(New York, 12 July): Hurricane Dennis, which struck Haiti on 7 July, and Cuba from 7 to 9 July, as a category IV hurricane, has killed at least eleven in Haiti, and ten in Cuba. The storm, which caused flooding and heavy rains in Haiti, devastated some 600 kilometres of territory in 11 Cuban provinces, affecting 8 million out of the country's total population of 11.1 million, and prompting the evacuation of more than 1.5 million from the hardest hit areas. In Haiti, where some 15,000 were affected by Dennis, more than 1000 individuals were successfully evacuated to temporary shelter. Earlier in the week, the storm also hit Jamaica, where it prompted significant flooding and some landslides, and caused at least one death.
In the wake of Hurricane Dennis, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released $50,000 for emergency response coordination and the purchase of relief items for Cuba. The office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Cuba has established a coordination and information mechanism, and has held several meetings with UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, cooperation agencies and foreign embassies.
OCHA remains in close contact with the Resident Coordinators in both Cuba and Haiti, and several UN agencies, as well as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) have participated in the Rapid Evaluation Unit and continue to monitor the situation in that country. As Dennis moved across the Caribbean, UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams remained on standby, ready to deploy if necessary.
In June, the countries of the Caribbean held a regional workshop to discuss preparations and to plan a group regional strategy ahead of the 2005 hurricane season. Attending that meeting, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, stressed that, in the short-term, his office would focus on training experts for deployment in the most-affected countries before the arrival of a hurricane, in order to improve disaster response. "We cannot prevent hurricanes, but we know when and where they will hit, and can send experts to work with national authorities even before they hit," he noted.
Upon his return from the conference, Mr. Egeland also announced a longer-term initiative. OCHA, in partnership with the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and the United Nations Development Programme, is to establish a regional office in Panama to assist countries to become more resilient to natural disasters.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.