Nearly 60,000 people left homeless by floods in the Dominican Republic
International aid agency Oxfam this week has rushed its first emergency supplies to people displaced by Tropical Storm Noel which has battered 29 of the Dominican Republic’s 32 provinces.
According to official figures, 56 people have been killed by floods that are sweeping across the country and more than 58,000 people have been displaced from their homes The real situation on the ground may be even worse as many rural areas are totally inaccessible and therefore it has been impossible to assess the impact of the storm. The Dominican government has appealed for assistance from members of the international community with a presence in the country, including the diplomatic corps and aid agencies.
“This is the strongest storm to hit the Dominican Republic in 20 years. Ninety percent of the country has been affected. There are many inaccessible towns where people don’t have enough potable water. Also, the agricultural sectors have been badly damaged, including the coffee, cocoa and banana crops, the country’s main exports,” explained Luz María Abreu, Oxfam representative in the Dominican Republic.
Oxfam International has begun distributing emergency kits which include items such as soap and cooking supplies for displaced families. With the help of the Dominican Institute for Integrated Development, Oxfam gave the kits to more than 1,600 people displaced by floods in the northern reaches of the capital, Santo Domingo. In addition, Oxfam and local organization CEAJURI have just begun distributing more emergency kits to 5,000 people who are seeking refuge in the largest shelter in the country, located in the city of Barahona. Oxfam’s humanitarian team is carrying out needs assessments on the ground, a task which has proved extremely difficult due to the continuation of heavy rains.
Oxfam International program of risk management in the Dominican Republic began operating in 2005. The program oversees the storage of emergency response materials and works with local organization to prepare populations for natural disasters.
Over the next few days, Oxfam International has scaled the first risk management experts, in collaboration with UNDP and the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo. These experts are officers of the public agencies and members of NGOs and local associations of communities affected by the floods.