Eleven previously displaced families were all smiles today as they received keys to their newly renovated homes by Prime Minister Hon. Gaston Browne and Vice President of EU Commission Mr. Frans Timmermans. The handover ceremony was a segment of the high-level visit to Antigua and Barbuda of the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean Countries, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM. The 11 homes are a part of the 84 to be provided in the final stage of the €5 million project to repair and rebuild homes that were either destroyed or severely damaged during the passage of Hurricane Irma, under Phase 2 of the EU Housing Support to Barbuda Project.
Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gaston Browne noted: “I am very happy with the progress that has been made during the last 12-18 months. Barbuda, obviously, has made a lot of progress. Eighty percent (80%) of the homes have been restored and the PLH Project is going well. We have this energy plant as well in which 14 hours of the day have been supplied with green energy. So a lot of progress has been made and the future of Barbuda is very bright.”
Speaking on the behalf of the European Union Mr. Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, noted: “I'm really excited to be here today to see the marvelous work done by the UNDP with support from the European Union. If you can help so many people with such limited funds to restore their house and create high-level housing, that's marvelous! I admire what UNDP does worldwide but here, they have done an excellent job and I want to commend the people of UNDP for that.”
Gloria Cephas, a mother of 8, who like the other 10 beneficiaries, was devastated after losing her home to the hurricane expressed her gratitude to the Government, the EU and UNDP stating: “Getting back my home today was the best relief I have had in the last four years – we can actually go back home. The house that we have been waiting for is finally ready and it is a relief. Without the housing project, we would not have been able to rebuild any time soon, so we are more than grateful and very thankful.”
Construction of the 11 homes began in July 2021, with another cluster of homes slated to be completed by the beginning of November, using the “Build Back Better” (BBB) approach, in compliance with the 2015 OECS Building Code, as well as the Antigua and Barbuda Building Guidelines. The Project, led by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda with support from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean runs until 2022. The Office of the National Authorising Officer (ONAO), with the assistance of the Beneficiary Selection Committee (BSC), will continue the selection process to repair the most impacted homes, overall totaling 104 homes.
Ugo Blanco, Deputy Resident Representative for UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean reiterated UNDP’s commitment to governments in the region as they build forward better, improve resilience and accelerate progress towards the achievement of the SDGs noting: “Sustainable inclusive development reaches all aspects of society and ensures no one is left behind. Thus, projects and partnerships such as these are catalytic as they address poverty, inequality and exclusion while creating an enabling environment for local and national growth.”
It is imperative that efforts towards regional resilience and building forward better are advanced, as hazards and threats like COVID-19 continue to impact the region. As the Caribbean seeks innovative solutions to build resilience and ensure livelihoods for traditionally vulnerable groups, UNDP Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in partnership with governments and stakeholders, remains dedicated to the advancement of inclusive and sustainable development throughout the region and building resilient communities that can withstand shocks and crises through targeted projects and programmes.