A month after Hurricane Irma struck the Caribbean, humanitarian efforts across all islands are still responding to the devastation. However, more efforts are required to help the countries’ transition to long-term recovery. This revised version of the Regional Response Plan (launched on 15 September 2017) is based on updates from completed assessments and the most recent information.
The three-month Regional Response Plan (September to December) covers the needs of the most vulnerable populations affected. The Plan was developed with the support of national and regional disaster management entities, in particular the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). One month after the launch of this Plan, humanitarian actors still require a total of $18.5 million to address the most urgent needs of up to an estimated 265,000 affected people.
Through the activities included in this Plan, humanitarian entities are supporting the regional effort to respond to the needs such as reestablishing health and education services, ensuring access to safe water and sanitation, outbreak prevention and control, providing shelter and coordination services.
The Plan focuses on the most impacted nations, territories and states of the Caribbean. However, while Haiti did not receive the full brunt of the hurricane, additional humanitarian needs have been identified which will need to be covered through the current Humanitarian Response Plan for Haiti, for which funding is still needed. For Cuba a specific Action Plan was developed given the devastation wrought there. On 29 September, a separate Flash Appeal was issued for Dominica to respond to needs caused by Hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded over the Atlantic, left a path of devastation and extensive breakdown of essential services in the Caribbean region. A Category 5 hurricane as of 5 September, Irma wrought havoc on many of the Caribbean islands with maximum sustained winds of 296 km/h bringing heavy rains and causing deadly waves. Those winds lasted for 37 hours, making Irma the longest lived storm of that intensity anywhere around the globe for at least the past 50 years, according to the United Kingdom Met Office.
The most severely affected islands include Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Turks and Caicos. Severe damage to housing, infrastructure, basic services such as health centres, telecommunication, electricity, water, sewage and waste systems, and agricultural land was reported.
In Sint Maarteen, 92% of buildings were damaged and in British Virgin Islands 60% of health structures were affected. In Anguilla, all six primary schools were badly damaged. 1,423 people were evacuated from Barbuda to Antigua and 1,000 people were evacuated to Bahamas from Acklins, Crooked Island, Inagua, Mayguana and Ragged Island. In Turks and Caicos Islands, more than 6,570 people were vulnerable and required protection.
One month after the Hurricane struck the Caribbean, national authorities now lead coordination efforts following the initial coordination supported by CDEMA with regional partners, who also deployed teams on the ground to assist Governments in humanitarian response efforts.
On 7 October, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, visited Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria. “I’ve just witnessed a level of devastation that I’ve never seen in my life,” Guterres said. He sought to assess what more the United Nations can do to help the countries recover.
Rebuilding the affected countries and making them resilient for the next storm are of the main challenges as regional humanitarian partners continue to assist the population.
This Hurricane Irma Regional Response Plan reflects the complementary approach of international humanitarian actors and the priority requirements identified together with national and regional counterparts to ensure that life-saving and early recovery assistance is provided to populations whose coping mechanisms are affected and need to be restored as possible.