The people of eastern Cuba face devastation from Hurricane Irma, the first category 5 hurricane to hit Cuban territory since 1932.
Oxfam is actively engaging with Cuban authorities and local partner organisations to support a possible response, having previously worked together to develop one of the most effective disaster prevention and response systems in the Caribbean.
In the provinces at risk from Irma, ranging from Guantanamo, at the eastern end of the island, to the capital, Havana in the west, families have been guaranteed basic access to food and evacuation centres.
In Baracoa, a city hit by Matthew less than a year ago, there were intense rains and the coastline was eroded by the sea. Impacts on agriculture are significant and are currently being assessed. Las Tunas was hit by strong winds and persistent, intense rains.
Camaguey was also affected - in particular the municipality of Nuevitas. Many banana and plantain plantations were reportedly destroyed. People in Havana experienced flooding, strong winds and loss of power.
According to UN figures, more than 1,130,000 people – 10 per cent of the Cuban population – are seeking refuge in shelters, homes of neighbours and relatives, and even in caves, where officials are taking steps to ensure safety. This figure may increase in the coming hours.
Oxfam has worked in Cuba for the past 25 years and responded to hurricanes Sandy and Matthew in 2012. Oxfam’s ongoing work in this Caribbean nation allows the agency, together with local partners and governments, includes the support of long-term recovery efforts and disaster risk reduction. Oxfam's main activities on the island are in Eastern Cuba, a region vulnerable to strong hurricanes that is experiencing one of the worst droughts in the last 115 years.
Oxfam is on the ground preparing to respond. Donations to Oxfam’s Hurricane Irma appeal can be made online at oxfam.org.nz/irma or by calling 0800 600 700.
-ends- Notes to Editors:
Oxfam's country director in Cuba, Jerome Faure, is available for interviews
Oxfam has been able to maximise its support to the affected communities thanks to the support of organizations such as the Cuban Civil Defence, the Red Cross, the Federation of Cuban Women and local governments. Several donors have also assisted in this effort: European cooperation and countries such as Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain.
In terms of material damage, hurricanes Sandy (2012) and Matthew (2016) are considered - after Ike (2008) - the most devastating cyclones of the last 11 years in Cuba.
Since the passage of hurricanes Sandy and Matthew, Oxfam's humanitarian response in Cuba has allowed more than 5,000 people to benefit from totally and partially rehabilitated roofs with a management and risk reduction approach. More than 8000 basic kits (hygiene, cooking) and more than 7,000 water tanks have been distributed.
Oxfam in Cuba has also contributed to the civil defence system by installing 31 risk management and reduction centres and 97 early warning points. Additionally, the organisation has contributed to five seismological stations, nine agro-meteorological stations and nine accelerographs within the system of early warning.