Supporting Cuba through the drought of the century

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By Hilaire Avril, Regional Information Officer, EU Humanitarian Aid.

Cuba has been fighting one of the toughest droughts in a century for the past three years. Declining and erratic rainfall, increasingly long periods between rainy seasons and dry spells caused by the El Niño phenomenon, have affected more than 50% of the island’s territory. “The frequency and severity of droughts in the Caribbean region have been increasing steadily in the past years, and - like other hazards such as hurricanes; one needs to prepare for and address these recurrent events,” says Virginie André, who coordinates EU Humanitarian Aid programmes for the Caribbean.

The situation has a direct impact on the water level of the dams - throughout the country dam levels are below 50% of capacity. Although a staggering 141 of Cuba’s 168 municipalities have been affected, Central and Eastern Cuba have been hit particularly hard.

“More than 1 million Cubans have been affected,” Virginie explains.

Even the land is parched: 75% of Cuba’s soils are dry which means that crop growth and agricultural production is limited. The lack of water is persistent throughout the nation and the country's efforts to mitigate the effects of this phenomenon focus on saving - and investing - in order to ensure an adequate supply to people and crops.

But proper disaster risk management requires intervention prior to a disaster (prevention), during the impact itself (response) as well as after the event.

This is why the EU is funding a €600 000 drought resilience initiative through two projects implemented by partners the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Movimiento por la Paz (MPDL) to strengthen preparedness, early warning, response and adaptation as well as to build up the technical capacity of meteorological and hydrological networks.

“We aim to bring assistance to those who need it most, but also to prevent the worst impacts of future droughts by reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening the resilience of municipalities and local authorities in Cuba’s eastern provinces,” says Virginie André. This includes sustainable community access to water in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods of Santiago de Cuba (Cuba’s second largest city after Havana, the capital), for 69 300 residents.

The project addresses priorities identified in consultation with national and local authorities, with the support of all institutions, based on risk assessments carried out at local levels.

“EU support has been focused on adapting measures to the current drought and helping communities to prepare for the next drought, before it hits the country again, as we can unfortunately expect,” Virginie concludes.

To learn more about resilience and disaster risk management, register for the World Reconstruction Conference which takes place in Brussels on 6-8th June. For more details click here.

Last updated 22/05/2017