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Cuba Plan of Action: Response to needs arising from Hurricane Sandy - November 2012

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Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern region of Cuba hard. It passed through the country on 25 October, 2012 as a category 2 Hurricane (approaching category 3) in a five hours span. Sustained winds reached 200 km/h as Sandy lashed Cuba´s second and third most populated provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Holguin, respectively.

340,000 people were evacuated as a preventative measure, of whom 300,000 stayed with relatives. With the exception of 1,000 people accommodated in collective centres, these people have now returned to their damaged homes. Despite these preparedness measures, 11 people died and some three million people (27% of the country's inhabitants) are in-directly affected. At least half of these have had their housing, water, and food directly affected. Half of this population is female. More than 226,600 homes were damaged (representing 50% of the inhabitants of the eastern region) and at least 17,000 were destroyed - the majority in the City of Santiago de Cuba, with a population of close to 500,000 people.

Although the Government of Cuba is responding swiftly and effectively to the hurricane, additional response is needed. The United Nations System, in support of the initial response of the Government, is working closely with local authorities, donors and emergency organizations to support national efforts. UN agencies mobilized $1.5 million in emergency funds, which was complemented by a $1.6 million allocation from the Central Emergency Response Fund from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The urban context of the affected area, with significant losses in housing, food reserves, crops, and storage and production facilities, combined with Santiago de Cuba´s importance as an economic hub for the eastern region and the country, has strained response capacity and leaves a huge impact on the living conditions of affected people.

Given the magnitude of the storm and the resulting devastation, those affected need urgent support to maintain basic health and nutritional standards and to provide adequate shelter/housing conditions. Of particular concern are heightened needs of vulnerable groups, such as women, pregnant women, children under five, as well as elderly people over 65. Immediate assistance is intended to address basic needs, and support start-up of recovery activities, while reducing vulnerabilities by strengthening communities’ resilience to future extreme weather.

Food security is of priority given the magnitude of the losses of food combined with damage to food storage facilities. In addition to large losses in agriculture crops in the eastern region hit directly by the hurricane, subsequent flooding in the central regions compounds food losses.

There is also an urgent need to restore health care services including repair of structures, replacement of medical equipment and restocking of medicines such as antibiotics and supplies. It must be assured that vaccination services are resumed, early warning surveillance, prevention and treatment of potential disease outbreak, provision of maternal health services and sexual and reproductive health are in place. The immediate return of students and teachers to classes requires emergency repairs to damaged schools and replacement of school materials, interventions to provide potable water and sanitation, and construction material to repair roofs.

This Plan of Action is seeking $30.6 million to address the urgent needs of the population affected by Hurricane Sandy. The UNS developed this plan recognizing the priorities of the affected population and was discussed with the Government. The UNS also held discussions with the Red Cross and international NGOs to avoid duplication of efforts. All projects and activities in the Plan of Action have humanitarian aspects that will be implemented during the first six months. Due to the particularities of the impact of this disaster and its urban context, many projects will continue until 18 months, strengthening the transition recovery. This strategy will cover basic immediate needs as well as support the improvement of living conditions of affected people.

This Plan of Action will be revised in one month, when there is a more complete picture of current needs and the evolution of the response.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit