Barbados’ Forgotten Few

There is evidence that the ageing population of Barbados is being disproportionately affected by climate-related illnesses such as dengue fever, respiratory infections, asthma, and heat exhaustion. 

Informed, strategic interventions are however stymied by the fact that there has been little systematic employment of data and targeted research.

According to the experts interviewed for this investigation, an increase in adverse climate events is both worsening health conditions and affecting the delivery of care.

Dominica Confronts Food Challenges Post Maria

After the devastation Hurricane Maria left behind on Dominica and the ensuing food shortages, officials and residents pledged not only to restore the island’s agricultural system but also to make it more self-reliant. 

But since 2017 food imports have soared. The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in its data report showed that over the last six years since the storm, Dominica has imported more food in each of those years. In 2017, the country imported US$40 million worth of food, since then the number has ballooned to US$56 million – with meat, cereals, fruits and vegetables accounting for a large percentage of the bill.
Erica Burnett Biscombe speaking on wanting to give up (Video by Laila Langford)

Hurricane Maria damaged or destroyed much of the agricultural infrastructure, including buildings, animal husbandry facilities, agricultural roads and croplands. In a preliminary report by the government of Dominica, the agriculture sector reported US$ 179.6M (EC$ 485M) in loss and damage, impacting all aspects of agricultural production from crops, infrastructure, equipment to croplands. 

“Livestock damage includes 45 percent of cattle, 65 percent pigs and over 90 percent chickens with an estimated value of EC$ 8.68M (US$3.21M),” the government reported.

Barbuda’s Unending Disaster

The case of Hurricane Irma’s impact on Barbuda provides a significant example of what is often termed “disaster capitalism.” It is defined as the exploitation of natural disasters by governments and corporations to push through policies or projects that would otherwise face resistance, typically for economic or political gain. Residents of the island of Barbuda say that is what is happening to them. Irma, a catastrophic category 5 hurricane caused more than USD$220 million damage to homes and infrastructure on the island of Barbuda.  It also left a path of extreme environmental destruction on the island. The storm ripped the roofs off many homes and buildings, power poles were toppled and debris was scattered across the landscape.  The police station was largely destroyed, medical services halted.  Official estimates indicated 95% of structures on the island were damaged or destroyed. 

What surrounded the approximately 1,500 inhabitants as they abandoned their tiny island on September 6, 2017 was utter destruction.

Did Dominica Build Back Better?

The night of September 18, 2017, forever altered the development trajectory of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Hurricane Maria’s 160 mph winds decimated the island, stripping vegetation, flattening homes, and crippling infrastructure. The devastation was catastrophic: 31 lives lost, thousands homeless, and damages amounting to USD $1.3 billion dollars – over twice the nation’s GDP. Dominica’s government, under Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, vowed to rebuild as the world’s first climate-resilient nation, creating the Climate Resilience Execution Agency for Dominica (CREAD) to lead this ambitious mission. This documentary looks at the first few days of having been on the ground after Maria hit and now – seven years later – to find stories of resilience amidst ongoing challenges.