“Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total. And so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.”
Those words from Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit yesterday, at a press conference that followed the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres’ visit to the hurricane-torn Eastern Caribbean island yesterday.
Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 18, thrashing the country with extreme winds and rain. It left people without electricity and water, destroyed homes and health clinics and isolated communities on the mountainous island.
“We did not choose this opportunity. We did not wish it. Having had it thrust upon us, we have chosen actively and decisively to be that example to the world,” Skerrit said, adding that the UN has an important role in guiding Dominica on its journey to become the world’s first climate-resistant nation, with good analysis on how to achieve and monitor national climate resilience.
During his visit, Guterres took stock of the immense hurricane damage and the relief efforts underway, as well as paying tribute to its leaders for their vision to not only rebuild but to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation.
The UN and its partners recently launched an appeal for US$31.1 million to reach over 90 per cent of Dominicans – some 65,000 people – in the next three months.
“I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf on any tree,” said Guterres, who flew by helicopter over some of the most affected areas. “In every community, most of the buildings are destroyed or heavily damaged.”
Speaking at a joint press conference with Skerrit in the capital, Roseau, he echoed concerns similar to those expressed the previous day during a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, where he witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and met with displaced persons.
He spoke of the need to “make sure the international community fully recognizes that the intensity of hurricanes and multiplication of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”
Citing research by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretary-General said natural disasters had tripled, while the economic damaged caused by them has increased five-fold.
“There is scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by the hurricanes in the Caribbean and by many other phenomena around the world,” he said.
In addition to seeing the destruction by air, Guterres, accompanied by the Prime Minister, visited Salybia in the Kalinago territory, where they met with local authorities and members of the community during a distribution of relief aid.
“We thank you for bearing witness today, bearing witness to the future of all humanity if we do not respond to climate change,” stated Prime Minister Skerrit, who just two weeks ago told the UN General Assembly in New York that he had come straight from “the front line of the war on climate change.”
“We thank you for taking the time to walk with us on this battlefield of shattered lives.”