Cuba: Hurricane Irma - Emergency Appeal Operations Update No. 6 (MDRCU004)



Description of the disaster

Hurricane Irma impacted the country from 8 to 10 September 2017.
Reports indicated that Hurricane Irma’s strong winds, heavy rainfall and the resulting coastal flooding affected 158,554 houses (14,657 destroyed, 16,646 partially damaged, 23,560 homes lost their roofs and 103,691 homes suffered damage to their roof); additionally, the hurricane damaged approximately 980 health institutions, 2,264 educational centres, 466 poultry farms and 95,000 hectares of various crops. Hurricane Irma also impacted telecommunication systems (246,707 fixed telephony service and 1,471 data points) and 537 km of roads. At the onset of the emergency, at least 3,100,000 people were without electricity and water. Total damages caused by Hurricane Irma amounted to 13.5 billion Cuban pesos (CHF 500,772,288).

Summary of current response

Overview of Host National Society

At the beginning of the operation, the Cuban Red Cross (CRC) activated 12,182 volunteers. Currently, approximately 1,600 volunteers remain active; these volunteers have carried out the distribution of non-food items (NFIs), sanitation activities, epidemic control, coordination with national, provincial and municipal authorities, monitoring of the delivery and proper use of the donations and training workshops.

The staff involved in the emergency operation is working in the seven provinces affected by Hurricane Irma: Holguín,
Ciego de Ávila, Las tunas, Camagüey, Villa Clara, Matanzas and La Habana.
The CRC, through its role as an auxiliary to the public authorities, continue to coordinate the following humanitarian assistance activities with the provincial, municipal and community entities since Hurricane Irma struck the island:

• Joint needs identification in the communities and with the people affected by Hurricane Irma.

• Coordination with central government agencies including, provincial and municipal governments.

• Holding of training workshops, in collaboration with the government, on topics such as roof repair and tent assembly.

• Provision of toolkits to government construction brigades.

• Provision of support to the construction brigades building the temporary facilities.

• Hygiene promotion training for affected people.

• Participation and accompaniment in the psychosocial studies on the people affected by Hurricane Irma.

• Logistics for the transport of the aid provided from the port of entry to the final beneficiary

• Permanent revision and update of beneficiaries list according to real time needs.

• Coordination of monitoring visits on behalf of the donors and the IFRC

• Weekly meetings for the revision of the action plan

Temporary working groups and Roofing Brigade System

For the installation of roofs, based on the Hurricane Sandy experience, the CRC conducted a national roof workshop for volunteers and government officials to show how them how to install the roofs. Having into account this acquired experience, in those places where there are more presence of CRC volunteers the process has been more effective and quicker. In those places where there are not enough volunteers of the CRC, it is the local government’s responsibility to develop the strategy for the distribution of the roof kits, tool kits and zinc sheets based on the beneficiary selection; consequently, the local government formed the specialized roofing brigades, all conformed by men, with the participation of local technicians and the community to oversee the installation of roofs in accordance with the instructions given during the workshops, the IFRC guides and the support of shelter specialists and RIT hired during the operation. Up to date, having into account that the emergency phase is not activated by the government anymore, the availability of the government´s roofing brigades is limited, and the installation times have decreased significantly because they are occupied in other government tasks. It also important to mention that during the training sessions at the beginning of the operation the assistants were not the same persons who are installing the roofs, so the transfer of knowledge to the brigades has been slow and not completely accurate. This caused delays in the installation process and in some cases technical rectifications on behalf of the shelter experts that are part of the operation. Furthermore, all this process has led to a very interesting knowledge appropriation and leadership of the final beneficiaries who have learned the importance of a safe roof and in some cases leading the roofing brigades or installing their own roofs.