Panama/Geneva, 09 February 2018 Nearly five months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria lashed the island nations of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and Cuba, long and at times uneven recovery efforts are underway to rebuild damaged infrastructure and resume basic services.

The devastation brought on by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is extreme, and the road to recovery for many of these islands is long and uneven,” said Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), following a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, and Dominica. “I see the dedication and endurance of Red Cross staff and volunteers working alongside communities that have lost everything but have started to rebuild their lives from scratch.”

During his visit, Mr Sy met with senior government officials and Red Cross staff and volunteers in the island nations. He stressed the need for urgent investment in programmes designed to strengthen resilience and help communities withstand the impact of future storms.

Investment in recovery is a critical priority to ensure these Caribbean islands are ready and resilient for when the next hurricane hits,” said Mr Sy. “More domestic resources, and stronger coordination between governments and local actors such as Red Cross societies is needed to help people rebuild their lives and jumpstart the national economies,” he said.

In Barbuda, where 95 per cent of the island’s buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Irma, the Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross is working with other humanitarian organizations to rebuild homes, re-establish clean water supplies, hygiene, sanitation and healthcare.

On the island of Dominica, schools and health services have started to reopen, but only 10 per cent of the population has access to electricity and 80 per cent of homes remain damaged. The Dominica Red Cross Society is providing cash, shelter and building materials to affected residents. Access to clean water remains a serious challenge. The Red Cross has distributed more than 600,000 litres of water and has scaled up sanitation and hygiene promotion.

In Cuba, the Red Cross has been working in partnership with the national disaster management committee, to intensify recovery efforts. More than 4,500 Red Cross volunteers are working to restore access to clean water, improve sanitation and rebuild damaged homes.

The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most devastating in history for southern parts of the United States, the Caribbean nations and territories. Hurricanes Irma and Maria–both ‘Category 5’ storms– caused close to US $300 billion in damage.

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