UNICEF: More than 2.5 million evacuated in Cuba in the aftermath of two powerful hurricanes
HAVANA, CUBA - 12 September, 2008 - UNICEF expressed concern over the 2.5 million Cubans who have been evacuated from their homes, and the scores of children who have been left without schools, their communities and hospitals without electricity and hundreds of roads washed away. Two powerful hurricanes - Gustav and Ike - pummeled the island of Cuba in the last nine days with high winds and torrential rains that left a broad path of destruction.
UNICEF is the first UN agency to provide emergency funding to the island nation which will be targeted at providing water and sanitation and the rehabilitation of schools and maternity homes.
“UNICEF’s highest priority is to prevent outbreaks of disease by providing water and sanitation for the people who have been hardest hit,” said Viviana Limpias, Deputy Representative in Cuba. “We are also concerned with the status of schools and recreational facilities for children on the island given that the return to school has been pushed back until further notice and many classrooms are currently being used as shelters.”
This marks the first time in Cuba´s history that two hurricanes of this magnitude make landfall on the island. During Gustav´s passage winds reached 340 km an hour as it passed through the province of Pinar del Río. Ike tore up roofs and entire crops and created giant waves which lashed against homes and buildings along the entire island. Official statistics point to 3 to 4 billion dollars in damage.
Food and water are the most urgent necessities followed by jerry cans, kitchen utensils, mattresses, sheets, towels and water filters.
“These natural disasters are terrifying events especially for children,” said Limpias. “More funding will be needed to ensure children’s wellbeing since we are expecting several other hurricanes in the next few months.”
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