More than 20 District Development Officers and Assistants and Emergency Shelter Managers from across the island gathered at the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) in Jimmit on 13 June 2019.
On the agenda was an orientation to the new “Emergency Shelter Management Manual” a publication of the Office of Disaster Management within the Ministry of Climate Resilience, Disaster Management and Urban Renewal. Three hundred copies of this first edition were produced at the Dominica Printery for distribution to all Emergency Shelter Managers and Assistants.
The development of this manual is a culmination of months of consultations facilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) under a USAID funded project “Support Emergency Preparedness Through Emergency Shelter”, which pulled together international standards of camp coordination and management, and best practices including experience at a local level.
The participatory approach, drew input from experienced Emergency Shelter Managers, key government departments such as the ODM, Local Government, Social Welfare, Health, Housing and Lands, Education and Human Resource Development, Public Works, Water Resource Management and Ports, the Dominica Meteorological (MET) Office, the Police, Fire and Ambulance, District Development Officers and Assistants and NGO´s including the Dominica Red Cross, the Dominica Association of People with Disabilities (DAPD), Lifeline Ministries and others. These organisations assisted in arriving at accepted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) being presented in the Manual, that are contextualized for Dominica.
It is the first time that such detailed guidelines will be available to Emergency Shelter Managers and coordinators at the government level. Chairperson of the Emergency Shelter Subcommittee of the National Emergency Planning Organization (NEPO), Glenroy Toussaint is excited to see the manual come to fruition.
“This is the first time that we have something like this; standard operating procedures that we can share with all Emergency Shelter Managers. It is a major milestone and achievement,” he remarked.
Disaster Coordinator for the ODM, Fitzroy Pascal says, “It is critical that all key actors utilize this manual and continue to provide guidance to the national system”. He states further that the Manual “will enhance the standards and practices for effective shelter management that prioritizes the care and protection of people who are displaced due to disasters and emergencies”.
Pascal places the Manual in the national context in his introductory text of the publication. In his words “The Government of Dominica places a high priority on Disaster Management, particularly given recent experiences with major disasters and the heightened awareness of climate change and risk management. The ongoing construction of regional emergency shelters in designated locations on island is part of the Government’s thrust to enhance the shelter experience for both shelterees and those who coordinate and manage emergency shelters in Dominica.”
Recognizing that Emergency Shelters are only meant as places of temporary refuge in emergencies, he goes on to explain that the government’s thrust to build regional shelters and improve standards “is complemented with the ongoing construction of several residential homes in multiple districts that are designed to be more resistant to various hazards. This is implemented with the intention to reduce the need for persons having to utilize emergency shelters.”
Project Manager at IOM, Dimitrios Champesis explains the importance of this publication “This manual will be a valuable tool for emergency shelter managers. What makes it special is that it captures the very essence of the international humanitarian experience, contextualizing it to the Dominica reality. It contains lots of insight and good practices from past experience and shows the way forward for a better, efficient response.” IOM also produced and handed over to the Local Government Division, 134 external signs that will identify the location of officially designated emergency shelters nationally.
Disaster Coordinator Mr. Fitzroy Pascal had a word of hope for Shelter Managers who have been advocating for certain changes. “As we are all aware, Emergency Shelter Management does come with challenges. NEPO’s Emergency Shelter Subcommittee, led by Mr. Glenroy Toussaint of the Local Government Division, continues to make representation at every available forum to address these”. Mr. Pascal is happy to note that the Manual addresses some of the issues, and states further that “serious attention will be given to Shelter Management in the new Legislation which is currently being worked on.”
The Project: “Support Emergency Preparedness through Emergency Shelter”
Under the USAID-funded project “Support Emergency Preparedness through Emergency Shelter” IOM has undertaken repair and rehabilitation works on more than 16 emergency shelters across Dominica. This week, the shelters will receive cots, first aid kits, solar lights, wheelchairs and other essential equipment and supplies under the project. Ham radio kits are also being donated to support the national emergency communications system, and training has been offered to over 240 individuals in emergency preparedness topics, including first aid, fire safety, psychosocial support, gender-based violence, emergency communications and emergency shelter management.
The project also assisted 10 families with solutions to enable them to leave emergency shelters. The 10 families were chosen based on a survey conducted in November 2018 by IOM of people who remain in shelters, and a scoring of vulnerabilities using criteria including age, disabilities, chronic illnesses and dependency ratio, recommended by the government. To date, over 200 people still remain in over 26 emergency shelters across the island, mainly because they do not own suitable land and because their financial situation does not allow them to rebuild, resettle or relocate without assistance. The Government of Dominica is working to assist several of these individuals and families in the ongoing quest for resilience.
As the 2019 hurricane season approaches, IOM joins the Government of Dominica, in urging all residents to be always prepared, as preparedness is key to saving lives. Visit www.odm.gov.dm for information on hazards that affect Dominica, and the recommended actions before, during and after these events.