The US $2 million Chinese-aid funded Post-Disaster Roof Restoration project to repair 250 house roofs towards recovery of Hurricane Irma devastated Barbuda has allowed hundreds of people to return home to Barbuda, after the entire island was evacuated for the first time due to powerful hurricanes in September 2017.

A Hurricane Irma rebuilding initiative, this is a joint project implemented by the UNDP Subregional Office for Barbados and the OECS with the Government of Antigua & Barbuda (National Office of Disaster Services – NODS) supported by the China Aid program under South-South Cooperation.

A first in the Caribbean region for China Aid, the project exceeded target to repair 250 damaged roofs to strengthened national building code standards, with a total of 302 homes and essential facilities served with roofing materials, during the six-month relief and recovery project completed on 30 June.

“Thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the People’s Republic of China, the project exceeded all targets and expectations – this is a model that can be replicated in other countries – providing significant help, and stronger resilience against future hurricanes,” said Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne at the Closing Ceremony in Codrington, Barbuda.

The Chinese Government made a significant commitment to restore 250 damaged roofs under a Build Back Better Principle and, with government, “UNDP designed the project to procure and transport reroofing materials to Barbuda and provide technical assistance to the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) and building contractors,” said UNDP Resident Representative Barbados & OECS, Mr Stephen O’Malley.

As we drove today, we can see so many more children on the island now,” he commented on the number of families returning to Barbuda and their newly repaired homes, after nine months of living away following evacuation of all 1800 residents when Irma destroyed the tropical island.

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Antigua and Barbuda HE Wang Xianmin was impressed by the speed of the rebuilding which began on his first visit to the Irma-stricken Barbuda in January 2018 – and success of the new trilateral model under South-South Cooperation – with the People’s Republic of China providing the funds for reroofing materials, the government hiring contractors and coordinating repairs, and UNDP implementing the project. “It’s remarkable,” he said.

Authorities during the ceremony highlighted that the initiative provided significant help, and stronger resilience against future hurricanes, to the disaster impacted island.

Official Closing – Chinese Aid Post-Disaster Roofing Restoration project; (centre) Hon. Gaston
Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda; (r) HE Wang Xianmin, Ambassador of the China Embassy
Antigua and Barbuda; (l) UNDP Resident Representative Barbados & OECS, Mr Stephen O’Malley.

A thousand people have now returned to Barbuda, as estimated by Red Cross – over half the population of this small Caribbean island – but an estimated $222 million is still needed to repair the damage, according to national assessments.

It will take time – but Barbuda has made more progress than other islands in the region, we need to be appreciative of the assistance already received from our donor friends,” said Prime Minister Browne.

Today, the landscape has changed for the better – a different story to what I saw a few hours after the hurricane“.

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