At the recommendation of the United States Agency for
International Development’s (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART),
Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (JTF-LI) successfully completed its mission in
the eastern Caribbean on October 5th. JTF-LI completed the USAID-led
humanitarian response to hurricanes Irma and Maria in Saint Martin on September
28th, and in Dominica on October 5th.
The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) stood up JTF-LI on September 9th after USAID requested the unique capabilities of the U.S. military to provide logistics support, airfield support, and water desalination services. During its successful mission, JTF-LI flew 55 missions in the Caribbean to deliver aid and response staff, delivered more than 155 metric tons of humanitarian cargo, transported nearly 61 metric tons of equipment, including water desalination units and forklifts, and produced 83,020 gallons of potable water.
“The support from Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands was crucial to help us reach people in need,” said Tim Callaghan, USAID DART leader. As more roads open and aid reaches communities that were inaccessible in the immediate aftermath of the hurricanes, operations supported by the task force have transitioned to host governments, as well as United Nations and nongovernmental agencies.
In Dominica, DART worked with government officials and JTF-LI to deliver the relief items provided by USAID to people in need. This includes delivery of aid and response personnel to the southern town of Grand Bay, which had been isolated due to hurricane-related landslides and bridge damage. “In my 17 years doing this, I’ve never experienced anything like this,” said Callaghan. “The devastation I’ve seen is unprecedented.”
Hurricane Maria blew off the roofs of most of the homes on the island. Between September 25th and October 2nd, members of DART, JTF-LI, and local residents cut rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting into smaller sheets for distribution to more than 2,500 affected families in need. “I’ve worked with U.S. SOUTHCOM on several disaster responses,” said Callaghan. “This strong relationship, built over more than a decade, allowed the USAID disaster team to overcome logistical challenges and helped to turn this response around.”
DART also worked with local residents to conduct trainings on how to properly use the shelter materials to protect their homes. USAID DART and JTF-LI also transported 3,000 feet of replacement water pipes to the town of Grand Bay to help the local water and sewage authority restore services.
USAID DART will continue to lead the U.S. humanitarian response efforts in the Caribbean in coordination with international donors, partners, and host governments. The United States, through USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the U.S. Department of Defense, has provided more than $14.2 million in humanitarian assistance for the responses to hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Flexible and nimble
DART activated its regional response on September 7th, comprising 54 people at its height. Its members rode out three back-to-back hurricanes in the Caribbean (Irma, Jose, and Maria) and responded to the devastation caused by two Category 5 storms. The team has remained flexible and nimble, with members remaining on the ground to respond to changing humanitarian needs.
Disaster experts with OFDA will remain on the ground in the Caribbean to monitor ongoing USAID relief efforts and assess potential gaps, in close coordination with affected governments and USAID partners.