TORONTO, September 26, 2017 – UNICEF Canada and UNICEF Canada Ambassador Karina LeBlanc have launched an urgent appeal to help the devastated island of Dominica in the wake of Hurricane Maria. With water supply currently out for more than 90 per cent of the island, and electricity down, more than 20,000 children are at risk and in urgent need of support.
“Dominica is my home, and right now her heart is breaking,” said LeBlanc, a two-time Olympian and Bronze Medalist with Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team. “The situation there is just devastating. People’s homes have been destroyed. Electricity and clean water are nonexistent. Security is deteriorating. The situation is already awful, but it’s now becoming potentially catastrophic.”
Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that impacted Dominica on September 18, has left the island all but decimated. Ninety per cent of properties were significantly damaged leaving children and their families with nowhere to turn. Nine shelters are struggling to keep up with the demand. Curfew is in effect during hours of darkness to try to limit the rapidly declining security situation and increasing incidents of looting by armed groups.
LeBlanc, born to parents who moved from the small Caribbean island to Canada to give her the chance at a life with more opportunities, went back to Dominica in 2015 to visit UNICEF projects and host a soccer clinic for kids as part of her role as a UNICEF Canada Ambassador.
“There are tens of thousands of children in Dominica who have dreams just like I did, to do great things in the world and to help others. Those dreams are now in jeopardy,” said LeBlanc. “UNICEF is already on the ground helping to respond, but they need more support to reach every child before it’s too late.”
UNICEF has stepped up its efforts to support children in Dominica following the hurricane, pre-positioning emergency supplies like water purification tablets, family hygiene kits and oral rehydration salts, and coordinating distribution with national authorities to the most affected communities. UNICEF also collaborated on radio announcements around health, child protection and water and sanitation, and mobilized trained facilitators to provide psychosocial activities for the most vulnerable children.
“It is very hard to get official information from the island because the situation is so bad,” said David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. “But what we do know with certainty is that this is a humanitarian emergency of tragic proportions. UNICEF is working with our national partners to conduct rapid assessments and provide basic protection and supplies to children at risk, but the need is far outpacing our capacity.”
To donate to the Hurricane Maria Relief Fund in Dominica, visit www.unicef.ca/dominica.