Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of the United Nations Subregional Team for Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and to describe the work we have been doing to support the affected states of the eastern Caribbean and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management agency (CDEMA) to cope with the immediate effects of Hurricane Irma and Maria, and with the emerging recovery challenges.
The representatives from the affected countries have already given us vivid and heartfelt descriptions of the effects of the hurricanes, and of the extensive efforts that the governments are making to provide relief and implement recovery strategies, with the support of regional and international partners. As someone who has been based in the region for the last four years, it has been a difficult experience to witness the devastation, for example in Pottersville on the outskirts of Roseau, where the several feet of mud clogged the streets, or to see tree trunks and other debris in the middle of Road Town, the commercial heart of the British Virgin Islands. But it also has been uplifting to see the spirit of the women and men who were cleaning up St .Luke’s primary school last week in Pointe Michel, Dominica last week – that is the resilience of the Caribbean people and that is what characterizes the situation on the ground today.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria have led to a UN response on a scale not seen since Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and the UN’s response included a number of “firsts.” The goals of the UN response were simple:
-to provide immediate life-saving assistance
-to support the restoration of basic services and livelihoods
In support of national efforts and those of CDEMA, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Teams deployed together with CDEMA Rapid Needs Assessment Teams, and UNDAC team members provided support in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, BVI, and Dominica from the earliest stages of the response. UN agencies immediately surged staff from across the region and around the world – and provided several million dollars in internal grant and loan funding while donor support was being mobilized. the Central Emergency Response Fund released a total of $5 million to these agencies to make sure that their operations reached top speed as quickly as possible. And for the first time in the English-speaking Caribbean, the World Food Programme established a United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, connecting Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica and St. Maarten by airplane and helicopter, carrying more than 800 passengers and 10 tonnes of cargo in less than two months.
I would like to provide some highlights of the UN’s work in direct support of the member states and CDEMA. OCHA coordination and information management staff and WFP logistics and information staff were embedded in the CDEMA Coordinating Unit in Barbados – this was the first time we had worked together in this way and we intend to build on this success.
The UN deployed field coordination and logistics staff as enablers for the response. At the request of the Prime Minister of Dominica, UNDP and OCHA jointly deployed a Crisis Management Unit. WFP staff played a key role in facilitating humanitarian operations at the main port in Dominica, and in facilitating shipments from Antigua. WFP has also been leading the work of the emergency telecommunications cluster to restore connectivity, including in government buildings.
In terms of assistance. WFP assisted the Government of Dominica to distribute food, and imported in-kind food assistance to 30,000 people. WFP is now working with UNICEF to deliver a cash transfer programme which will assist 25,000 people for three months.
UNICEF has focused on water, sanitation and hygiene, child protection and education across the affected countries. More than 30,000 people have been assisted through WASH interventions, and education services for more than 18,000 children have also been supported, and more than 1,000 children under five years of age have been supported in day cares and pre-schools.
UNDP is supporting emergency employment for removal of debris and waste, as well as restoration of livelihoods. For example, in Dominica, in partnership with the National Employment Program UNDP is supporting around 10,000 workdays for 300 people, and the first teams are already at work.
UNDP in coordination with the EU, World Bank, Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) supported the Governments of Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda in undertaking Post Disaster Needs Assessments as we heard earlier.
UNDP is carrying out Building Damage Assessments which will be discussed later.
And UNDP procured $1.2 million worth of roofing material for Barbuda and $2 million for Dominica, and the shipments should reach the countries in December.
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has provided 700 dignity kits were distributed to affected women and girls in Antigua and Dominica, and an additional 3122 dignity kits will be transported this week. Emergency reproductive health kits have been shipped to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Maarten.
UNWOMEN has delivered 450 dignity kits for Antigua and Barbuda and a further 300 in Dominica, and supported gender needs assessment and response in the BVI.
FAO has been focused on the restoration of crop and livestock production in Dominica. Vegetable seeds are being distributed, and additional farming material such as hand tools, water tanks, wiring material, animal feed, equipment, etc.) will arrive before the end of the month.
PAHO has provided emergency and stand-by staff, medical supplies, water and sanitation in health facilities, surveillance and epidemiological support, utility vehicles for the health sector, and conducted emergency repairs to selected health facilities. The experiences of health facilities during Irma and Maria have also provided demonstrated the value of the Smart Hospitals programme, which PAHO will ramp up in the months to come.
The international Organization for Migration has provided shelter management support in Antigua and Dominica, conducted two Displacement Tracking Surveys and is currently supporting housing repairs in Dominica.
The ILO is providing technical support to Sint Maarten and Dominica to mainstream the Decent Work Agenda in the recovery phase to ensure employment creation with decent working conditions.
Notwithstanding the UN’s deep involvement in the relief phase, equally strong efforts will continue in the recovery phase. We are already working with BVI and Dominica on their implementation agencies.
We will support to the countries to technical programming and policy advice to make sure that “Build Back Better” is more than just a slogan but is the lived experience of the citizens. We are ready to support governments and communities in the difficult choices of what can be rebuilt, and where it can be rebuilt and how, and doing so in a transparent and consultative manner.