Grenada rebuilds

News and Press Release
Originally published
On 7 September 2004, when Hurricane Ivan struck the Caribbean island of Grenada, Yvonne Felix lost almost everything she owned. But just over a year later, thanks to a sustainable livelihood rehabilitation project, she is now a trained and certified carpenter and helping to build housing for destitute families left homeless by the hurricane. She described the carpentry training course, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as "a tremendous benefit", as she "moved from the position of hopelessness to developing a new career".

Yvonne participated in the construction of new houses in Café Beau Hill, St Georges, designated for three low-income families: two unemployed single mothers with young children and a household headed by a 67-year-old woman who is surviving on income support from the Government's welfare programme. These families, like many others in Grenada, had their homes completely destroyed by Hurricane Ivan and had since been living under makeshift arrangements with friends and relatives. With the support of carpentry trainees and volunteers from the Windward Islands Caribbean Youth Corps, construction of the three new houses, designed to withstand hurricanes and earthquakes, was completed in mid-June 2005. Yvonne expressed her fulfilment, knowing that she "made these families very happy and comfortable" and "they have somewhere once again to call home".

Ms. Hosford, a 34-year-old single mother of five and head of household of one of the poorest families at Café Beau Hill, told the story of how she moved from her wooden house to a neighbour's concrete house upon hearing of the hurricane alert. After category-4 Hurricane Ivan left her house in ruins, she built with her neighbours' help a temporary shelter covered by a tarpaulin, but admitted to having no idea as to what she would do with no income to support herself and her children. In consultation with the Housing Authority of Grenada, UNDP selected her family to receive a new house, which they moved into and where they safely passed category-1 Hurricane Emily in July without any problems.

Hurricane Ivan caused the deaths of 37 people and damages in excess of $900 million-200 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP)-and destroyed 90 per cent of housing, which left the island's population devastated and vulnerable. According to a damage assessment conducted by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 10,000 houses needed to be completely rebuilt and another 22,000 repaired. As of March 2005, only 23 had been rebuilt, with another 50 under reconstruction, leaving several thousands of people still in temporary shelters or deplorable conditions, dependent on the assistance of public aid. With the support of United Nations Volunteers, most of the UNDP recovery projects in Grenada were in their final stages by early May and other recovery activities were on track for completion by 31 October 2005. The Ministry of Finance expressed the Government's appreciation to UNDP "for its outstanding contribution to the reconstruction of Grenada following the passage of Hurricane Ivan".

In addition to the damage to housing, Hurricane Ivan caused extensive destruction to infrastructure and natural resources. Grenada lost a majority of its forest cover, resulting in loss of biodiversity and further threats of landslides and erosion. Utilities, such as water, power supplies and telephone connections, were seriously disrupted; crops were laid waste, destroying livelihoods overnight. The education sector lost 75 primary and secondary schools, leaving only two in usable conditions. Manufacturing suffered major losses in building infrastructure and inventory, and several businesses were forced to close with little chance of reopening in the near future, if at all.

Grenada's main economic pillars and sources of employment-agriculture and tourism-suffered severely, with 60 to 90 per cent of agricultural products destroyed and 60 per cent of hotel rooms damaged. Losses in these important sectors have had a trickle down effect, translating into a rise in the levels of poverty and unemployment and severely limiting livelihood opportunities. Moreover, economic activity, which was projected to grow by 4.7 per cent in 2004, suffered an estimated decline of minus 1.7 per cent, resulting in an overall impact of 6 percentage points of GDP growth.

In response to the devastation left behind by Ivan, the United Nations system and its partners launched a flash appeal in Barbados on 24 September 2004, asking the international community for $27.6 million in emergency assistance. Funding priorities were in the areas of aid coordination, shelter restoration, relief distribution enhancement, communications, public information, livelihood recuperation, governance restoration and long-term recovery support, including the incorporation of risk reduction in recovery planning. Immediate humanitarian assistance from national governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector allowed food, drinking water and building materials to be distributed, and provided support for a food-for-work debris removal programme. Emergency aid focused on the most vulnerable and at risk, including the elderly, infants and breast-feeding mothers, ensuring the provision of food and beds as a priority.

The immediate post-hurricane response saw the deployment of a UN disaster assessment and coordination team to Grenada in mid-September to establish a UN international coordination centre and support the coordination of relief assistance to the island. By end of September, the team handed over the operations to UNDP, whose assistance in the aftermath of the disaster focused on helping the country to secure the lives and livelihoods of the affected population.

A number of priority recovery and development projects were implemented by UNDP, in collaboration with other organizations and agencies.

- Under the "Support to Emergency and Recovery activities in Grenada" project, an assessment study provided a thorough sector-by-sector analysis of Hurricane Ivan's impact; a housing damage assessment was carried out by consultants from the Caribbean region, determining methods for improving the design of small houses against natural disasters; and a training programme was conducted for 181 artisans on good-building practices using hurricane-resistant techniques-an initiative that proved so successful that other Caribbean countries expressed interest in undertaking similar training.

- The "Community Resource Information and Communication System" project established community-based computer facilities for training in information and communications technologies (ICTs), including Internet access. The programme is designed for young adults and single mothers to broaden their access to information, education and training, as well as increase their knowledge and skills in the use of ICTs as a vehicle to eradicate absolute poverty and raise their standard of living. It will be expanded to other rural communities over the year.

- The "Enabling Recovery and Rural Development in Grenada" project was carried out to strengthen national institutions, which play a critical role in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. It supports and strengthens community dialogue and participation in national reconstruction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, undertakes a living conditions survey and expands livelihood opportunities, especially among young people, particularly women, in rural communities.

- The "Sustainable Livelihoods Rehabilitation for Grenada" project, initiated in December 2004 with a budget of $1.2 million, was designed to create employment and generate income through the active engagement of civil society organizations and NGOs. The agreements between UNDP and three NGOs-Grenada Save the Children, Agency for Rural Transformation and Grenada Community Development Agency-allowed various sub-projects to be carried out, which included beach clean-up and environmental restoration, land clearing and poultry rearing, asbestos hazard abatement, community centre restoration, skills training and capacity-building. Project highlights include the hiring of 10 unemployed people, half of them women, to successfully clean up the Grand Anse and Morne Rouge beaches, building of chicken coops for women poultry rearers, and the repair, hazard-proofing and shelter-equipping of several community centres. One success story has been the training programme that Yvonne Felix was involved in, which has seen the graduation of twelve young Grenadians-seven women and five men-as trained and certified carpenters; six are already employed by the Housing Authority of Grenada.

The progress made in Grenada's recovery efforts would not have been possible without the funding and attention received from the regional community for emergency humanitarian aid, which complemented recovery and reconstruction efforts by the international community. The recuperation of livelihoods through the food-for-work and training/capacity development programmes, and the revival of the education sector with the reopening and partial operation of schools, are signs that the island is on its way to recovery. However, the dual challenges of treating the psychological dimension of this crisis, which the Government is attempting to address by formulating a national wellness programme, and the need to make larger strides towards housing repair and reconstruction continue to be pressing concerns for Grenada. One can only have faith that Grenadians will be able to bounce back from these challenges and restore their lives in the near future.