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Interview: Hurricane-hit Caribbean nations can build back better, says UN development official

Mere mention of the Caribbean conjures up images of pristine waters, beautiful beaches and fun in the sun. However, the images emanating from the region over the past couple of months have painted a very different picture.

“A paradise turned into hell,” was how United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described Barbuda earlier this month after visiting the island that was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. During a two-day visit to the Caribbean, he also witnessed the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria on the small island nation of Dominica.

Mr. Guterres was accompanied by Stephen O’Malley, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

The biggest challenge is that the storms are getting stronger. And that seems to be the consensus of scientists, that these storms are going to get stronger

Stephen O'Mally
UN Resident Coordinator, Barbados & East Caribbean" icon="icon" avatar ="

“People want to live here for very good reason – they’re beautiful islands, it’s where people have lived for centuries, their families have lived here for centuries,” Mr. O’Malley said in an interview with UN News on the side lines of the Secretary-General’s visit. “So how do you make sure that you use the right techniques to keep yourself as safe, and your country as safe, as possible?”

Mr. O’Malley, whose remit includes Barbados and nine other countries in the region, describes what it was like for him to see the aftermath for the first time, what the priority needs are, and what countries can do to mitigate the risks as well as build back better following such disasters.

[ read the interview ] 

 

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United Nations in the Caribbean joint statement on support for Irma victims

United Nations in the Caribbean

Press Release

For immediate release
Date:
 06 September, 2017
United Nations Deploying Aid and Personnel to Irma-affected Caribbean territories

Bridgetown, Barbados – September 6, 2017: The United Nations System is deploying staff and assistance to meet the needs of vulnerable Caribbean citizens in the path of record-breaking Hurricane Irma. Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have unique economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities that are exacerbated in severe natural crises.

“Hurricane Irma is an unprecedented threat to the Caribbean. The United Nations is working closely with the CDEMA-led Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) and the affected countries to bring assistance to those most in need.  We are saddened by the reports of lives lost, and of people made homeless by this storm,” stressed Mr. Stephen O’Malley, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the OECS.

Early indications are that there has been signficant damage to infrastructure in Sint Maarten, Anguilla, and Barbuda, while information from other islands is still coming in.

Rapid Needs Assessment and Technical Experts

Technical experts drawn from across the Caribbean, regional offices, and the various agency headquarters are deploying to support CDEMA and the affected countries as needed. These include water and sanitation and hygiene experts, engineers, medical doctors, logistics management, nutrition, waste water and child protection and social protection experts. Emergency funding will also be drawn down to respond the needs of those directly affected.

Agency Contributions

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has deployed a four-person UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team comprised of first responders to augment Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency’s (CDEMA) capacity with coordination, needs assessment and information management expertise. UNDAC partners from the International Humanitarian Partnership and MapAction will provide support with logistics, communications and mapping.

UN Women Multi-Country office – Caribbean is partnering with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to provide dignity kits which contain basic health and hygiene products for displaced women and girls, such as soap, underwear, bras and sanitary napkins. UN Women is also able to provide technical and financial support on economic initiatives to get women and their families back on their feet and to address safety and security concerns.

In addition to the Dignity/Hygiene Kits, as requested, UNFPA can support in providing life-saving reproductive health commodities through emergency Reproductive Health Kits. UNFPA would be able also to offer technical guidance on the prevention of Gender-Based Violence and sexual violence in affected communities.

UNDP has activated its crisis preparedness plans and will support countries both during the immediate response to this disaster and in crucial early recovery activities like debris management, emergency employment and supporting core government functions, if asked.

UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Area Office is still working with governments of impacted countries, other United Nations agencies, partner organisations and the regional emergency response mechanism to offer the required assistance and support, but has already pre-positioned emergency supplies in Antigua to be rapidly distributed to the most affected islands. UNICEF’s priority is ensuring the safety and security of children, especially those who are most disadvantaged.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is deploying surge capacity with expertise in water, sanitation, hygiene, health and disaster assessment to support Ministries of Health and enable delivery of essential health services.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Subregional Office for the Caribbean will work with governments of affected states to assess impact on fisheries and agriculture and pave the way for recovery of livelihoods and adequate food and nutrition.

The emergency and disaster response is coordinated by the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management System. Under this umbrella system, the United Nations, donor agencies in the Caribbean including, USAID/OFDA, ECHO, DFID, Global Affairs Canada and others are coordinating their aid in light of the impact of Hurricane Irma and in readiness for the approaching Tropical Storm Jose.

 

 

For further information, please contact:

Sharon Carter-Burke
Communications Analyst
UN Women Multi Country Office - Caribbean
UN House, Marine Gardens
Hastings, Christ Church, Barbados
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: +1 246 467 6000 Ext 6124

Fax:+1 246 437 6596
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UN Secretary-General -Statement on Hurricane Irma

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

on Hurricane Irma




7 September 2017. The Secretary-General is saddened by the reports of immense destruction and loss of life in the Caribbean region since Hurricane Irma made landfall on Antigua and Barbuda on Wednesday.  He extends his condolences to the Governments and people of all the island countries and territories in the region impacted by Hurricane Irma. 


The Secretary-General expresses the United Nations’ solidarity and commends the leadership of the respective Governments for their preparedness and response to the needs of the affected communities. The United Nations system is already working to support national relief efforts.  

Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General
New York, 7 September 2017


 

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One month after Hurricane Matthew, needs in Haiti remain ‘vast,’ UN reports

4 November 2016 – As Haiti struggles to recover from the massive destruction wrought by Hurricane Matthew, which pummelled the tiny island one month ago today, the United Nations warned that while its seems as if “the world has moved on,” Haiti’s needs are vast, exemplified by the nearly 600,000 children being stalked by disease, hunger and malnutrition and in need of assistance.

“One month after the hurricane, life for more than half a million children in Haiti is still far from back to normal,” said Marc Vincent, Haiti Representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a news release. “Too many children are still homeless, hungry, out of school and in danger. We are scaling up our response and are determined to help as many of them as possible as fast as we can.”

UNICEF said there have been at least 1,000 suspected cholera cases among children in the past month. Out of 219 cholera treatment centres in the country, 18 have been damaged in the worst-hit departments of Grand’Anse and South, further complicating efforts to contain the disease.

11 04 2016HealthCentre

The total destruction the Category 4 storm inflicted on crops, food stock and livestock in some of the worst affected areas have left over 800,000 people in need of immediate food assistance and more than 112,000 children at risk of acute malnutrition.

An estimated 50,000 children have been left homeless and are staying in temporary shelters. Another 3,500 children living in institutions need help accessing nutrition, water and sanitation services.

Up to 80 per cent of hospitals and health centres in Grand’Anse have lost their roofs. An additional seven health centres in Grand’Anse, four in South and three in Nippes are no longer operational.

More than 700 schools have been affected and about 86 schools have been used as temporary shelters, causing school disruption for at least 150,000 children.

UNICEF is working with national and other partners to provide basic assistance to the most vulnerable children. They are providing 100,000 people a day with safe water, organizing a cholera vaccination campaign that will be launched next week to immunize up to 900,000 people, and providing cholera prevention kits that contain water purification tablets, soap and oral rehydration salts. Between 100 and 200 kits are distributed every day.

In addition, they are delivering an integrated package of services to prevent and treat malnutrition among children under five as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers living in the hurricane affected areas, replenishing vaccines and restoring the cold chain so that routine immunization can resume in the health centres that are still operational and in mobile clinics, and distributing emergency medical supplies to 18 health centres.

Joint actions also include setting up mobile child friendly spaces where vulnerable children and families can receive psychosocial support, and training 60 volunteers to staff them, and repairing 22 schools and distributing school-in-a-box and early childhood development kits so that children can resume their learning as soon as possible.

UNICEF requires over $23 million through the end of the year to meet children’s humanitarian needs following the hurricane, including for the cholera response. So far, it has received a mere $6 million.

Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters in Geneva that, according to the latest figures from the authorities in Haiti, Matthew has so far caused 546 deaths and left 438 people injured.

He said that needs are vast, especially in the areas of quality water, education, shelter, child protection, health and nutrition. A total of 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and an estimated 40 per cent of them are children. The UN emergency humanitarian appeal for $120 million is far only 33 per cent funded.

Haiti needs support to restore, rebuild health services

Haiti needs support to restore and rebuild its health services at various levels, ranging from cholera treatment centers to community health centers to major hospitals, according to Dr. Jean-Luc Poncelet, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) representative in Haiti.

In the country’s South, “the government faces challenges in restoring health facilities in affected areas and urgent repairs to restore functionality have been identified,” he said.

In Sud Department, 28 per cent of health facilities sustained severe damage and eight per cent are closed, while in Grand’Anse, 43 per cent of health facilities were severely damaged and seven per cent are closed. Of the 74 cholera and acute diarrhea treatment facilities in Haiti, 34 are fully functional, while 40 sustained various levels of damage.

11 04 2016Haiti

Restoring health services to a functional level requires not only fixing structures, but providing electricity and water and sanitation, as well as helping many health workers who themselves have been severely affected by the hurricane’s destruction, according to the Haiti Ministry of Public Health.

“The major needs are to renovate existing health structures with durable repairs, to increase humanitarian assistance to rural areas, and to improve water quality and sanitation,” Mr. Poncelet said.

The latest figures from the Haitian government show that 175,509 Haitians are still living in shelters, while more than 1.4 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

PAHO/WHO teams identified five priority areas of action for the health sector, estimating that $9 million in emergency funding is needed to carry out essential activities.

These priorities are: restoration of health care delivery capacity and access to health services in the most affected areas; increased epidemiological surveillance to support early detection and timely management of disease outbreaks; intensification of vector-control and protective environmental health measures in impacted areas; rapid and effective response to cholera outbreaks in affected communities; and support for efficient coordination of humanitarian assistance and management of information to effectively address the most urgent humanitarian needs.

A vaccination campaign is planned to start Nov. 8, targeting 820,000 people in 16 communes affected by Hurricane Matthew and that have reported cholera cases or deaths. To prevent additional cholera cases, which are likely to increase in the rainy season from now until December, it is also important to advance on water purification, health promotion, and sanitation at the same time.

Bettina Luescher, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the agency has delivered food to 400,000 people, as part of its work to support the Government in its work. The situation is dire on the ground, with huge logistical challenges, but together with its partners WFP has reached people by truck, helicopter and boat.

Some 140,000 people are still displaced and living in temporary shelters. The food situation is worrisome: in areas hit by the hurricane crops have been destroyed, along with livestock and seeds, local markets are running out of food and the prices of imported goods are rising.

The planting season is supposed to happen this month and will be affected, which meant in turn that the next harvest, in the early months of 2017 will be affected. WFP aims to reach 800,000 people. In order to do that, it has appealed for $58 million overall and still needs $40 million urgently.

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UN emergency teams ‘on the ground’ in the Caribbean to help respond to Hurricane Matthew

5 October 2016 – In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean region, United Nations emergency response teams have been deployed to Haiti and Jamaica to coordinate rapid assessments and support disaster response.

According to a statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, though the full extent of the impact remains unclear, the Haitian Government has reported that a number of lives have been lost and at least 350,000 people need immediate assistance.

The statement also noted that the UN is in contact with the authorities across the region and stands ready to assist with response and recovery if required.

Also today at a regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, a UN spokesperson toldjournalists that the entire southern part of the country, including capital Port-au-Prince have been affected and the south-east tip of the island suffered the brunt of the hurricane. A main bridge connecting the capital to the south was also swept away this afternoon cutting off access.

The teams have been deployed from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the ground, they are logistically supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

UNDAC is part of the international emergency response system for acute emergencies. It was created in 1993 to help the UN and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.

Further, in the statement from his office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his solidarity with the people and Governments of Haiti, Cuba and other countries in the hurricane affected region.

It added said that the UN chief lauded the preparedness efforts of the Cuban authorities, media, and civil society to protect people's lives and economic assets.

In Cuba, more than 377,000 people were evacuated, 1,640 metric tonnes of food was pre-positioned in safe areas, and measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure threatened by strong winds, rains, storm surge and floods.

In a separate statement today, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson also expressed deep concern for the people of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean as they struggle to cope with the effects of the hurricane and offered his condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as a result of the storm.

“As a Fijian who has witnessed first hand the power and devastation of such destructive tropical cyclones, I fully empathise with those facing up to the damage,” he said, adding: “The world must stand with the victims at this time as people of goodwill everywhere recognise their suffering and stand ready to offer a helping hand.”

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UN emergency teams ‘on the ground’ in the Caribbean to help respond to Hurricane Matthew

5 October 2016 – In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean region, United Nations emergency response teams have been deployed to Haiti and Jamaica to coordinate rapid assessments and support disaster response.

According to a statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, though the full extent of the impact remains unclear, the Haitian Government has reported that a number of lives have been lost and at least 350,000 people need immediate assistance.

The statement also noted that the UN is in contact with the authorities across the region and stands ready to assist with response and recovery if required.

Also today at a regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, a UN spokesperson toldjournalists that the entire southern part of the country, including capital Port-au-Prince have been affected and the south-east tip of the island suffered the brunt of the hurricane. A main bridge connecting the capital to the south was also swept away this afternoon cutting off access.

The teams have been deployed from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the ground, they are logistically supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

UNDAC is part of the international emergency response system for acute emergencies. It was created in 1993 to help the UN and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.

Further, in the statement from his office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his solidarity with the people and Governments of Haiti, Cuba and other countries in the hurricane affected region.

It added said that the UN chief lauded the preparedness efforts of the Cuban authorities, media, and civil society to protect people's lives and economic assets.

In Cuba, more than 377,000 people were evacuated, 1,640 metric tonnes of food was pre-positioned in safe areas, and measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure threatened by strong winds, rains, storm surge and floods.

In a separate statement today, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson also expressed deep concern for the people of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean as they struggle to cope with the effects of the hurricane and offered his condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as a result of the storm.

“As a Fijian who has witnessed first hand the power and devastation of such destructive tropical cyclones, I fully empathise with those facing up to the damage,” he said, adding: “The world must stand with the victims at this time as people of goodwill everywhere recognise their suffering and stand ready to offer a helping hand.”

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