After 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