Caribbean countries start to build back better after hurricanes Irma and Maria

Sep 27, 2017

In Barbuda, over 90% of buildings were destroyed, including all government premises. Photo: Ugo Blanco / UNDP

New York Governments in several Caribbean countries are starting to rebuild infrastructures, houses and communities with UNDP’s on the ground support after Hurricane Irma left catastrophic damage in several countries.

After experiencing a few days of delay due to the passage of Hurricane Maria, the Government of Barbuda kicked off debris removal efforts on 21 September, with technical support from UNDP to build back better, as part of a UN-wide humanitarian-development strategy.

UNDP’s expertise includes dealing with hazardous medical waste, as well as environmental aspects, such as recycling and landfill management. Cash-for-work initiatives are to begin shortly to immediately inject needed cash in affected communities.

Over 90 percent of buildings were destroyed, including all government premises. Barbudans are temporarily living in neighbouring Antigua until they can resume their lives back in Barbuda.

In Cuba, as part of the national recovery plan with the Government, UNDP is supporting the recovery of over 215,000 houses severely damaged by Hurricane Irma. The UN-wide recovery plan was presented this week in Havana.

“Hurricane Irma’s impact in Cuba was huge, for several reasons,” explained UNDP Resident Representative a.i. in Cuba Denise Cook in an interview with UN News. “Not only was it very powerful but it also hit the entire country for a long time, around three days. Thirteen of its 15 provinces, particularly in the north, for which tourism is very important, were hit particularly hard.”

Hundreds of thousands of houses were severely damaged. Some collapsed, other lost their roofs. This caused nearly two million people to be evacuated, spending three long days in a situation of ‘alarm’, according to Cook. She explained that thousands of people were evacuated but unfortunately 10 passed away, which is a very high number for Cuba, considering its vast experience in hurricane preparedness.

In addition to the housing sector there has been great damage to water systems, electric infrastructure and the agricultural sector across the country. Schools were also severely damaged.

UNDP’s support to help Cubans build back better, as part of the UN-wide humanitarian-development plan, includes boosting micro industries of construction material to help recover hundreds of thousands of houses, UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative Soledad Bauza told UN News.

“We are also supporting the country to enhance its early warning systems,” Bauza added, considering that the Caribbean countries are all exposed to hurricanes every year.

UNDP has injected US$700,000 to help Cuba rebuild. Over US$23 million will be needed to fully support the recovery process, according to the national recovery plan launched in Havana this week.

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