UN Migration Agency Supports Dominica Rebuilding Post-Hurricane Maria

Humanitarian Emergencies, Shelter

Dominica – Twenty teams of local tradesmen, carpenters, and assistants, all trained by IOM, the UN Migration Agency on safe construction skills, are rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricane Maria in Dominica. The teams are deployed in Wesley, Calibishi and Woodford Hill, three of the hardest-hit communities on the Caribbean island.

Dominica was hit on 18 September by the Category Five Hurricane Maria that devastated the island with winds of nearly 250 km per hour. It has been estimated that 23 per cent of buildings were destroyed, 39 per cent of the houses sustained severe damage, and further 28 per cent were affected to some degree.

As a response to the destruction left by the hurricane, and with funding from the UK government and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), IOM procured building materials in the Dominican Republic in record time and brought it to Dominica with the cooperation of the Dutch Navy.

IOM trained the local workforce on safe construction skills and these teams are using the building materials to repair roofs of moderately and heavily damaged homes of 400 vulnerable households.

One of the first beneficiaries was Tessa Williams, a 31-year-old Dominican mother of three. Her house was badly damaged by the hurricane, and she had to raise a makeshift hut with tarpaulins and salvaged material scattered by the storm. With the oldest of her three children in a wheelchair and the youngest still an infant, the situation for Williams was desperate. Her own community chose her to be one of the first recipients of IOM support.

“With this house, we have ensured that Tessa and her children have a safe home. The community sees there is actually something happening and we have completed the training of our carpenters on safe construction skills,” said Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM’s team leader in Dominica.

According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), almost 2,000 persons (roughly 360 families) are still living in shelters due to destruction or severe damage to their homes. “Many of them are elderly citizens, single-female heads of households and persons with chronic diseases,” says Wegdam.

“However, most of the families who lost their homes are staying with relatives or friends and we have heard that, after almost two months of close coexistence, tensions in these households are increasing, potentially leading to a second wave of displacement.”

With the decrease or loss of income-generating activities and destruction of their homes, Dominica locals are increasingly leaving the island in search of better opportunities in neighboring countries. IOM has set up a Flow Monitoring process at the ferry port in Roseau to understand the motivations for the departure of Dominica nationals. A quarter of respondents indicated that they would not return to Dominica and 22 per cent have left in search of employment abroad.

“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. It’s not only about having a roof over their heads but about creating the conditions for a full recovery after a huge disaster,” concluded Wegdam.

For more information, please contact Jorge Gallo at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Tel: +506 2212-5300, Email: [email protected]

  •  IOM trained teams are using building materials donated by UKAid and UNCERF to repair roofs of moderately and heavily damaged homes of 400 vulnerable households. Photo: IOM

  • IOM trained local workforce on safe construction skills. Their last lessons was to help Tessa to rebuild her home. Photo: IOM