Dominica in urgent need of food and water, finds UN assessment team

A United Nations disaster assessment official visiting Dominica, which was battered by Hurricane Maria, said yesterday that an estimated 60,000 to 65,000 people, or 80 per cent of the total population, have been affected and that food and water are the most immediate needs, a release from the United Nations Information Centre said.

Destruction left behind in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica. Photo: Ben Parker/IRIN

“There is a big, big urgency to get water and food,” said Sergio Da Silva, UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team leader, who spoke to reporters in New York by phone from the ground, adding that inaccessibility to remote areas has made it difficult to ascertain just how many people are affected.

“And when you fly over, you see all the trees are down…debris everywhere and people are homeless,” he added.

Created in 1993, UNDAC is designed to help the UN and disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.

Maria made landfall on the tiny island of 72,000 on the evening of 18 September, with maximum sustained winds of nearly 160 miles per hour.

Silva said, according to the press release, that he has been in Dominica since Thursday, assisting in the coordination of incoming international relief.

Along with food and shelter, getting clean water is a priority, he said, as water in the river is not consumable. Work is also under way to restore hospitals.

Providing humanitarian aid to remote villages remains a huge challenge as many roads were destroyed, the release said.

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