IOM Steps up Response as Hurricane Maria Increases Needs in Storm-Battered Caribbean Islands

Posted: 
09/22/17
Themes: 
Humanitarian Emergencies, Migration and Climate Change, Migration and Environment

San Jose – Just two weeks after Hurricane Irma overwhelmed several Caribbean islands, Hurricane Maria has multiplied humanitarian needs in the region. Since 20 September, IOM surge team members have been present in Dominica, Sint Maarten, Antigua and Barbados conducting assessments on the needs of affected populations, and supporting local authorities and humanitarian actors to implement preparedness and response activities.

On 18 and 19 September, Hurricane Maria left a trail of destruction as it smashed into Dominica with 160 mph winds. Early reports suggest that Dominica is one of the most severely affected countries. Although the exact scale of the damage and needs have not been identified, the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, declared there was widespread devastation in the country, with 15 people killed and over 73,000 islanders affected. PM Skerrit has appealed for help through the media.

On 20 September, IOM deployed its surge team to Dominica to conduct initial assessments on damages, along with UNDAC and other key humanitarian personnel with the support of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

In Sint Maarten, prior to the arrival of Hurricane Maria, IOM camp management experts advised the government to disseminate early messages to the public and supported the coordination efforts related to pre-positioning core relief items, including food and water, across all evacuation centres in the island.

The centres can accommodate a total of 2,140 people. Ten of the centres were pre-stocked with food and water with a capacity for sheltering 1,800 people. These sites were manned by volunteers from Red Cross and K1 Britannia Foundation trained by IOM as well as the Dutch Marine personnel to provide security and logistics assistance.

As the storm effects diminish in Sint Maarten, people are returning home. Pre-positioned tarpaulins are being handed out to returning families along with food rations and bottled water as the roofs in most houses were damaged either partially or totally. Shelter repair assistance is needed urgently. IOM and other organizations will advise the local government on avenues and options for the transition from shelter to housing based on the context and destruction levels. The total of damaged and destroyed houses is not fully assessed yet but several hundred are expected to be still living in hosting arrangements.

Additionally, Sint Maarten has many irregular migrants – mostly Dominicans and some
Haitians – many of whom were residing in self-constructed huts. After most of the huts were destroyed by Hurricane Irma, their whereabouts are unknown. IOM is in discussions with the Red Cross and Emergency Support Function (ESF7) in charge of shelter to identify an adequate type of assistance tailored to their needs, such as improved access to assistance including cash-based interventions (CBIs) and options for durable solutions.

In Antigua, the Department of Environment requires 250 sets of tents, toolkits and hygiene kits. In response, IOM is closely coordinating with WFP and Shelter Box to bring the items to the island on 21 September if weather conditions allow. IOM has also trained shelter managers on the codes of conduct and identified additional needs for training security guards onsite.

Additionally, IOM continues to seek logistical support to mobilize to Antigua pre-positioned contingency stocks – 500 shelter box tents, 500 toolkits and 5,000 hygiene kits – from warehouses in Haiti.

IOM has deployed an expert in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to Antigua to provide protection support wherever needed. IOM and the Family and Social Services Division of the Ministry of Social Transformation have started to conduct site assessments and safety audits in collective centres where distribution of core relief items take place.

Additionally, IOM, together with UNICEF, has provided support to the Directorate of Gender Affairs by facilitating training for shelter managers on preventing child abuse and assisting people with special needs.

As part of the UN-coordinated Regional Response Plan for the Caribbean Region after Hurricanes Irma and José, IOM is appealing for a total of USD 4.95 million to provide humanitarian relief, manage human mobility and facilitate a fast resilience-focused recovery in the form of technical expertise and knowledge transfer to government authorities. Humanitarian needs are expected to increase in the region, given Hurricane Maria’s latest impact.

For further information please contact Jorge Gallo at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Email: jgallo@iom.int, Tel: +506 2212-5300

  • Early reports suggest that Dominica is one of the most severely affected countries by the Hurricane. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

  • Early reports suggest that Dominica is one of the most severely affected countries by the Hurricane. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017