UNDP Increasing Support to Recovery after Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Nov 17, 2017

In the aftermath of mega-storms Maria and Irma that swept through the Caribbean just two months ago, UNDP has been providing critical support for relief efforts and is now rolling out a suite of interventions to support the gradual transition from relief to recovery and rebuilding.

Since September, UNDP personnel from the Sub-Regional Office in Barbados, the Regional Hub in Panama and the New York Office have been deployed to the hardest-hit countries of Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and Dominica, leading the coordinated work on early recovery in close partnership with the governments, other UN agencies, NGOs and private sector organisations. These early responses included coordination of the critical post-disaster needs assessments (PDNAs) and immediate assistance to debris removal and waste management. The results of the recently-completed PDNAs underscore pressing needs in the areas of housing, waste management, restoration of utilities, food security and revitalisation of agriculture, and re-establishment of other livelihoods and incomes.

In response to these needs, UNDP has embarked on a series of critical initiatives with local counterparts and international agencies. In collaboration with the Ministries responsible for housing in Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica, building damage assessments (BDAs) are underway. UNDP partnered with IT powerhouse Microsoft to provide tablets and an application to undertake the assessment and facilitate more efficient collection, storage and analysis of the data. In Dominica, training of over 120 locals – community members, civil servants and volunteers – was done in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and to date about 30% of the nearly 30,000 damaged homes have been assessed, expected to be completed in December. In Barbuda, all of the nearly 1,200 structures were assessed in 1 week and the report is being used by the government and international partners to focus their rebuilding support.  

UNDP continues to work with partners of the Shelter and Housing sectors to ensure rapid return to safe living conditions. Dominica’s Ministry of Planning, UNDP and EWB developed new housing standards for earthquake and hurricane resistance. They are being used for training and certifying over 200 builders and contractors over a few weeks. Over $3.2 million of roofing materials are on their way to Barbuda and Dominica through support from the Government of China, and the results from the BDAs will be the impetus for prioritising this reconstruction work in both islands. In BVI, UNDP is providing ongoing technical inputs to the drafting of Virgin Islands Housing Recovery Policy and Hurricane Irma Housing Recovery Plan.

Following analyses by UNDP’s debris management specialists, work has advanced on finalising preparations for the clearance of debris and rubble through an emergency employment programme using a cash-for-work approach. In Dominica, this is being facilitated through the National Employment Programme with field teams led by local UNDP technical consultants. The goal is to provide an immediate source of income to workers but also to help restore other livelihoods by clearing agricultural sites, road access and on-site debris around micro and small businesses. The programme officially launched this week with a debris clearance initiative at a local primary school where workers removed dangerous debris and cleared plant beds which the school uses to grow cash crops and flowers. This initial phase of the emergency employment programme will roll out across 15 communities, with a strong emphasis on encouraging equal participation of men and women. Additional resources are being mobilised to widen the programme. Similarly, in BVI the temporary employment programme surrounds debris clearance and in collaboration with UNICEF, restoration of community facilities. Collectively, this work will directly employ more than 550 men and women across the 3 countries.

Through UNDP’s technical support and coordination to the PDNAs in Barbuda and Dominica, recovery and reconstruction strategies have been articulated. From these, UNDP is working with the governments to prepare for the upcoming Donor CARICOM-UN High Level Pledging Conference in New York during 20-21 November. The focus is on creating climate-resilient countries as these islands rebuild from the devastation, and promoting the resilience of the wider Caribbean.

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