Remembering Sandy’s many victims

09 Nov 2012

 Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Nicaro, Mayarí municipality, Cuba. UN Photo/UNDP/AIN FOTO/Juan Pablo Carreras

Hurricane Sandy, which caused mayhem when it made landfall here on 29 October, killed over 110 people in the United States. The cost of damage has been estimated at over US$ 50 billion in the US and the lives of millions of those in New York, where I live, have been disrupted.

North America however, was in fact the last of many stops on Sandy's tour of destruction. Sandy was one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record. The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and many other countries have suffered terrible losses.

In Haiti, which has yet to fully recover from the 2010 earthquake, more than 54 people were killed and over 200,000 are now homeless. Health workers are scrambling to ensure that the storm damage does not hasten the spread of infectious diseases, including cholera. In Cuba, nearly a million people have been directly affected; the roofs of more than 43,000 homes have been ripped off by the high winds; at least 375 health centres and 2,100 schools have been damaged and many roads and bridges are impassable. Some 30,000 people have been displaced in the Dominican Republic.

Here in the New York/New Jersey area, there is much to rebuild. For those that have lost their homes, recovery will be a long process. All would agree that even one death or one home destroyed is one too many, but in the United Stated, the death toll could have been far higher, if not for timely official warnings, evacuations and skilled emergency workers.

In countries as diverse as Armenia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal, UNDP has proven that mitigating disasters and preparing for recovery pays for itself by protecting investment and development gains.

A conservative estimate is that globally, on average, every dollar spent on disaster preparedness saves seven dollars in losses and humanitarian response. It is estimated that the cost of protecting New York from future storms would be about US$ 10 – 17 billion. This is less than the estimated economic impact of the damage from Sandy to New York alone.

Around the world UNDP has helped prevent flooding and erosion; created early warning systems, and put in place recovery plans. But for preparedness and recovery to succeed; concerted and timely action is required before disaster hits. This requires that politicians lead and not block action; that the public holds their leaders accountable to deliver; and that sufficient funds are allocated to support necessary and timely efforts that can save lives and property.

Talk to us: How has Sandy affected your community?