|© UNICEF Haiti/HAI08-053/Vigneault|
|Emergency supplies from UNICEF's central warehouse in Copenhagen are off-loaded at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for distribution to children and families affected by recent storms and flooding.|
NEW YORK, USA, 10 September 2008 – As the fourth major storm in less than a month barrelled through the Caribbean this past weekend, governments and aid groups began providing support to hundreds of thousands of people affected by high winds and massive flooding.
Yesterday, 8.5 metric tonnes of emergency supplies from UNICEF's warehouse in Copenhagen, landed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hygiene kits, water-purification tablets, blankets, oral rehydration salts and other items from the shipment will be distributed to victims of floods. The supplies will also replenish UNICEF's pre-positioned stocks throughout the country to stand ready for the rest of the hurricane season.
Just over a week after Hurricane Gustav struck the region, Hurricane Ike bore down on Cuba and several other islands before moving into the Gulf of Mexico. At the time of impact in the Turks and Caicos and the Great Inagua Bahamas islands on Saturday, Ike was a Category 4 storm.
In Haiti, access to the city of Gonaïves is still nearly impossible except by helicopter and speedboat. The Haitian Government says over 800,000 people are in need of assistance, and 60,000 to 70,000 people in Gonaïves are living in temporary shelters. Over 600 people are reported dead.
Need for potable water
“We have been sending potable water to shelters,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Nils Kastberg in an interview with UNICEF Radio. “Some of them are in the midst of inundated areas where there is absolutely no access to potable water.”
Mr. Kastberg said UNICEF was working with the World Food Programme to send emergency supplies of food and water – as well as school supplies – to Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The supplies airlifted to Haiti are vital because it is particularly hard-hit; the start of the school year has been postponed throughout the country.
|© UNICEF Haiti/2008-0676/Ballotta|
|Hurricane-induced flash floods forced thousands of people in Haiti to seek refuge on rooftops for several days. The rain and wind have made roads impassable, delaying rescue operations and aid distribution.|
“Many of these kids have lost all of the little they had in terms of educational materials,” said Mr. Kastberg.
Floods and power cuts
Although there were fewer casualties in other Caribbean countries, damage to buildings and infrastructure was significant. Reports from Turks and Caicos estimate that 80 per cent of the buildings there have been damaged. Massive flooding and rampant power outages have been reported throughout the region.
“Many might think the numbers of people affected in the Caribbean are not large compared with other emergencies,” Mr. Kastberg said. “Still, in Haiti, we’re talking about 8 to 9 per cent of the population seriously affected by the last sequence of hurricanes.
“And what is unusual also,” he added, “is that you have four hurricanes in a row hitting the poorest country in the hemisphere. I think it calls for extraordinary action.”
8 September 2008:
UNICEF Regional Director Nils Kastberg speaks to UNICEF Radio about the damage caused by Hurricane Ike in the Caribbean.
News note: UNICEF providing assistance to 15,000 persons in Haiti
News note: WFP and UNICEF team up to meet urgent needs of Gustav victims in Haiti
News note: Hurricane Gustav strikes Haiti, forcing 6,300 people from their homes