The 2017 hurricane season has caused unprecedented levels of destruction across the Caribbean. It has devastated the lives of millions of people, and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and displaced. Dominica, one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, faced the full force of Hurricane Maria, which claimed the lives of 15 people, and tore through the entire island, ripping rooftops, power lines and water pipelines, and directly or indirectly affecting the country’s entire population (about 73,000 people). CDEMA is now leading response efforts on the ground, with support from Governments, UN agencies and humanitarian partners. Humanitarian organisations are delivering critical aid and carrying out assessments throughout the island.
CDAC Network has deployed a Community Engagement Specialist to the region, based in Antigua and part of the H2H network support services to the Irma and Maria humanitarian response, funded by DFID.
H2H agencies – CDAC Network, Ground Truth, ACAPS and IRIN – are providing assistance to humanitarian responders by providing information and analysis on the hurricane’s impact and the effectiveness of the response, with a specific focus on lower income countries and more vulnerable populations. They are:
- Reporting from the field on the effectiveness and appropriateness of the response
- Analysis on the impact of the hurricane, priority groups and information gaps
- Support to community engagement platforms to ensure information is being disseminated and community feedback received and integrated into the response
- Feedback from affected populations is collected, analysed and disseminated on a regular basis, contributing to the analysis of the effectiveness and outcomes of the response
- Providing a bridge between the views of the affected population being collected and then being used to inform programmatic and strategic decisions, by working closely with key response actors.
The expected results of the H2H deployment are that key response actors are disseminating accurate, actionable and consistent lifesaving and life-sustaining information for affected communities. Furthermore it is expected that the response is more appropriate because responders are able to make better, more informed decisions due to having the right information at different stages of the response and use feedback from communities to inform ongoing response planning. It is expected that responders are held accountable to the communities they are there to help because robust feedback mechanisms are put in place.
The OCHA Regional Response Plan for the Caribbean Region (September to December 2017), developed with the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) amongst others, identifies the priority needs of the most vulnerable populations and among these are various urgent information and communication needs:
- Access to health services and medical care delivery capacity has been significantly hampered in all the affected areas. There is a significant risk of increases in waterborne and vector-borne disease transmission following the hurricane, due to the deteriorated sanitary conditions and the lack of access to safe water in the affected communities. One of the response priorities to address this is to increase access to lifesaving information, including on behaviours to prevent infection of diseases as well as on sexual and reproductive health to affected population especially about danger signs of complicated pregnancies and how to access services and health providers.
- Protection issues and GBV are anticipated, giving priority to ensuring that children, adolescents and their families have access to information and basic skills on preventing harm, violence and health-related risks in emergencies, including information and awareness regarding available GBV-related services.
- Assistance will be provided in the sectors of Food Security, Health, Water/Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Protection and Education. It will be critical to ensure that people know their rights and entitlements, have access to information and participate in decisions that affect them. Information should be shared widely on this aid provision, beneficiary criteria, how to access it, and how to raise feedback and complaints.
- The disruption to the telecommunications infrastructure and services, particularly in remote rural areas, makes communications difficult and potentially impacts the safety, security and operational capability of a coordinated humanitarian response. It is necessary to find out how people are receiving and sharing information, and what sources they trust.
Aid providers should consider how they can incorporate the sharing of critical information as part of their other programmatic activities, how they can engage communities in decisions that affect them, set up feedback mechanisms and coordinate with other actors on these areas. To find out more about communication and community engagement in Dominica please contact Sarah Mace.
Find cluster-approved key messages on protection, GBV, unsafe water, diarrhoea, safe child birthing, and more to support your communication work for communities (available in English, Spanish, French and other languages)
Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability
Briefing Notes including the most recent, Update 2 - Caribbean: Hurricane Irma, 20 September 2017
Regional Response Plan for the Caribbean Region (September to December 2017)