UNDP remembers Sandy victims

29 Oct 2013

image in Haiti, the storm intensified the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. UN photo: Marco Dormino

On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in the United States, UN officials are reminding the public not to forget the storm’s less documented Caribbean victims.

Commemoration ceremonies will take place around the northeast USA today, particularly in New York, where Hurricane Sandy caused over US$ 18 billion worth of damage to the city. Sandy’s anniversary is heavily featured on local media. 

A recent editorial, written by Heraldo Muñoz, Director of United Nations Development Program (UNDP)  Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, calls on New Yorkers not to forget that the US was indeed the last stop on Sandy’s tour of destruction.

“Sandy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, rumbled across the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other countries before finally reaching the eastern seaboard of the US,” says Heraldo Muñoz in the Aljazeera online editorial.

One year on from the hurricane, UNDP says that recovery efforts from the storm are underway, but some UNDP officials say that the suffering of those in developing Caribbean nations may have been underplayed.

“Because of socio-economic vulnerabilities, people in developing countries are often less prepared for a large event and unfortunately are not as quick to bounce back or recover,” says Jo Scheuer, UNDP Coordinator of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery. “While the mainland US suffered greater losses in terms of total fatalities and the extent of damage, for the Caribbean nations, Cuba and Haiti in particular, the storm was comparatively more expensive – having a much more profound impact on local livelihoods and the GDP,” adding that in Haiti, the storm intensified the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake. 

But like Munoz, Scheuer is quick to point out that efforts to help prepare Caribbean nations for disaster minimized the potential loss caused by the storm. “In Cuba, UNDP support to the government over the years has made that country particularly good at preventing deaths from hurricanes. Over the last 10 years, less Cubans die in the hurricane season than in any neighbouring states. Likewise in Haiti,  earthquake recovery projects set up by the Government and supported by the UN have helped mitigate the impact of storms.”

Projects undertaken in Haiti include disaster- resilient construction for homes, sea walls and flood barriers, as well as short term employment to generate income and rebuild better.