In the Dominican Republic, one vulnerable area for disaster is the Municipio Las Terrenas, where houses are situated by the river. During rainy season, the river bank overflows affecting villagers’ homes, causing loss of life, and damage to property.
UMCOR is working with Fundación Plenitud to develop a preparedness plan to reduce vulnerability to flooding
By David Tereshchuk*
March 17, 2016—With its white sand beaches and choice hotels, Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic is a tourist destination. But as in so many idyllic locations in the developing world, local residents there are burdened by living conditions that are hard to enjoy.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with Fundación Plenitud, a local humanitarian organization, to assist Las Terrenas families who live in poverty and at risk beside the river that bisects the town on the Samaná Peninsula.
During the rainy season, the river often overflows its banks and floods villagers’ homes, causing loss of life and damage to property.
The communities’ “unplanned construction of dwellings on the riverbanks and flood plains puts them at great risk,” said Yovanna Troansky, executive secretary for UMCOR Disaster Risk Reduction. “And it seriously degrades the water quality and reduces the river’s capacity to cope with frequent excess rain.”
Solid human and animal waste in the water and the pools of standing water the floods leave behind present additional health risks, as they heighten the danger from disease-carrying mosquitoes. In Las Terrenas, that can mean dengue fever. It is endemic and locally is known as “break-bone fever,” for the severe pain it induces in sufferers.
UMCOR is working with Fundación Plenitud to develop, with villagers’ participation, an effective community preparedness plan to reduce Las Terrenas’ vulnerability to flooding. Plenitud started as a think-tank for sustainable development and is now dedicated to transforming research into action in impoverished areas.
Vital to the effort in Las Terrenas is the promotion of long-term community activities meant to strengthen residents’ capacity to withstand whatever dangerous weather conditions may bring in the future.
Critical to the whole project is the organization of awareness workshops to share knowledge and skills in better risk-management and prevention of disease. In addition, each neighborhood will form an Early Response Committee.
“We want to help the communities to understand fully the underlying causes of their disaster risks. They can change their history — and in the future avoid disastrous effects and prevent human suffering,” Troansky indicated.
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, will help communities like Las Terrenas avoid the worst effects of hazardous events and conditions.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.