UN agencies hurry relief preparations as deadly Hurricane Ivan crosses Caribbean
UN spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters today that a five-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team is being set up in Jamaica, one of the countries expected to bear the brunt of Hurricane Ivan as it heads west and then north across the Caribbean region in the direction of the south-eastern United States.
Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) have placed four emergency kits in the south of Haiti, another country lying in the path of the storm. Each kit is designed to cover the basic needs for 10,000 people, and can include items such as medical equipment and water purification tablets.
UN officials operating in the neighbouring Dominican Republic have also held meetings to coordinate their response in case the hurricane strikes there.
A report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) indicates that Hurricane Ivan has already damaged buildings or forced people to move into temporary shelters in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Media reports say Hurricane Ivan has caused the greatest devastation in Grenada, with at least nine people killed, countless homes and buildings destroyed and thousands of people without access to electricity, water or telephone services.
Storm warnings are also in place for Colombia, Venezuela, the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Cuba.
OCHA assists in emergency relief only when requested by countries, and many nations in the Caribbean region have their own emergency response plans and structures in place because of the frequency of the hurricane threat there.
It has been a busy hurricane season in the Caribbean, where the worst storms tend to strike between June and November every year. Hurricane Frances hit the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the US last week, while Hurricane Charley struck Cuba and the US last month. Both storms were deadly.