Post-hurricane Dominica (Part 2): A job that gives a meaning to your life
A day with field monitors tracking assistance in remote communities
Diane and Tina travel 40 to 60 km per day just to make sure that the World Food Programme’s assistance reaches those who need it the most, and exactly when they need it. With these women on the ground, there is less risk of something being overlooked.
Diane and Tina’s daily routine is already set: the morning brief and a short stop at Hillsborough Street for cocoa-tea and a couple of bakes, before hitting the road.
“Now we are leaving Roseau,” explains Diane, trying to make the route easier for me. She suggests that I should buy some bakes for the ride, announcing in that way that this is going to be a long day. “The next time you see the sea, we will be already in Dubique, the first village we are going to monitor.”
Once I stopped counting the many curves of the road, the sea showed up. But not Dubique. Only a few houses remained standing after the landfall of Tropical Storm Erika (2015), and Hurricane Maria just finished the dirty work. This is no man’s land. And yes, finding the inhabitants would be our mission for today.
“Just to be sure that these people have not been forgotten, and that they received the food,” says Tina.
With these two on the ground, there is little risk of something being overlooked.
Fortunately, I bought the bakes. The small round bread with tuna that we bought for a bargain EC$2 (US$0.70) was the only meal we were going to get during the trip.
‘WFP came in a timely manner’
On 18 September 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, resulting in a tragedy for the entire country. WFP responded immediately through in-kind food distribution to support up to 30,000 people.
After the round of distributions — both in kind and through cash transfers — Diane and Tina monitor what happens on the ground. Their job is to interview different people every day, asking very clear questions: “Have you and your family received the food and/or the money? Are you satisfied? Was the distribution point safe for both women and men? Do you have any recommendations for WFP to improve this process?”
“We make sure that everybody receives the food that is meant for them,” says Diane.
Tina, the youngest local field monitor, considers that “WFP came in a timely manner because the food is scarce here.” And she corrects the sentence immediately: “Sorry, we came”.
Humanitarian work is not new for these women. Diane introduces herself as a “mixture of a teacher and a social worker.” Tina used to work in victim protection programmes before Hurricane Maria. But what is new for them is to be a part of such a large family of humanitarian commitment as WFP is.
“What we do it is not just about feeding people, but feeling empowered to support them. This is not a job, it is something that gives meaning to life”, she says.
That’s why, once on the ground, these two women are not seen by the others only as “the people who ask questions”. Diane and Tina touch the roots of the food challenges in Dominica by understanding each family’s story in its deepest sense.
“So far, people have got a lot of food. They were not expecting to receive so much, thus most of the families still have some rice and beans in their homes, even those who were displaced because of the hurricane,” explains Diane, summing up the work of the day.
People displaced from their homes have not been forgotten. We found them in the nearby villages, and our food had reached them first.
“I thank WFP for what it is doing for the entire country: the food is sufficient, given unconditionally to the people and still it is very much appreciated,” says Tina.
But her final message is strong and clear: “In Dominica, we have not recovered yet. Not even close.”