The emotional image of Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit wiping away tears from his eyes on Thursday as he spoke about the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria tugged at the hearts of many Caribbean citizens.
One such citizen is Trinidadian activist and Newsday columnist Elizabeth Solomon, who has worked for years with the United Nations on humanitarian projects around the world and whose husband, Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, has been on the ground in Dominica since Friday.
“How he has described the place, it is really, really devastated,” Solomon told Sunday Newsday.
“It was a very lush island and now it is denuded. Those pictures that people have been seeing with lots of wood. Those are trees that have been stripped of all their leaves.” Solomon, who is also the executive director of the Dispute Resolution Centre, said the people to whom she has spoken on the ground tell a tale of serious hardship.
“There are lots of people sharing one room. There is no food. It is going to be quite some time before they are going to be able to be on their feet again and to just have a roof over their head. So, they need immediate help.” According to Solomon, the island’s most pressing demand is for food, water, sleeping cots and tarpaulins.
“They have been exhausted and traumatised and a little sleep will help so I think tarpaulins are needed.”
Basic medical supplies, she said, are also urgently required.
Alluding to reports of violence and looting, Solomon said the such situations must be properly managed.
She said: “I imagine that there are elements who feel that they can take what they can get because they don’t know what is going to happen next. But then that spirals out of control. And then there is also the propensity for people to believe that they don’t have equal access to safety and for goods. In the short term, it is important to be cognisant of that and to be conflict prevention wise.”
Solomon said that rather than just gathering commodities to send to the island, people were genuinely interested in the restoration process.
Although she did not hear Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s appeal citizens to open their homes to Dominicans for a six-month period, Solomon said on the surface, she welcomed the initiative.
“It will be important to know the details of what he has in place. The devil is in the details. But I think it is important that we should open our arms to support the people of Dominica, to support our neighbours and they really are in desperate need of help.”