Havana/Panama, 25 September 2017 A massive consignment of Red Cross aid arrived in Cuba over the weekend, bringing much needed support to thousands of people who lost their homes and livelihoods to Hurricane Irma.

The consignment comprises 33 tons of hygiene kits, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, tool kits, buckets, jerry cans, mosquito nets and aquatab tablets. It flew from the Red Cross’ logistics hub in Panama on a cargo plane provided by the global logistics company, UPS.

Irma struck Cuba on 8 September as a Category 5 hurricane, bringing days of destructive winds and torrential rains. It is estimated that the hurricane destroyed or damaged 215,000 homes, affecting more than 5 million people and leaving hundreds of thousands in need of humanitarian assistance.

Irma caused massive destruction across the whole Caribbean. The island of Cuba had not seen a category-5 hurricane for many years. However, due to their advanced National System of Civil Defence they were prepared to coordinate efforts, minimize the loss of human lives and begin an immediate recovery process,” says Ines Brill, who coordinates support for Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

From the very beginning the Cuban Red Cross deployed volunteers to provide assistance to people being evacuated. There are more than 11,000 volunteers helping in the field, supporting damage evaluations, providing first aid assistance and psychosocial support, and supporting clean-up and debris clearing activities. The solidarity and engagement of the Cuban people has been remarkable,” Ms Brill says.

A major priority is re-establishing access to clean water and sanitation. Heavy seas, damage to sanitation facilities and flooded rivers have contaminated water tanks along Cuba’s east coast. Additional needs include the restoration of electricity, and the provision of items such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, water filters, buckets, hygiene kits and roofing materials.

IFRC has launched an emergency appeal for just under 7.1 million Swiss francs to provide assistance in shelter, water and sanitation, psychosocial support, and restoring family links. The Red Cross operation will focus on 25,000 people in provinces devastated by Irma: Matanzas, Villa Clara, Las Tunas, La Habana, Holguin, Ciego de Avila and Camagüey.

The Cuban Red Cross is coordinating its relief efforts with the Cuban government and is carrying out assessments to understand the extent of the damage and the humanitarian needs of the affected population.

“We have been working with State organizations and the initial reports predicted the effects of Irma would be catastrophic. Now we are deploying more volunteers in the affected areas to be able to conduct accurate needs assessments in the communities and make sure the affected families get the help they need,” says Luis Foyo, Cuban Red Cross Executive President. “We know recovery will take time and effort, but thanks to the lessons learnt from other experiences such as hurricane Sandy, the Cuban Red Cross is prepared to put its experience and community-based capacity at work to carry out reconstruction activities,” Mr Foyo says.

To download the full emergency appeal:

http://www.ifrc.org/docs/Appeals/17/MDRCU004ea.pdf

For updated information on the IFRC response to Hurricane Irma: http://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/what-we-do/disaster-and-crisis-management/hurricane-irma/

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In Panama
Diana Medina
+507 6780-5395
diana.medina@ifrc.org

In Geneva
Matthew Cochrane
+41 79 251 80 39
matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org

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