UN Organization Stresses Safe Construction in Hurricane Repairs

"With this house, we have ensured that Tessa and her children have a safe home," said Jan-Willem Wegdam, UNIOM's team leader in Dominica. "The community sees there is actually something happening, and we have completed the training of our carpenters on safe construction skills."

During the seven weeks since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Dominica and caused widespread destruction, the United Nations International Organization for Migration has been aiding local tradespeople with safe construction skills to repair the damage and create conditions for a full recovery, the agency announced Nov. 7. It said one of the first people to have her house repaired by local construction workers trained by UNIOM is Tessa Williams, 31, a mother of three, whose eldest child is in a wheelchair.

"With this house, we have ensured that Tessa and her children have a safe home," said Jan-Willem Wegdam, the agency's team leader in Dominica. "The community sees there is actually something happening, and we have completed the training of our carpenters on safe construction skills."

The UN agency reported 20 teams of trained local workers are repairing the roofs of about 400 vulnerable households that were damaged in the storm. Using funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the government of the United Kingdom, UNIOM procured building materials in the Dominican Republic in record time and brought it to Dominica with the help of the Dutch Navy.

The repair work is keeping many people from migrating to neighboring countries in search of better opportunities after losing their homes and means of livelihood in the aftermath of the hurricane. "Housing projects are a great way to keep locals from leaving the island, but we need stronger funding to create as many employment opportunities as possible and to rebuild the lost dwellings," said Wegdam. "It's not only about having a roof over their heads, but about creating the conditions for a full recovery after a huge disaster."

IOM said estimates are that the hurricane destroyed 23 percent of buildings, inflicting severe damages to 39 percent of the houses and damaging another 28 percent of them less severely.

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