[Antigua Observer] Bridgetown, Barbados – September 6, 2017: The United Nations System is deploying staff and assistance to meet the needs of vulnerable Caribbean citizens in the path of record-breaking Hurricane Irma. Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have unique economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities that are exacerbated in severe natural crises.
“Hurricane Irma is an unprecedented threat to the Caribbean. The United Nations is working closely with the CDEMA-led Regional Response Mechanism (RRM) and the affected countries to bring assistance to those most in need. We are saddened by the reports of lives lost, and of people made homeless by this storm,” stressed Mr. Stephen O’Malley, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the OECS.
Early indications are that there has been signficant damage to infrastructure in Sint Maarten, Anguilla, and Barbuda, while information from other islands is still coming in.
Rapid Needs Assessment and Technical Experts
Technical experts drawn from across the Caribbean, regional offices, and the various agency headquarters are deploying to support CDEMA and the affected countries as needed. These include water and sanitation and hygiene experts, engineers, medical doctors, logistics management, nutrition, waste water and child protection and social protection experts. Emergency funding will also be drawn down to respond the needs of those directly affected.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has deployed a four-person UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team comprised of first responders to augment Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency’s (CDEMA) capacity with coordination, needs assessment and information management expertise. UNDAC partners from the International Humanitarian Partnership and MapAction will provide support with logistics, communications and mapping.
UN Women Multi-Country office – Caribbean is partnering with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to provide dignity kits which contain basic health and hygiene products for displaced women and girls, such as soap, underwear, bras and sanitary napkins. UN Women is also able to provide technical and financial support on economic initiatives to get women and their families back on their feet and to address safety and security concerns.
In addition to the Dignity/Hygiene Kits, as requested, UNFPA can support in providing life-saving reproductive health commodities through emergency Reproductive Health Kits. UNFPA would be able also to offer technical guidance on the prevention of Gender-Based Violence and sexual violence in affected communities.
UNDP has activated its crisis preparedness plans and will support countries both during the immediate response to this disaster and in crucial early recovery activities like debris management, emergency employment and supporting core government functions, if asked.
UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Area Office is still working with governments of impacted countries, other United Nations agencies, partner organisations and the regional emergency response mechanism to offer the required assistance and support, but has already pre-positioned emergency supplies in Antigua to be rapidly distributed to the most affected islands. UNICEF’s priority is ensuring the safety and security of children, especially those who are most disadvantaged.
The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) is deploying surge capacity with expertise in water, sanitation, hygiene, health and disaster assessment to support Ministries of Health and enable delivery of essential health services.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Subregional Office for the Caribbean will work with governments of affected states to assess impact on fisheries and agriculture and pave the way for recovery of livelihoods and adequate food and nutrition.
The emergency and disaster response is coordinated by the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management System. Under this umbrella system, the United Nations, donor agencies in the Caribbean including, USAID/OFDA, ECHO, DFID, Global Affairs Canada and others are coordinating their aid in light of the impact of Hurricane Irma and in readiness for the approaching Tropical Storm Jose.