 still missing) and nearly wiped out plant life on the island. Dominica is a small island east of Puerto Rico with a population of roughly 74,000.  As of October 18, 2017, no one on the island had access to running, drinkable water. With sewage systems destroyed, locals were left with fears of diarrhea and dysentery.

It is difficult to account for people taking shelter with other families, but according to the Government of Dominica, out of 146 centers, 108 are housing 2,911 people. It is difficult to find homes in Dominica with a roof still attached.

More than 45 percent of Dominica consists of rainforests and protected national parks. These have been decimated by the storms. Some greenery has returned in the past two months, but it is still a huge blow to Dominica’s livelihood.

Agriculture and tourism, two main factors contributing to Dominica’s GDP, were upended in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Dominica is still several months away from being able to welcome new tourists. With the massive impact on income, citizens have increasingly left the island in search of opportunities in neighboring countries.

Warmer seas make stronger storms, and Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit believes that in order for his country to continue on, it will need to rebuild as the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

“To deny climate change… is to deny a truth we have just lived,” Skerrit told the United Nations five days after Maria. “No generation has seen more than one Category 5 hurricane. We’ve seen two in two weeks.”

Skerrit is pushing to rebuild Dominica in a manner that would greatly reduce the impact of hurricanes, with enclosed spaces for livestock and climate-controlled centers for agriculture. Skerrit emphasized the importance of moving toward renewable energy like geothermal and solar, as well as researching and adopting construction codes utilized in the state of Florida.

Skerrit is confident that Dominica will achieve its goal of becoming climate-resilient, but this must be done with international cooperation.

“We are among those countries which contribute least to climate change,” Skerrit said, “but over the last two weeks we have suffered the consequences of two devastating storms which have left us struggling to stay on the path of sustainable development.”

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Staving Off Post-Hurricane Hunger in DominicaDominica, the first Caribbean island hit by Hurricane Maria, reported 27 people dead and hundreds of others missing as of October 9, 2017. Hunger in Dominica increases as the wait for food and other supplies to the island lengthens.

While Maria marks the fifth time that Dominica has withstood a direct hit from a hurricane, it has never been hit by one of such incredible force and magnitude, according to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to onsite volunteers, a month after Hurricane Maria struck Dominica, island residents still lack clean water, adequate food and medical attention. One of two airports serving the country is out of commission. Roofs blew off in 95 percent of Dominica towns such as Portsmouth and Mahaut. No information exists on nearly nine remote communities, as communications are down in the more rural areas.

However, signs of the island nation’s restoration are finally becoming visible. Principal seaports have reopened, allowing NGOs to deliver food, water and necessities consistently.

The World Food Programme (WFP), working with the government of Dominica, distributed over 66 tons of food to approximately 30,000 people, supplying almost half the residents. Over 40 United Nations workers are on the ground to help the struggling community. WFP reports it now can distribute water and supplies to nearly all people, although the organization expects future hurdles.

On September 29, over 11 tons of WFP wheat biscuits containing high-protein cereals and vegetable fat arrived in Dominica. The organization distributed aid by helicopter to interior communities and waterfront communities by ship. Ultimately, the WFP intends to distribute food to approximately 25,000 residents over the next three months. The organization is in discussions with the government to develop a functional system to supply Dominica’s residents with meal vouchers that will be valid once local shops reopen.

The U.N.’s central goal is to help people feel confident and stable. WFP officials project that if residents of Dominica have access to food, water and shelter, belief in that security provides the psychological lift necessary to withstand hunger in Dominica.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr

Education in DominicaEducation in Dominica is continuing to improve. The country is a part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), which has contributed to the success of education. The OECS 2012-2021 Education Sector provided a plan for the education in Dominica and other countries and “recognizes the importance of improving education as a part of the solution to improving social and economic development in the region.”

However, there are challenges outlined in the OECS Education Sector plan. Inadequacies in access are greatest at the pre-primary and tertiary levels. Net enrollment at the pre-primary level for the region averages just over 66 percent. Fewer than 15 percent of graduates from secondary school are able to access higher education, while fewer than 10 percent of adults in the OECS have completed tertiary level education.

Inequality has become more obvious and there are increasing concerns that in some areas, the most disadvantaged economically and socially may not be enjoying the benefits of the education system. Gender disparities in performance are evident at all levels of the school system, and there is declining participation of males at the upper secondary and tertiary levels.

These challenges are obstacles that many countries face, including Dominica. However, education in Dominica has improved over the years. The World Bank data shows an improvement in the gross enrollment rate from 95 percent in 1986 to 116 percent in 2015. One reason for the rise in education enrollment is because of the Global Partnership for Education’s grant of $2 million in 2014.

The objectives of this grant have contributed to “quality learning standards, improvement of teacher practices, strengthening primary school leadership and accountability and initiated the strengthening of sector monitoring and evaluation capacity.” By continuing to focus on these areas, education in Dominica can continue its upward trend. Additional attention on making education accessible to all is another key part of addressing these issues.

Ashley Howard

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Dominica

The Commonwealth of Dominica, a small island nation, is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. While other Caribbean nations have moderately successful tourist industries, Dominica’s tourism has decreased in recent years along with its economic growth. Dependence on a failing banana industry has further exacerbated the country’s poverty; therefore, it is necessary to help people in Dominica reinvent their economy.

As recently as the 1990s, Dominica supported itself through banana farming, which was well-suited to the country’s tropical environment. While banana-centric agriculture was reliable and productive, economic specialization proved to be a kiss of death for Dominica’s economy in a changing trade landscape. When global tariffs on American-grown bananas were lifted in 2008, Dominican farmers simply could not compete with the low prices offered by American companies.

While the revenue generated by banana exports once supported nearly 2,000 Dominican farmers, only about 700 struggling banana farmers remain. Dominica’s unemployment rate sits at a staggering 23%, having decreased only two percent over the last decade.

Dominica’s economic hard times have impacted the lives of its citizens. Forty percent of Dominica’s population lives in poverty. Since the fall of the banana industry, Dominicans have left the country in droves, seeking employment. The exodus has been so significant that remittance payments from emigrant family members account for 16% of Dominica’s GDP.

The Dominican government has promoted economic diversification in an attempt to resurrect the economy and provide more jobs for Dominican citizens. Another Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda, set the example for a diversified economy after the decline of its sugar cane industry. By embracing tourism and online gaming, as well as construction, Antigua and Barbuda saw significant financial benefits. Unfortunately, Dominica has not yet successfully diversified. The tourism industry in Dominica is still meager compared to that of other Caribbean nations, and other agricultural exports, like coffee, fruit and flowers, have not replaced the lucrative banana.

In addition to monetary problems, water sanitation issues and resulting diseases plague Dominica’s inhabitants. Thirty-seven percent of Dominicans do not have access to clean water. Unsanitary water increases the incidence of diseases such as typhoid fever, which has increased in Dominica by nearly 40% since 1990. Though Dominica’s government created a water and sewage management company in 1989 (The Dominica Water and Sewage Company), Dominica still relies on foreign grants for infrastructural maintenance.

Changes in trade policy would greatly help people in Dominica. The reimplementation of tariffs on U.S. produce would make it easier for Dominican farmers to sell their bananas on the global market. Fair trade organizations, such as the Windward Islands Farmers Association, have helped banana farmers access profitable trading opportunities, so buying fair trade Dominican bananas supports the livelihood of Dominican farmers. However, further assistance is needed.

The EU is Dominica’s most significant donor, though China also contributes aid. If Dominica is going to be successful, more wealthy countries such as the U.S. should provide aid programs or create legislation to strengthen infrastructure, reenergize and diversify the economy, and help people in Dominica live free from poverty.

Mary Efird
Photo: Flickr

Why Dominica Is PoorDominica is a small, mountainous island nation in the Caribbean. Poverty has been a stumbling block to development here for years, with 29 percent of households and 40 percent of the general population living in poverty in 2003. Unemployment stands at about 25 percent. Sizable minorities of people live without running water and proper toilets. Poverty is most pronounced among Dominica’s native population, the Caribs.

While there may be several reasons why Dominica is poor, poverty here does correlate with the decline in the banana industry over the past several years. Agriculture accounts for 17.6 percent of Dominica’s GDP. The banana industry has been the heart of Dominica’s economy for over half a century and its decline has been cited as a reason why Dominica is poor.

An agreement had guaranteed the European Union, via the former British colonies of the Commonwealth in the Caribbean, a corner on the Caribbean banana market and allowed bananas to be imported to Europe duty-free. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton worked with several Latin American countries to undo this rule as a favor to the fruit giants Chiquita and Dole, two donors to his campaign. The Caribbean banana industry has never recovered, especially in places like Dominica, which lacks sizeable tourism or financial services industries to fall back on the way some of its neighbors in the region do. This may be the best explanation of why Dominica is poor.

Another explanation for why Dominica is poor may be its health concerns, particularly healthy reproductive practices and HIV/AIDS. There has been an increase in cases of tuberculosis there, which often follows an increase of HIV. In addition, teenage pregnancy and unprotected sex are prevalent there.

Dominica has sought several solutions to its poverty, including embracing fair trade of bananas, establishing a financial services industry, pivoting to China and joining the late socialist Venezuelan leader’s Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas as a response to U.S.-led free trade agreements. It remains to be seen what the future has in store for this island.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in DominicaKnown to be one of the most beautiful island nations in the Caribbean, Dominica is home to several lush rainforests, mountains, volcanic springs and rare plant and animal species. It is an attractive tourist destination and today much of its economy is based on tourism. However, almost 30 percent of the country lives in poverty, with three percent living in extreme poverty.

Like its neighbours, Dominica has a long history of colonization that resulted in its inclusion into the Commonwealth nations. It was also responsible for the establishment of an agricultural economy; sugarcane, coffee cultivation and timber harvests are among its main industries. After the fall of its “slave estate,” Dominica’s economic mainstay was banana production. To this day, one third of the country’s workforce is employed in the banana industry and that is one of the many causes of poverty in Dominica.

Because of its geographic location, Dominica is susceptible to annual hurricanes, which have caused its banana output to decline by almost 50 percent from 1978 to 2001. While some financial support from other countries was given to rebuild the sector, Dominica had to diversify its agricultural exports in order to rehabilitate its economy. It now exports several other fruits, flowers, soap and coffee, which have taken a long time to kick off.

Interestingly, despite being one of the poorer nations in the Caribbean, Dominica does not have a large income gap like many other countries. The majority of its 70,000 people are small peasants and there is a small, urban middle class of young working professionals. There are very few extremely wealthy Dominicans; those that belong to the current elite are generally descendants of colonial-era plantation owners. However, Dominica has recently introduced an “economic citizenship program” which allows wealthy foreigners to buy a Dominican passport for around $100,000, which may result in wealth imbalances. The program has led to an influx of foreign investment in the country, as the Dominican passport is a relatively strong one – allowing visa-free entry into over 120 countries – and has increased the country’s GDP significantly. The development of offshore financial services and construction has also mitigated some of the causes of poverty in Dominica, with the country’s economy growing by over four percent in 2006.

While the International Monetary Fund praised the Dominican government for these macroeconomic reforms and market diversification strategies, the causes of poverty in Dominica are not necessarily being addressed equitably for the entire population. However, a shift in the country’s economic platforms sets the stage for a more robust and holistic poverty alleviation program that is within reach for Dominica.

Paroma Soni

Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Dominica RefugeesNations such as the Commonwealth of Dominica, and in the Caribbean in general, have become increasingly popular for those seeking asylum throughout the world, demanding an understanding of refugees throughout Caribbean nations. Here on ten facts about Dominican refugees.

  1. Dominica does not actually have a significant refugee problem. In 2015, The World Bank recorded there to be 38 Dominican refugees. Comparatively, it reported that there were almost five million Syrian refugees, and even 4,832 American refugees, showing the Dominican refugee population to be rather small.
  2. Because the population of Dominican refugees is so small, there is little to no data about them.
  3. Dominica is not involved in any military operations and does not actually have a regular military force. Dominica’s only security force is its Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force. Due to the lack of internal and external military conflicts, there are no Dominican refugees fleeing from war.
  4. It is likely that refugees from neighboring islands use Dominica as a stop along their routes. The UNCHR believes Dominica could be a “point of transit” for Haitians traveling to the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
  5. In 2016, 26 people from Dominica applied for asylum in the United States, United Kingdom and France. All were rejected.
  6. The government of Dominica is committed to providing the necessary provisions to those seeking asylum in Dominica, but due to common economic migration movements throughout the Caribbean, as nationals of different islands travel to work, it is difficult for the government to know who is a refugee that needs aid. The UNCHR has highlighted this issue as key to the protection of refugees seeking asylum in Dominica.
  7. It has been proposed that Dominica could serve as the location for a “refugee nation,” an internationally recognized state for the settlement of refugees. Jason Buzi leads Refugee Nation, a project aimed at petitioning the UNCHR to charter a new country for refugees. Buzi proposed Dominica as an example of a prospective location for a refugee nation because it is an island with a small population that could accept a great influx of people. The goal of Refugee Nation is to establish a new nation by 2020.
  8. The numbers of refugees seeking asylum in the Caribbean continued to rise between mid-2015 and mid-2016. It has been shown that there was a 257 percent increase in asylum seekers in the Caribbean during this time period. Most of these refugees come from other Caribbean nations such as Cuba and Haiti, but others come from Venezuela, Syria, Sri Lanka and other South American, African, Asian and Middle Eastern nations.
  9. The current influx in refugees to the Caribbean poses issues for small Caribbean governments that have limited resources to support refugees, as the UNCHR highlighted with Dominica. However, refugees also bring skills and manpower to the economy, making them positive additions to small Caribbean countries.
  10. Refugees travel to the Caribbean seeking asylum due to the historical culture of immigration and mixed communities within the Caribbean, and the high level of human development in many Caribbean countries. Dominica is 96th, ranking high for quality of life on the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

Mary Luft
Photo: Flickr

Dominica Poverty Rate

The Dominica poverty rate has always been high, but in recent years with changes in the banana industry, the poverty rate has increased. There are very few wealthy Dominicans and there are no huge income gaps making Dominica one of the poorest countries of the Eastern Caribbean. But tourism to the country may be one solution that can decrease the poverty rate.

The area that is most affected by poverty in Dominica is the northern rural areas where agriculture is the main source of income. In these rural areas, one in every two households is poor. There is also a small urban class of people, which is made up of professionals and civil servants, who are considered middle class while the rest are working class. For the island as a whole, the unemployment rate has reached an estimated 20 percent.

This increase of unemployed people has to do with the decline of banana production. The decrease in banana production partly has to do with large agricultural businesses choosing suppliers in South American countries and getting bananas for a cheaper price. At the height of the banana industry, banana farmers in Dominica were producing 72,000 tons. That number has since dwindled to 12,000 tons of bananas being produced, with banana farmers barely able to cover costs.

With banana production so low, the Dominican government has been looking at other ways to boost the country’s economy. Tourism is being touted as a new solution since the island has beautiful views of waterfalls, rainforests, coral reefs and volcanic sites. Today, tourism contributes more than 30 percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings while banana production only contributes 10 percent.

But Dominica has a long way to go to increase its economy and decrease the poverty rate. The government needs to protect the island’s ecosystem since that is the draw for tourists. Protection of the island’s ecosystem includes creating and supporting sustainable development and energy systems, having water quality management and deforestation prevention. With these plans set in place, the Dominica poverty rate will be able to decrease once the economy improves.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Dominica
Home to a smoking lake and built atop an underwater volcano, Dominica is a small island to the southeast of Puerto Rico. The island is in relatively good health compared to its Caribbean neighbors, but that does not mean that disease is not prevalent on the island. Below are five of the deadliest common diseases in Dominica.

The 5 Deadliest Common Diseases in Dominica

  1. Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiovascular disease covers many different diseases. Coronary artery disease, strokes and hypertensive heart disease all fall under this umbrella. While not communicable, heart disease is still the number one cause of death globally. In Dominica the main contributors to cardiovascular disease are smoking, poor diet and high stress levels.
  2. Diabetes
    Diabetes is a condition that can be either hereditary (Type I) or contracted (Type II). It’s the body losing its ability to create insulin to keep up with high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Type II Diabetes, the most common form, is usually more prevalent in more developed nations due to diets high in sugars and carbohydrates.
  3. Lower Respiratory Infections
    Just like cardiovascular disease, lower respiratory infections are prevalent worldwide, accounting for more than 3 percent of all deaths globally in 2012. Luckily, in Dominica, lower respiratory infection mortality has decreased by 3 percent in the last decade.
  4. Prostate Cancer
    Prostate cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in Dominica. It’s estimated that one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his life. It’s one of the leading causes of death among men worldwide. It’s also one of the fastest-growing diseases. From 1990 to 2013, Dominica experienced a 105 percent increase in prostate cancer deaths.
  5. Chronic Kidney Disease
    Also known as kidney failure is the gradual shut down of the kidneys. As the kidneys stop working, fluids and excess salts build up in the body and as a last resort, patients are put on dialysis to filter out said salts. Diabetes and kidney disease are closely related, and both are related to diet. In the last decade, there’s been an 80 percent spike in deaths associated with kidney disease.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it does run very nearly parallel to the most deadly diseases worldwide. What does that mean for Dominica? Nearly all of the most common diseases in Dominica are related in some way to diet and therefore preventable. Until breakthroughs are made in food science and medicine, these diseases will continue to plague Dominica and the world.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr