The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) is coordinating with health officials in Dominica to mitigate the impact of Tropical Storm Erika, which struck the island on August 26, causing widespread damage. Erika, the fifth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, dropped nearly 13 inches of rain on the island in a 12-hour period. Landslides and flooding resulted in 11 confirmed deaths, 39 missing, and widespread damages including more than 2,500 homes destroyed. On August 29, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit declared nine "Special Disaster Areas," with Petite Savanne being the most significantly affected.
As of August 31, many roadways on the island remained impassable, a number of bridges were destroyed or unsafe, and many communities remained without electricity or potable water. Communication was intermittent throughout the island. Many health facilities were inoperable due to damages, while the status of other facilities was unknown.
At the time of the storm's landfall, PAHO/WHO had two consultants in the country working on the Smart Hospital Project. They immediately began providing technical support to the Ministry of Health in assessing the structural integrity of the country's main hospital and a number of health centers. On August 29, they were joined by more PAHO/WHO experts on disasters and environmental health who arrived via boat, as both of the island's airports remained closed due to damages. The PAHO/WHO team also brought medical supplies and water purification tablets donated by Saint Lucia and Barbados.
In coordination with the Ministry of Health, PAHO/WHO experts are now seeking to reach the worst-hit areas via helicopter or boat to assess damages at the Grand Bay Health Centre in Petite Savanne and in other health facilities and hospitals throughout the island. PAHO/WHO is also working to ensure that people with injuries are airlifted to Dominica's main hospital, which remains fully functional, and to ensure that people with chronic diseases continue to have access to their required medications. In the coming days, PAHO/WHO will also support the ministry's environmental health team to ensure effective vector and rodent control to minimize the risk of disease.