Jamaica: Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy

 The Bridge over Hope River collapses during Tropical Storm Gustav.
A bridge collapses during tropical Storm Gustav in 2008. Jamaica is vulnerable to a number of natural hazards such as storms, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and landslides. Photo: UNDP/Jamaica

When Hurricane Sandy touched down in Kingston on 24 October, excessive winds left more than 70 percent of the population without electricity, killed one person and forced more than 1,000 into shelters. As the storm moved across the island, an estimated US$ 100 million worth of infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, were damaged or destroyed, setting back decades of hard-won development.

In an effort to guide early recovery, UNDP launched the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Project, which is built around the need to provide coordinated and evidence based recovery to the hardest hit areas in the eastern parishes (administrative regions). The project is focused on needs assessments to evaluate the extent of the damage; preparation of a recovery framework to guide the range of recovery initiatives; establishment of a Secretariat to collect and house all disaster related information for future use; and GIS Tracking to pinpoint high risk areas.

Highlights

  • The Hurricane Sandy Recovery Project provides coordinated and evidence-based recovery to the hardest hit areas.
  • Four Hurricane Sandy workshops were carried out in each of the affected areas to help integrate risk reduction measures into the long term recovery plans.
  • So far, 48 families residing in high risk areas are in the process of being relocated.

Needs assessments were undertaken in the eastern parishes of St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary. These multi-sectoral assessments are crucial to determining the extent of the damage and estimating the resources required to build back better. Needs assessments translate into recovery frameworks that outline what has to be done, with details on cost, timeline and required resources.

In developing the recovery framework, UNDP sought the involvement of the affected population, as well as local organizations and businesses. Four Hurricane Sandy workshops were carried out in each of the affected parishes to: build stakeholder awareness and present the project to stakeholders; gather input on the project; highlight local risk profiles; and strengthen existing partnerships for recovery. This information facilitates the integration of risk reduction measures into the long term recovery plans.

UNDP’s primary partner in the recovery effort is the Temporary Recovery Secretariat, housed within the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which has been coordinating recovery efforts, building partnerships and ensuring that the resources committed are effectively and efficiently applied.

Thus far, recovery efforts have included the repair and rehabilitation of damaged schools and health centers, the relocation of impacted coastal communities, and updating of the national framework for recovery. Work has already begun or been completed in three schools and the Chepstowe Health Centre, all located in Portland and St. Thomas. In October, additional funds were released to rehabilitate one additional school in each of the four eastern parishes, as well as the Islington Post Office in St. Mary.

UNDP’s early recovery work aims to ensure that response and recovery initiatives consider long-term goals, working to build better systems and infrastructure than previously existed. In Jamaica, GIS trackers were employed to map the regions struck by the storm, allowing policymakers and community stakeholders to see evidence of locations most at risk and thereby avoid future development in these locations. GIS tracking involves measuring sea surge along coasts, identifying low lying areas prone to floods and highlighting areas of high exposure to winds or debris.

Using the information collected from the GIS trackers, families residing in high risk areas, who suffered considerable damage, are being relocated to new housing. Thus far, 48 families from Port Arthur Lane are in the process of being relocated to Crooked River in Annotto Bay, and Eden Park in Oracabessa.

To help collect the information after Hurricane Sandy, UNDP helped establish a repository of information for the post-sandy recovery work, which will provide guidance to national, municipal and regional initiatives in future development.

Jamaica has yet to fully recover from Hurricane Sandy. For its part, UNDP is working with partners to expedite the provision of resources and continue the recovery process. Lessons learned however, indicate that coordination amongst the many partners and implementing agencies remains challenging.

Learning from these challenges, UNDP is working with the Government to establish a permanent Recovery Coordinator, who will be responsible for streamlining and facilitating recovery operations and interagency cooperation.