Post-hurricane Dominica (Part 1): Welcome to ‘Waitikubuli’

The World Food Programme distributed food for up to 30,000 people on the first phase of the relief operation. Tracking them across the island has been a heart breaking journey, but also one of hope.

Marianela González
Dec 4, 2017 · 4 min read
Eight weeks after Hurricane Maria, every single village in Dominica still needs to be rebuilt. Sometimes, people are not even distinguished among the debris. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

The inflight magazine makes it clear for newcomers: This is the Caribbean, where resilience-building goes along with dreadlocks and reggae soundtrack. Everywhere in the Antilles editors wish you to have “a cool Christmas time,” except for Dominica. You won’t be able to “live life to the full” where others have put theirs on pause.

That is exactly the feeling one gets while landing in this country, eight weeks after Hurricane Maria swept the territory. The island has been badly battered, and every single village needs to be rebuilt.

Hurricane Maria has left thousands of people homeless in Dominica. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

Watching people trying to put their lives together, can be both inspirational and breathtaking.

But we are not here to watch.

WFP is supporting Dominica’s recovery

One of our mobile storage units is the first thing I saw when my flight landed. On the left side of the road, the big white shelter is surrounded by a landscape tainted in brown, where there are no trees nor houses standing. Like an oasis in the desert, our mobile units protect food and other resources to support people in need.

“The government has been doing a good job, and we appreciate the help of your people,” says a Customs officer, pointing to the WFP logo on my t-shirt as he stamps my passport with my first entry in Dominica.

In Dominica, WFP is also supporting its partners in the management, receipt and distribution of assistance. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

“The government has been doing a good job, and we appreciate the help of your people.”

At the exit gate, a local driver, Bruce Peltier, tells me that despite the huge efforts by the government and different organizations to help recover from the disaster, most families still face multiple needs — including water, sanitation and hygiene products, health care services and food. An adequate and balanced diet is a privilege, given the lack of food options and rocketing market prices.

“Recovery means having our normal, simple life back.”

“The main sources of income in Dominica are tourism and agriculture, but now everything is gone!” says the driver. “Because of Maria, we have nothing,” he adds, as we drive towards the city of Roseau, where the WFP operations centre is located.

On the way, I can see that the hurricane has left no roof nor vehicle nor ancient tree untouched. Everything looks like a lifeless sepia postcard.

After Hurricane Maria, landscapes in Dominica look like a lifeless sepia postcards. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

“Waitikubuli is how natives called this island centuries ago, you know? Did you know that we had exotic trees here in Dominica? The Kubuli (local beer), have you tasted it?” My driver doesn’t stop talking, flowing with the music. For him “recovery” means having their “normal and simple life” back.

Bruce Peltier (28) is a local driver working with WFP in Dominica. Even though his own life has been turned upside down by Hurricane Maria, Bruce is always smiling. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

That is why WFP has been providing support to this country for the past two months.

Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica on 18 September. Across the island, 98 percent of the roofs were damaged, leaving entire communities homeless. After its first immediate response to the emergency with a food distribution, WFP jointly with UNICEF is now supporting the government in providing emergency cash transfers to the 25,000 most affected people in the area: women, men, children, who are not just passive “beneficiaries” of an assistance. They are our partners and they decide who needs it the most.

Paula Pharaoh (48) teaches at the Wotten Waven Primary School. While trying to keep feeding her children, she also cooks for some of her students: “WFP food is sufficient, but children want to eat all the time!“ Photo: WFP/Marianela González

These people of Waitikubuli will be telling the story for the next few days. Let’s welcome them, just like they are welcoming us.

14-year-old Joshua has been supporting the distribution of WFP food in his community. Photo: WFP/Marianela González

Donate today to give lifesaving food to a family in crisis.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store