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UN Migration Agency Deploys Experts to Support Islands Affected by Hurricanes Irma, Jose

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IOM staff providing support in Malfety Fort Liberte in the northeast department in Barbuda. © UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

San Jose - IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has deployed a surge team of six experts in shelter and camp management, displacement tracking, and gender-based violence risk reduction to support humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean islands most affected by Hurricanes Irma and Jose. IOM has released around a quarter of a million US dollars from emergency funds for relief in the region.

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Saint Kits and Nevis, Saint Martin, Sint Maarten, and the Turks and Caicos are in need of shelter, hygiene facilities, food and health infrastructure, since the unprecedented hurricane destroyed almost all critical infrastructure in these islands.

In Barbuda, health facilities and ambulances have been destroyed by Hurricane Irma. Medical services are no longer available, and a staggering 99 per cent of the island’s building structures, especially roofs, were visibly damaged. About 90 per cent of electricity infrastructure, including telephone lines, were also damaged. Initial assessments revealed that about USD 200 million is required to rebuild damaged or destroyed building structures.

“The building that houses all the records of the people of Barbuda was completely destroyed. The records are on the parapet being battered by the weather right now,” reported Kurt Kerret, one of the IOM experts deployed to the islands.

In Anguilla, 90 per cent of electricity infrastructure and government buildings have been substantially damaged, and critical government functions, such as police stations and the National Emergency Operations Centre, have been temporarily affected.

In coordination with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), IOM surge teams have been deployed to the region to conduct initial assessments and coordinate rapid response.

Based in the coordination hubs in Barbados, Antigua and Panama, experts of the surge team have begun assessments in other affected islands as identified by the CDEMA and the UNDAC/OCHA, such as Antigua and Barbuda, while other deployments are being coordinated.

IOM has recently begun to pre-position contingency stocks in Panama – making it the third location of its global warehouses. Existing stocks will be dispatched as soon as specific needs are identified in the affected locations. In addition, over 500 shelter box tents, 500 toolkits, and 5,000 hygiene kits are pre-positioned in Haiti and can be moved in response to needs.

In Haiti, Hurricane Irma was not as destructive, but significantly impacted the northern part of the country with heavy rains and winds that caused severe flooding and the consequent agricultural losses. IOM’s Protection Team evacuated 72 children from an orphanage at risk of flooding in collaboration with the Cap-Haitian Advancement Acton Committee (CAPAC) and the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR). Pre-positioned leaflets and bracelets with information on the free hotline were made available on the ground to advise and refer suspected cases of human trafficking and smuggling.

“An enormous effort and a huge logistical endeavor are going to be needed in the Eastern Caribbean area and sub-Bahamian region to cope with the basic needs of the thousands of islanders battered by the hurricanes. An even bigger struggle will be necessary for long-term reconstruction,” said Nuno Nunes, head of the IOM surge team deployed in the area.

For more information please contact

Jorge Gallo at IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Email: jgallo@iom.int, Tel: +506 2212 5300