The Government of the British Virgin Islands was faced with accommodating close to 300 persons in emergency shelters following the devastation left as a result of the passage of Hurricane Irma, followed by the impact of Hurricane Maria two weeks later.
The Department of Disaster Management activated seven shelters to provide safe accommodation for persons forced to leave their homes after Hurricane Irma and added three more for Hurricane Maria. One hundred and sixty-two persons were evacuated from Anegada prior to the impact of Irma and housed at the New Testament Church of God in Baugher’s Bay. A total of eighteen (18) informal shelters emerged after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Over the past months, the number of shelter occupants has fluctuated as several persons have returned to their homes, left the Territory, or taken up residence with family or friends.
As of November 13, twelve (12) facilities remain open, accommodating 82 persons on Tortola mainly at the Multi-Purpose Complex, community centres and churches. On Virgin Gorda, 61 persons were being accommodated in apartments/villas, houses, community centres, and two churches, while on Jost Van Dyke, 25 persons are living in shelter boxes provided by the Rotary Clubs.
As we approach the 12-week mark since the passage of the hurricanes and the end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and given the deactivation of the National Emergency Operations Centre, emergency shelters will be formally closed on November 30.
Persons remaining in communal shelters have been assessed by the Social Development Department in order to identify appropriate housing solutions. Several individuals are able to return to their homes with assistance being provided by Government, private businesses and individuals, and Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) while others require alternative accommodations on an interim or long-term basis. The Government and several NPOs will continue to provide financial assistance and social support to these persons and others based on need, in order to aid the transition from emergency shelter accommodation to temporary or permanent housing.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development has prepared a detailed Housing Recovery Policy and Plan which aims to ensure the health, safety and dignity of disaster-affected individuals and households. It provides a comprehensive framework for meeting short, medium and long-term disaster-related housing needs, building on the provisions of the Emergency Shelter Policy.
In addition, efforts are being made to conduct repairs to Community Centers that were used as emergency shelters in order to ensure their availability for future use by the communities they serve. These works will involve repairs to roof and other non-structural elements of these buildings.
The Government of the Virgin Islands wishes to express sincere gratitude to the Rotary Clubs, BVI Red Cross, churches, shelter management teams, local businesses and other partners who provided support to emergency shelters. Government also welcomes the opportunity to work with donors, volunteers and NPOs with a keen interest in helping persons to meet their housing needs.
Persons who wish to assist can contact the Ministry of Health and Social Development by telephone at 852-7743 or by email at [email protected].