$55.8 million required to address the urgent needs of 2,151,080 people severely affected by Hurricane Irma in the 33 most affected municipalities.
Less than a year after the impact of Hurricane Matthew, and in a context of an intense drought, the strongest hurricane ever reported in the Atlantic hit Cuba for more than 72 hours, from September 8th-10th, with 240-250 km/h winds and even stronger gusts, coastal inundation and waves of up to 9 meters.
The diameter of its area of impact was so wide (800 km) that the strong winds and rain covered the greater part of the national territory. Due to its large size and slow movement, several territories were affected for more than 24 hours.
10.5 million people (93.7% of the country’s population) were under the Hurricane Alarm Phase at the same time.
The three phases of the Early Warning System covered the entire national territory, except for the municipality of Isla de la Juventud.
1.7 million people (15.2% of the Cuban population) were evacuated to centers, specially authorized by local governments, and homes of relatives or friends, in compliance with the guidelines of the General Staff of the Cuban Civil Defense System. In spite of the authorities’ prevention efforts and guidance to the population, this powerful hurricane caused the loss of ten human lives as it passed through Cuba.
13 of the country’s 15 provinces, with a population of 9,485,235 people, were directly affected. This brutal hurricane caused severe damage to the living conditions of people in the affected territories.
Initial assessments estimate critical impacts caused by the destructive impact of the hurricane on housing, access to potable water and electric power services, health institutions and educational centers, institutions that store or distribute food, agricultural production and fishing, roads and telecommunications.
Most urgent humanitarian needs
National authorities are conducting assessments in all localities. The United Nations System is in dialogue with national and local authorities in regards to damage and has monitored all public and official sources of information.
Given the magnitude of the disaster, the assessment of damage continues; however, preliminary estimates indicate that between 210,000 and 220,000 homes have been severely affected to date. Accompanying the severe damage to homes, people have also lost necessities like mattresses, kitchen utensils, furniture and hygiene items, among others.
Critical damage to the electric power system, the loss of tanks and water collection systems - in homes and institutions - and damage to hydraulic systems and aqueducts, caused serious limitations in access to safe water and sanitation in these territories. 3.1 million people have experienced an impact on their water supply. This situation is critical, when combined with the drought that had already been affecting the region for four years.
More than 75,000 hectares of land destined for food production were damaged. Pig, poultry and aquaculture facilities were damaged and have limited productive capacities. Activities that constitute an important source of income for the population have been destroyed.
In addition, institutions that facilitate food access or other subsidized products such as institutions for the elderly and social kitchens, have suffered significant damage.
Impacts to institutions that provide health services are severe. It is estimated that about 70% of hospitals and polyclinics in the impacted territories are damaged. There is also a risk of gastrointestinal and water-borne diseases.
About 2,186 schools have been damaged, of which 500 are in the Cuban capital. The resumption of the school year is a high priority for the country and conditions have been created to resume educational activities in most of the territories. Even with these national efforts, there are challenges for the resumption of these activities in some localities.
In addition to access problems due to damage to highways and roads, the accumulation of debris and solid waste is a challenge during the recovery phase. This situation increases the risks of mosquito breeding and consequently mosquitoborne diseases like Dengue and Zika.
In addition, the hurricane severely damaged terrestrial and marine ecosystems, generating environmental imbalances and affecting local sources of income related to nature tourism.
It has severely affected not only basic living conditions, but also current and future sources of income and livelihoods.
Likewise, key sectors such as electric power, tourism, agriculture and the sugar industry have been severely affected. All thermoelectric plants along the northern coast of the country were damaged; the three main tourist areas of the country were severely affected; and food production was lost. These conditions imply serious challenges to the country’s sustainable human development efforts and to recovery itself.