EAST SETAUKET, New York — Dominica is reported to be a lower middle-income country and is the poorest of the southeastern Caribbean islands, with an unemployment rate of 13.3% in 2021. The number was higher in 2020 at a rate of 13.7%.
Damages from Hurricane Maria
Since Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit in 2017, Dominica has been working on rebuilding what was destroyed. The storm left thousands of families homeless and almost 3,000 forced to move into temporary shelters. The island sustained over a billion dollars in damages including roads, health care facilities and homes.
Only 43% of Dominica’s health facilities were functional after the storm. The remaining 57% were either shuttered or only partially functioning, but there was no water or electricity.
International Medical Corps
The International Medical Corps has helped with health care, water, sanitation and hygiene services (WASH) as well as mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).
Its volunteer medical team, including doctors and nurses, helped in the most affected areas with the highest population and were deployed to St. John and St. Andrew’s parishes on the island. The Corps’ reinforcements relieved overworked staff and made home visits to elderly and single-headed households.
During the initial response after the hurricane, the International Medical Corps teams conducted 764 patient consultations, covering 101 shifts in 11 clinics and hospitals. And then in 2018 during the second medical volunteer deployment, it carried out 1,509 consultations at Princess Margaret Hospital. In that time, it covered 219 shifts.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
The International Medical Corps provided more than 1.1 million liters of water to 8 communities in Dominica after the hurricane. This helped 1,740 people on the island. It also rolled out a Community Health Worker program to conduct outreach and educate the community on water, sanitation and hygiene to promote good hygiene after the storm. It also distributed 7,552 individual hygiene kits to 18 areas that were affected. And working alongside the Dominican Water and Sanitation Company it repaired two main public water systems.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services
Due to Hurricane Maria, the people of Dominica were affected more than just physically. Their mental health showed a decline as well, especially in younger people. According to UNICEF, in 2021 among adolescents ages 13-15, 1 in 5 seriously considered attempting suicide and 15% attempted suicide one or more times in the past 12 months. 25% of girls were likely to have thoughts and 16% of boys considered attempting suicide
In terms of mental health needs, in December of 2017, International Medical Corps collaborated with IsraAid and the Dominican Psychological Society to carry out its first psychological first aid training for national level Girl Guide leaders. It trained 14 people to support the mental health of the girl guide participants in order for them to recover mentally after the natural disasters. Its Psychological First Aid training targeted community leaders in villages in St. John and St. Andrew parishes with a total of 212 community leaders to be equipped in case of emergency in communities in Dominica. Since 2017, it has trained 77,625 people. Including 6,690 people trained on gender-based violence, prevention and response.
Dominica has suffered not just physically but emotionally over the last few years due to natural disasters. The International Medical Corps has done a lot of work to improve the lives and overall health of the people of Dominica and it continues to do so today.
– Abigail DiCarlo