Dominica Red Cross Society plans to build 1,000 hurricane resistant roofs for the worst affected

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By Hler Gudjonsson, IFRC

Retired Hilda Prosper and her daughter Junette, 47, are among 1,000 vulnerable households in Dominica who are planned to receive new roofs from the Red Cross after hurricane Maria damaged or destroyed most homes on this little Caribbean island in September 2017.

“Without the help from the Red Cross we would be under tarpaulin for a long time, and this year´s hurricane season has already started,” said Hilda, who is 73 years old and unable to earn an income that would pay for roof materials and construction workers. Thousands of other families in Dominica still have not been able to repair their roofs, and the possibility of another major hurricane poses a serious threat to their lives and property.

A total of more than 200 skilled workers and carpenters are needed for the Red Cross construction teams if the planned target of 1,000 new roofs is to be reached this year. However, lack of funding may force the Red Cross to end the operation before this ambitious goal has been fully reached.

Hilda´s daughter, who is 47 years old, became paralyzed in her early twenties, and has since been confined to her wheelchair. “When she was little she was able to go to school and play like other children, but unfortunately her condition is always getting worse, and she has nobody except me to take care of her,” says Hilda. “Finally being able to move back into our house makes all the difference, and the Red Cross roof is so much safer than what we had before.”

Hilda and Junette are not the only people in La Plaine village who are getting new roofs from the Red Cross, which has 5 active construction teams in her community. “This is my fourth house since I joined the team,” said construction worker Venette Barry, a 39 years old mother of two girls. She has many female colleagues doing this kind of work, as in La Plaine alone there are 5 women on the Red Cross construction teams.

It is the high quality of the construction that particularly distinguishes the Red Cross roofs. “All Red Cross teams get special training on how to build hurricane resistant roofs, and we only use experienced and qualified carpenters and construction workers” said Ken Lesley, Shelter Officer at the Dominica Red Cross Society.

“The wind ripped all the galvanized off my roof leaving it open for the water to get in,” said retired carpenter Raphael Joseph as he remembered the extreme force of hurricane Maria. “But the quality of my new Red Cross roof is totally different. The galvanized is screwed down, there are hurricane straps to hold beams and rafters in place, and in general all the materials are high grade,” said Raphael, who is already in his seventies and unable to do major construction work by himself.

But Ken reminds us that building 1,000 hurricane resistant roofs is not a simple thing, and in the midst of the devastation caused by the hurricane the National Society has encountered tremendous operational challenges. “It has taken the operations team several months to reach these high levels of productivity and quality standards,” said Ken, “and we have now reached a stage where we build more than a hundred high quality roofs per month.”

Ken emphasized that the high capacity of the current operation means that now there is a unique opportunity to ensure that the most vulnerable have a proper roof over their heads. “If we are successful in getting additional resources, we can ensure that within the next months, a thousand of the most vulnerable families in Dominica will be safe under a well-built roof when the next hurricane strikes,” said Ken.