It was November 2017 and I had spent another hectic and eventful day working on the world’s most severe humanitarian crises as UNDP’s Early Recovery Programme Coordinator in north-east Nigeria. I had just returned to the Humanitarian Base Camp in Maiduguri when I received the phone call to enquire if I would be interested in a post in the Caribbean in response to Hurricane Irma. My immediate response was no, not now. Because I was neck-deep in preparations for the simultaneous launch of four large, long-term recovery projects. But with some prodding I agreed to share an updated CV. Two months later, I arrived in cosy Antigua (the bigger of the two sister islands of Antigua and Barbuda) on a bright sunny afternoon in January 2018.
Two days into my new appointment, I began to experience first-hand the fact that the significance of any crisis response lies in a combination of factors, including but not limited to the size of the population in need. The complexity of the response is a key factor in these regards. And I soon appreciated the fact that what Antigua and Barbuda lacks in population it more than makes up for in complexity.
The hurricane response called for the establishment of a permanent UNDP presence in Antigua and Barbuda, with continued support from the sub-regional office in Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States . As a result, the pioneer UNDP team, which I led in the first six months, comprised of 12 persons half of whom were nationals of Antigua and Barbuda. With the US$2 million China-backed signature-project that UNDP co-led with the Government, this very committed team of men and women remained focused despite the never-ending stream of difficulties we encountered, especially in the very early stages.