University in Action Displaced Communities In the aftermath of Erika, one thing became clear: residents in high-risk displaced communities should debunk the romantic notion of going home. There were simply too many obstacles. Firstly there were those that everyone faced: negotiating the damaged road network, new waste disposal challenges, damaged sewer lines— especially those that were attached to bridges. Add to that the imperative of protecting oneself from the very real public health threats of gastroenteritis or viruses arising from the potential spike in the mosquito population. Still, people expected to move back to their communities once the danger was no longer imminent. But there was enough data to show that these communities were prone to flooding and landslides. If residents in these communities were to go home, it was only a matter of time before they were back to square one. Eventually, people began to warm to the idea that it was time to ruminate over more sustainable alternatives. The Resettlement Solution Resettlement was one such alternative. The Government of Dominica has asked The UWI to help with the ranking of ten potential new sites to accommodate displaced communities. The university was also asked to conduct hazard and vulnerability
assessments which would inform the process of selecting suitable sites. But there are other considerations involved in ranking these sites including water supply, sewage disposal, and the environmental impacts of clearing forests. Who Will Fund It Nobody doubted that The UWI had the expertise. But the university faced a conundrum that it couldn’t deny. “That’s a multidisciplinary team that has to be there for an extended period, but the university cannot fund that. We had to look for funds to meet the cost,” Professor Hunte said of The UWI’s position. Meanwhile the requests continued to roll in. A month after the Scoping Mission had visited the island, the Government of Dominica asked The UWI to send psychosocial counsellors to help them with displacement issues. Dr. Letnie Rock, Dr. Debra Joseph, and Ms. Ayodele Harper responded to that call. The university’s response to the funding conundrum was to leverage its influence and expertise in the region to find donor funding that would meet its costs. To this end, The UWI partnered with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and together the UNDP and The UWI identified funding that would allow the university to meet the cost of responding to Dominica’s resettlement needs.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ADRIAN CASHMAN
16 – THE PELICAN/ISSUE 14