Over 500 families who lost their roofs and nearly everything else after Hurricane Maria have received assistance from the
An IOM contingent arrived in
Almost a year after on,
Wyzelle Philogene, a mother of three, admitted that she didn't take proper precaution and was still at home cooking and doing domestic chores when the hurricane hit the island. That disregard was quickly replaced by fear as she scrambled to keep herself and children safe as Maria's strong winds and heavy rain wreaked havoc. Looking at her house the day after, she said she felt "heartbroken".
"The house looked like a total disaster. There was no roof, no door, part of the house at the front gone, most of the stuff inside gone. There was stuff that I bought just before the storm, and I lost all of it. My television, I bought it on the Friday before the storm, and I lost it. It was a package. The fridge, the stove, and television, I lost all of them," she disclosed.
Before the hurricane, Wyzelle paid for her children's education on her small salary and did everything a single, independent mother could. "But after Maria, I couldn't do that. I lost my job; at a certain time, there was no school. I had to find a way to fend for them because there is no work - even if you have some little savings you have to know how to use it - and how not to use it. Food was not (available) like before where you could just rush to the supermarket because everywhere was damaged. It was hard, to be honest, it was hard - no water, no electricity, but we managed."
For almost a month, she and her children lived at a friend's house with about 10 to 15 other people. Though homesickness crept in, gratitude for the kind hospitality overrode those feelings, and the mother and children did their best to manage under the circumstances. When it was time to return home, she found herself under tarps and shortly after, under patched, damaged, discarded galvanized sheets.
"Whenever rain fell you had to get buckets and containers to collect water. It wasn't the same, but we had to cope, we had no choice," Wyzelle said ruefully.
With the guidance of vulnerability criteria provided by the
"A repaired house for the safety and security to all my family, especially in this hurricane season. I love it, to be honest," she affirmed.
"Getting to this stage has not been easy," says Jan-Willem Wegdam, IOM Dominica Team Leader. "We have had to be creative to solve procurement issues, obtaining scarce building materials, recruiting skilled carpenters from the wider
Emergency shelters still house families who have not been able to return to a normal life in what remains of their homes. Many houses simply disappeared. Emergency shelters across the island were damaged, and most have not yet been repaired.
IOM has been able to assist with housing needs in 11 communities so far, repairing or re-building roofs and wooden core houses with funding from
IOM currently employs over 150 people across