Unicef said today that with the new hurricane season under way, it is necessary to continue programs to promote resilience in children and communities in the Caribbean that were activated a year ago by the destructive hurricanes Irma and Maria.
These programs remain crucial to strengthen social protection and preparation systems, minimize the possible consequences of future disasters and the effects of climate vulnerabilities, and to promote resilience in the region, UNICEF said in a public statement.
The United Nations agency recalled that "in September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused severe damage to infrastructure and services, including schools, water systems and others, in several countries of the eastern Caribbean, Cuba and Haiti, leaving at least 1.4 million people, including 357,000 children, in urgent need of assistance."
"A year later, most of the affected children returned to school and resumed their access to services, including water and sanitation," despite the fact that "the great impact of hurricanes on several islands has made it extremely complex for Unicef and its partners reach the children and families in need".
Unicef said its response to further develop resilience among children and affected communities includes supporting the implementation of the Caribbean Safe Schools Program and working with governments to strengthen social protection systems.
"Under this program, 25,000 children in five countries," Anguilla, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Dominica and the Turks and Caicos Islands, will develop disaster risk reduction plans that aim to make the education sector of the region more resistant to hurricanes and other natural disasters."
In Haiti, where 126,000 children were affected in 2017 by hurricanes Irma and María, Unicef has invested in cholera prevention initiatives in the most affected areas, and will continue to support the sustainability of prevention and protection systems.
"In Cuba, where 176,000 children were affected, Unicef is providing critical supplies to support the restoration of a protective learning environment for 53,261 girls and 54,879 boys in the 14 affected municipalities," Unicef said.
It added that to contribute to the rehabilitation efforts of the educational infrastructure, it acquired 56,000 square meters of waterproof tarpaulins for 69 schools, among others.
"Despite the fact that reconstruction and recovery are almost complete, vulnerable children in these countries remain our priority, responsibility and mandate," said UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, María Cristina Perceval.
She added that "in a region affected by hurricanes and climate vulnerabilities, the development of resilience is not only an option but a necessity, especially for vulnerable communities and even more for children."