Dominica — Six Months after “Maria”

Two days after the devastating hurricane, the World Food Programme (WFP) was on the ground to assist 25,000 people with food and support 31 partners with logistics, telecommunications and air services.

Zerina Karup
Apr 5, 2018 · 4 min read

‘Maria’, as the Category-5 hurricane is notoriously called, has had a tremendous impact on the country. The government reported damages for US$ 930 million and losses for US$ 380 million. Over 90 percent of roofs were either damaged or destroyed.

Hurricane Maria destroyed houses and stripped trees of their leaves. Photo: WFP/Zerina Karup

Over the past six months, WFP has been actively involved in emergency food distributions, social protection and agricultural rehabilitation, logistics and emergency telecommunications in collaboration with the Dominican Government and humanitarian agencies.

The island lost over 70 percent of its agricultural production. As roads and streets were covered in mud and debris, the movement of goods and access to food were limited. Port congestions prevented a quick market recovery, exposing Dominicans to food insecurity.

WFP distributed high-energy biscuits in the first week of the emergency and then continued to provide 30,000 people with rice, beans, sardines and oil for up to two months.

Left: WFP Field Monitor Diane distributes emergency food to Antonia Alexander and Mariana Anselm. Right: Paula Pharaoh with her children Vilana and Jacob with rice provided by WFP. Photos: WFP/Marianela Gonzalez

Once markets were up and running, WFP collaborated with UNICEF to support the Government of Dominica in the implementation of emergency cash transfers. This initiative ended in March and benefitted 25,000 people, including 6,000 children.

The Mitchel family used their first cash transfer to purchase fresh food from the market in December 2017. Photo: WFP/Marianela Gonzalez

“The cash was badly needed at the time to get stuff done. It went a long way.”

The cash transfers ranged from US$ 270 to US$ 720 per family, depending on the number of children. Although most was spent on food and education, some beneficiaries invested in small businesses and farms. Others were able to repair their houses and cover medical expenses.

“I was overwhelmed. I was really happy because it was badly needed at the time to get stuff done. It went a long way,” says Christine Sebastien from Wesley, who used the cash transfers to cover medical expenses for her daughter and buy seeds for her farm.

WFP also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to implement an agricultural rehabilitation programme. It assisted 11 cooperatives through the distribution of material for greenhouses, beehives and fishing gear. Four hundred members are currently receiving training and conditional cash transfers of US$ 200 from WFP to invest in productive assets.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and WFP provide training to beekeepers in Dominica. Photo: WFP/Zerina Karup

“The materials and the money are important. Many people have lost their livelihoods,” says Fagan Lennox, president of the beekeepers cooperative. “But what is really important for me is that we came together today as a cooperative and that we have learned about marketing and organizational structures,” he adds.

With the support of the Government of Luxembourg, the emergency telecommunication services provided by WFP in collaboration with Ericsson Response connected 2,900 users and 50 agencies in 18 locations.

WFP and Ericsson Response installing a satellite balloon to provide connectivity to 2,900 users and 50 agencies. Photo: Ericsson Response

One of the satellites was installed at Castle Bruce Secondary School, helping students with their studies. The students’ academic performance is highly dependent on their access to internet, says Cornelia Fontaine, a guidance counselor, explaining that students in Dominica are required to upload assessments and exams online.

From the beginning, WFP also supported 18 organizations in humanitarian supply chain, port operations, warehouse management and the storage and delivery of relief items.

Six months after Maria, Dominica has made progress, but there is still a long way to go. As the emergency operation is coming to an end, WFP is planning to continue supporting the Government and the people of Dominica with a focus on emergency preparedness, by strengthening the Government’s social protection platform.

Read more stories about WFP’s work in Dominica.

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