On the morning of Thursday August 27th, 2015, Dominica was hit by Tropical Storm Erika (TS Erika), which bombarded the island with rainfall for approximately nine hours.
Torrential rain triggered massive landslides and flooding. Rivers and streams surged carrying boulders and debris destroying villages, homes, roads, bridges and land. Lives were lost and many people continue to be displaced due to loss of property, personal effects and livelihoods. TS Erika has been regarded as the most devastating weather event since Hurricane David in 1979.
A team of Assessors was commissioned by the UNDP on behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (GCOD), in January 2016, to undertake a Social and Livelihoods assessment of the impact of TS Erika. The team arrived in Dominica for a two week period (January 18-29) in order to conduct its investigations and presents its findings through this report. A preliminary report of findings was presented before the team left island to senior Government officials.
The social and livelihoods assessment in the Commonwealth of Dominica situates itself within the framework of Social Vulnerability and Disaster Risk Reduction. In keeping with the PDNA (Post Disaster Needs Assessment) methodology which undertakes assessments using both a sectoral approach and a bottom up approach, this Social and Livelihoods Assessment, used as its point of departure the data sets collected as part of the Rapid Damage and Impact Assessment.
Sector experts undertook the social and livelihoods analysis through a focus on the affected population; the social sector – housing, health and education, with a specific examination of the social protection measures; the productive sector, particularly agriculture, tourism and commerce. Infrastructure had been thoroughly examined by the Rapid Assessment undertaken earlier, and so was not included as part of this examination.
Like most of its Caribbean neighbours, Dominica is very vulnerable to multiple hazards, some of which could occur simultaneously. The country has nine live volcanoes and experiences frequent seismic and geothermal activity. Dominica’s terrain renders damage to physical infrastructure greater than in other countries of the Region and the cost of rehabilitation higher.
In light of Dominica’s vulnerabilities, there is an expectation that the economic impact of disasters would be large, resulting in the disruption of economic activity, loss of income, fiscal and external account imbalances and increased poverty. And indeed the effects of TS Erika were in keeping with those expectations. TS Erika resulted in damage and loss of EC 1.3billion (US$483 million), equivalent to approximately 90% of the Dominica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It has been estimated that as a result of TS Erika, some 15,900 persons or 23% of the national population was directly affected. Of the population that resided in the Affected Parishes, some 32% were affected.
Almost 43% of the affected population were among the primary affected, experiencing, death, injury, psycho-social trauma, loss of material assets, livelihoods and income. Another 46% were among the secondary affected who suffered losses in production, and income and access to services.
It was evident that despite the very localised nature of the effects of TSE, the entire population of Dominica was affected if not directly by having family or friends affected, then indirectly by the ensuing disruption caused by the effects to the island’s infrastructure. Still yet others experienced the psycho-social trauma.
Dominicans together, will have to face the direct and indirect challenges of recovery presented by TS Erika.
The data analysed for this Report, suggested that the poorest Parish, St Joseph was also among the Parishes that were severely affected by TS Erika with the loss of over 200 houses. The Parishes of St. Patrick and St David which contained between 40 and 42 percent poor, and over 50 percent of its population deemed vulnerable had by far ( 41%), the largest proportion of households affected including destroyed, partially destroyed and at risk. The highest number of homes totally destroyed were found in St Patrick (250) followed by St. Joseph (50). The data further suggests that the Parish of St. George, which was among those Parishes identified with the second highest level of vulnerable households, had the largest number of affected communities, as a result of TS Erika.
The Report noted that one would expect that a significant portion of the population which had been living above the poverty line but below the vulnerability line, may now have succumbed to their vulnerability and have been pushed into poverty. The Report also notes that the quality of life of the affected population has changed for the worse.