|A child stands amidst household belongings damaged by Tropical Storm Olga in a neighbourhood in La Vega, Dominican Republic.|
By Michael Kavanagh and Blue Chevigny
LA VEGA, Dominican Republic, 19 December 2007 – Approximately 61,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the Dominican Republic in the wake of two major storms that have hit the Caribbean nation since early November.
On 12 December, Tropical Storm Olga followed on the heels of November’s Hurricane Noel, destroying homes and crops, flooding rivers and making an already difficult situation even more desperate.
“Many of these people were quite poor already, and if they lost what little they had, they’ve lost their livelihood,” UNICEF Representative in the Dominican Republic Tad Palac said in an interview with UNICEF Radio. “These are people and families that are going to need a lot of support over the next few months.”
Help with the transition home
UNICEF is providing shelter and emergency food aid for displaced families, as well as age-appropriate nutrition for younger children. The organization is also distributing out hygiene kits to help combat the spread of disease. The kits include buckets, mops and other items that will eventually help families make the transition back into their homes.
|Damaged homes along the flooded Camú River in La Vega.|
In addition, UNICEF and its partners have instituted a psychosocial support programme called Project Happiness to address the psychological needs of children affected by the devastating storms.
“You’ve got lots of children who are left homeless. They’re taking refuge in shelters. There are many who’ve lost their belongings” said Mr. Palac. “You’ve got the psychological impact, which is something that we’re particularly concerned about.”
Poverty makes families vulnerable
In the long run, Mr. Palac added, more needs to be done to address the underlying poverty that left people and their property defenseless during the storms.
“These two disasters have really showed that there are a large number of people who live in very vulnerable areas,” he said. “The vast majority of people affected were among the most poor in the country.”
18 December 2007:
UNICEF Representative in the Dominican Republic Tad Palac talks to UNICEF Radio about recovery from Tropical Storm Olga and Hurricane Noel.