Three months after the destructive hurricane Irma, the traces left on the northern coast of Cuba are still being felt in the affected provinces, where the basic conditions and livelihood of millions of people were affected.
Authorities have acted quickly by putting all available resources to meet immediate needs and recovery. The effects are so severe and widespread that it is urgent to continue accompanying these efforts in the affected communities.
It is essential and urgent to support the reactivation of the livelihood of affected people and to strengthen their resilience, with durable solutions adapted to the effects of climate change, to reduce vulnerabilities.
The United Nations System in Cuba, with the support of members of the international community, is accompanying national and local efforts. It is necessary to continue allocating funds for the recovery and satisfaction of the needs of the most affected people and territories.
When Cuba was facing the effects of a severe drought and was recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which hit the east of the country on October 2016, Hurricane Irma severely impacted much of the national territory.
In the wake of the hurricane, 158,554 affected homes were reported (14,657 total collapse and 16,646 partial collapse; in addition, 23,560 suffered total roof losses and 103,691 had partial damage to the roof); 980 health institutions and 2,264 schools were affected; 466 poultry farms and 95,000 hectares of various crops were hit by Hurricane Irma; 246,707 telephone services and 1,471 data services and 537 kilometers of roads were damaged. With the total collapse of the National Electric Generation System, in the initial stage some 3,100,000 people had problems with water supply. Total Damages caused by the hurricane reached 13.6 billion pesos.
After three months of Hurricane Irma hit the north of Cuba, the attention to the affected populations and the recovery remain as priorities. Along with the reestablishment of basic services such as water supply, health, education and sanitation as well as work to promote the recovery of housing and food production, national and local authorities had to address the severe damage in key sectors of the economy, such as tourism, industry, electrical generation and roads.
The country has made considerable material and financial resources available for recovery, in addition to the transfer of specialized forces to the areas with the greatest impact.
However, the damage has been so serious and so widespread in the national territory that it is imperative to continue accompanying the national efforts in the most affected territories.
The frequent rain that has fallen since September in a large part of the affected territories, has made recovery efforts more complex.
In the affected provinces, national and local authorities continue to provide assistance to the affected population, with priority for those who have lost their homes completely. However, in the face of considerable loss of goods and livelihood, additional support is required to reach families with some needs not covered yet.
In that sense, as a consequence of severe damages, the families that have completely lost their homes are kept in family homes and in evacuation centers.
The authorities have implemented multiple measures such as subsidies for building materials for people whose homes were totally or partially destroyed. Loans with low interest rates and in 15 year terms of, have been destined to the purchase of materials and goods. The housing situation is complex given the accumulated housing deficit in the country, of about 880,000 homes.
Considering the seriousness of the damage to the housing sector, the completion of homes with partial and total affectations of roofs is scheduled for 2018 in some territories, and for 2019 in the rest. The authorities suggest that the new buildings should take into account the effects of climate change, such as high intensity hurricanes, severe droughts, sea level rise and coastal penetrations.
The combination of the drought that had affected the region for four years, loss of water storage capacity in homes and institutions and the rain that has occurred after the hurricane in September, increases the proliferation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the risk of diseases transmitted by vectors for the populations of the affected territories.
In the damaged areas, where the agricultural sector produces a considerable part of the food consumed in the central and western parts of the country, it is expected that the recovery of some long-cycle crops will occur by mid-2018, which limits the availability of foods. Rainfall also hinders planting. Due to damage to the infrastructure, work is being done to repair facilities used for storage and distribution of food.
Although the medical attention has been provided uninterruptedly, the severe damages in the facilities of the health sector, important hospitals among them, require the continuation of actions for their complete recovery.
With national and local efforts in the affected territories, progress has been made in the revitalization of part of the damaged educational centers and work is being done on the rehabilitation of the rest, in order to guarantee the return of students to safe educational spaces.
The reactivation of livelihood continues to be essential and urgent to empower affected people and strengthen their resilience.