UNDP coordinating its international resources for early recovery after Hurricane Irma

Sep 20, 2017

Record-breaking Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean during 6-8 September, wreaking unprecedented multi-island havoc. In Barbuda, Sint Maarten and the British Virgin Islands, approximately 90% of buildings have been damaged or destroyed according to Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) situation reports. Across the region, there have been more than 30 deaths in 5 countries, with over 40,000 displaced, 2 million evacuated in Cuba alone, and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed. This has not only significantly tested the fortitude of the local populations and the strength of national response mechanisms, but also the capacity of CDEMA as the regional coordinating agency to support the response and the effectiveness of the coordination system among the United Nations (UN) and other international partners.

Now, Hurricane Maria is sweeping through the region, having caused the loss of all communications in Dominica, a country prone to river and coastal flooding and, landslides.  Dominica was still recovering from Tropical Storm Erika’s impact in 2015. Concerns are also heightened surrounding countries that are already suffering significant impacts from Irma; though, they are preparing for the possibility.

Over the last 2 weeks, CDEMA, the UN, international humanitarian community and the private sector have been supporting evacuation and shelter management; emergency operations; the restoration of water, electricity and fuel supplies; distribution of food and water; medical response; logistics and coordination; and rapid needs assessments. These initial assessments have revealed some of the most urgent needs of housing, transport and infrastructure, health, education, agriculture and fisheries, security, utilities (electricity, water and sewage, telecommunications), and tourism. In Barbuda alone, the cost of rebuilding is estimated in excess of $200 million.

In the first week, UNDP deployed 5 experts to support Cuba, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Sint Maarten in rapid damage and needs assessment; and this week has deployed a technical expert to support the government in debris and waste management for clean-up in Barbuda. UNDP is also preparing to deploy experts to support the governments, in planning and beginning their recovery process, which has been delayed by the passage of Hurricane Maria.

UNDP will also be working with the World Bank, European Union and the rest of the UN System to conduct a post-disaster needs assessment (PNDA) in Barbuda next week, under the leadership of the National Office for Disaster Services (NODS) and cooperation of several other government ministries. Capacities built during UNDP supported PDNA training in 2015 are being applied and as a result, a local team will be able to execute the PDNA with limited external support. The final outcome of this PDNA will be detailed analysis and quantification of the losses and damage across the productive sectors, infrastructure, social, gender and environmental needs; and a recovery strategy for the redevelopment process.

Under the UN’s Regional Response Plan, UNDP is leading the coordinated work on early recovery. In close partnership with UN Women, UNDP has been discussing the possible options for emergency livelihoods using a cash-for-work approach in the affected Eastern Caribbean countries. This is likely to focus around debris removal and reconstruction, support to revitalisation of micro and small businesses, and training to enable the most vulnerable, including women, to be quickly employed. UNDP offices throughout the region will continue to endeavour with local, regional and international partners, including the UN System, to provide life-saving relief and begin the process of what is expected to be several years of recovery towards rebuilding more resilient islands.


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