Magazine article UN Chronicle

Grenada Rebuilds: After the Hurricane

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Grenada Rebuilds: After the Hurricane

Article excerpt

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".

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Yvonne participated in the construction of new houses in Cafe 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 Cafe 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."

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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. …

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