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Twenty vulnerable families in Barbuda were yesterday handed keys to newly repaired or rebuilt homes under a European Union-funded project.

Five of the houses required major repairs while 15 new homes were built to replace some destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

The milestone represents the completion of the first phase of the project led by the government and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). A bidding process is currently underway for the second phase which aims to rebuild up to 130 more houses.

Mother-of-four Akuwaah Benjamin was among the happy recipients.

“I’m so grateful for what they have done for us; I know a lot of people were living in tents and trying to get back on their feet,” she said.

Some of the beneficiaries had been forced to live in tents after the September 2017 disaster devastated their homes. Others were displaced to Antigua or sought shelter with family in Barbuda.

The category five hurricane damaged 95 per cent of homes on the sister isle and left around 44 percent uninhabitable.

Speaking at Friday’s handover ceremony, Minister for Barbuda Affairs Samantha Marshall said, “Our government has worked tirelessly to reenergise Barbuda and make its development rapid and sustainable.”

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said, “I want to give thanks to the EU for the five million euros they have made available to rebuild homes in Barbuda.”

And the UNDP’s head of office in Antigua and Barbuda, Mellissa Johnson told those assembled, “We know how much Hurricane Irma impacted your lives and those of your friends and family in Barbuda and we are pleased to be able to aid with the rebuilding of your homes.”

EU Ambassador, Daniela Tramacere, expressed her gratitude, adding, “It has not been an easy period for anybody, and the whole world suffers dearly from the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the difficult context, this project has managed to deliver the first houses to their owners and to keep up with the expectations of both the Barbudans and of the European citizens who contributed to it.”

Using the ‘build back better’ approach, in compliance with the 2015 OECS building code, as well as national building guidelines, the homes are designed to better withstand future storms.

Recipients were chosen using strict vulnerability criteria by a specially selected committee on which the UNDP plays an advisory role.

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