The aim of this rapid Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) needs assessment is to understand the needs of communities affected by Hurricane Maria in Dominica, identify existing services and resources, and generate recommendations to inform the design of International Medical Corps programs.
The Commonwealth of Dominica is a sovereign island country in the Caribbean. It has an area of 750km2 and a population of 71,293.1 Dominica is classed as a lower middle-income country and is the poorest of the south-eastern Caribbean islands, with an unemployment rate of 23% in 2016.2 It is located in one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world and has a history of tropical storms and hurricanes, including Tropical Storm Erica in 2015, Tropical Storm Ophelia in 2011, and Hurricane David (Category 5) in 1979, all of which required international humanitarian assistance. The majority of the population lives along the coast, where they are particularly vulnerable to strong winds and high seas. Dominica has nine active volcanos, with scientists predicting at least one major eruption in the next 90 years. Flooding, landslides, earthquakes, droughts, and bushfires also pose ongoing threats.
The population is mostly of African and mixed African/European descent, with European, Syrian and Carib (2.9% in 2001 census) minorities. The official language is English and many people also speak a French-based Creole. More than 90% of the population are Christian (predominantly Catholic).3 The Kalinago Territory on the eastern coast is the only surviving indigenous reserve in the Caribbean. While some aspects of Kalinago culture have been lost (e.g. the Kalinago language), other traditions remain, such as canoe-building, basket-weaving, and a communal land tenure system.
Dominica is a parliamentary democracy with a non-executive president, who is nominated jointly by the prime minister and the head of the opposition. The prime minister is the head of government and supervises the parliamentary cabinet. Local government is organised through 41 local authorities: three municipal councils (Roseau, Portsmouth and Canefield), 37 Village Councils, and one Kalinago Council. The Kalinago Council officially represents the Kalinago people, and functions differently from the other councils, in accordance with traditional laws and customs such as the group’s unique communal land system.