On 18 September 2017, Hurricane Maria evolved from a category 1 storm to a category 5 storm in less than 18 hours, just before it slammed the Caribbean island of Dominica. Communications, connectivity and power were severely impacted, as vital infrastructure was destroyed; a period of ‘darkness and silence’ ensued. Six months after Hurricane Maria, the Government and humanitarian actors continue to work together to address the needs of the most affected. Even though the situation is normalizing throughout the country, Dominica remains seriously impacted. Over 80 percent of houses still have inadequate roofing. In the current recovery phase of the response, there is an overwhelming need for information on shelter support from the affected communities.
Hurricane Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster in the history of Dominica. Given the uniqueness of the hurricane, the impact on the state and role of the diaspora in information communications this was a new operating environment for many humanitarian actors, including CDAC Network members present on the ground, and this review was commissioned to to reflect together on their experiences and create a common narrative of what happened.
The learning review was an opportunity to reflect together on experiences of communication and community engagement during the response, and for shared learning. It highlights examples of good practice, lessons learnt and where and why challenges arose. The views of affected people were captured, exploring their experiences of accessing information, of communication and engagement during the response. This is a starting point in influencing future planning and preparedness for any future response. It aims to build a picture of what a successful communication and community engagement response looks like in such a context, and map what is needed from different actors to achieve this. It also makes recommendations on how communication and community engagement can be improved in Dominica and to CDAC and H2H on their role in such a response.