- In September 2017, category 5-hurricanes Irma and Maria caused devastation and extensive breakdown of essential services across several Caribbean countries, leaving at least 1.4 million people - including 357,000 children - in need of assistance. Nearly five months after, most of the affected children are back in school and have restored access to services -including UNICEF -supported water and sanitation services, while approx. 170 children and their families remain in shelters. Nevertheless, continuation of certain programmes is critical to reinforce preparedness and social protection systems across the region, in order to minimize the potential consequences of future emergencies.
- Given the spread and depth of the impact across several islands, the operation and logistics were extremely challenging and costly. Still UNICEF launched an appeal and a response strategy focused on providing immediate relief to affected populations and supporting government counterparts to leverage established partnerships at national and regional levels, and to mobilize global level networks for rapid response.
- Although the Caribbean Hurricanes appeal came to a close at the end of 2017, some activities are still ongoing in 2018 (i.e. cash transfers, distribution of education and WASH supplies). In addition, UNICEF continues implementing regular programming in the affected countries and is reinforcing its support to recovery and preparedness initiatives.
- In ECA, UNICEF will continue to support the implementation of the Caribbean Safe School Programme, as well as working with governments to support the strengthening of social protection systems.
- In Haiti, as part of the emergency response, UNICEF has invested in cholera prevention initiatives in the most affected locations. Additional efforts are needed to ensure sustainability of prevention systems.
- In Cuba, UNICEF is complementing the Government's response supporting the restoration of education activities by providing critical items to affected schools. With the aim of ensuring access to safe water, families hit by the hurricanes also received basic items for water storage and purification.
Situation in numbers
+357,000 children in need of assistance in Cuba, ECA, Haiti and Dominican Republic. +39,000 children in need of assistance in ECA, with 20,000 children affected by Hurricane Maria in Dominica.
In September 2017, category-5 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit several Caribbean countries, causing devastation and breakdown of essential services. First Irma made landfall affecting islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea causing great destruction in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cuba, Saint Martin, Saint Maarten, Saint Barthélemy and Turks and Caicos Islands. Houses and basic infrastructure including health centres, telecommunication, electricity and water systems were heavily damaged. Just a few days later, Hurricane Maria impacted the north-eastern Caribbean, particularly affecting Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos Islands and US Virgin Islands. The overall population of Dominica, one of the poorest countries in the region, suffered direct damage with impacts on housing, livelihoods, safe water supplies and other basic utilities.
Millions of children living in the hurricanes’ path have been affected, thousands were evacuated from their houses and many more lost access to basic services such as safe water and sanitation, education, health, electricity and telecommunications, among others. UNICEF estimated that over 357,000 children living the most impacted communities of Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Haiti, needed humanitarian assistance (see Map 1).
By the end of January 2018, nearly five months after the emergency, the situation in most of the territories is slowly returning to normal, although some sectors remain of concern. In Dominica, the restoration of basic services (i.e. electricity) is progressing slower than in other countries and nearly 500 people remain in shelters. While in Antigua and Barbuda, despite enormous efforts by the Government, most of the Barbuda’s residents remain resettled in Antigua with many uninterested in returning.