In September 2017, category 5-hurricanes Irma and Maria caused devastation and extensive breakdown of essential services across several Caribbean countries, leaving at least 1.4 million people - including 357,000 children - in need of assistance.
Nearly six months after, most of the affected children are back in school and have restored access to services -including UNICEF -supported water and sanitation services, while approx. 170 children and their families remain in shelters. Nevertheless, continuation of certain programmes is critical to reinforce preparedness and social protection systems across the region, in order to minimize the potential consequences of future emergencies.
Given the spread and depth of the impact across several islands, the operation and logistics were extremely challenging and costly. Still UNICEF launched an appeal and a response strategy focused on providing immediate relief to affected populations and supporting government counterparts to leverage established partnerships at national and regional levels, and to mobilize global level networks for rapid response.
Although the Caribbean Hurricanes appeal came to a close at the end of 2017, some activities are still ongoing in 2018 (i.e. cash transfers, distribution of education and WASH supplies). In addition, UNICEF continues implementing regular programming in the affected countries and is reinforcing its support to recovery and preparedness initiatives.
In ECA, UNICEF will continue to support the implementation of the Caribbean Safe School Programme, as well as working with governments to support the strengthening of social protection systems.
In Haiti, as part of the emergency response, UNICEF has invested in cholera prevention initiatives in the most affected locations. Additional efforts are needed to ensure sustainability of prevention systems.
In Cuba, UNICEF supported the Government’s response to resume education activities by providing critical classroom, early childhood and recreation items to affected schools. With the aim of ensuring access to safe water, families hit by the hurricanes also received basic items for water storage and purification. UNICEF is currently supporting the Ministry of Education to recuperate damaged and collapsed school structures.