More than 2.4 million children in need of humanitarian assistance after Irma's devastating passage through Caribbean
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NEW YORK/PANAMA, 13 September 2017 – At least 2.4 million children urgently need humanitarian assistance in communities across the Caribbean devastated by Hurricane Irma, UNICEF warned today. The UN children’s agency also cautioned that the number of children in need could rise with damage assessments still underway in the hardest-hit areas of Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Anguilla, Barbuda, the Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
UNICEF is particularly concerned that the enormous damage sustained by essential water, sanitation, electricity and healthcare infrastructure could leave children vulnerable to disease outbreaks. Many of the affected areas remain flooded and schools have been closed.
"The storm may have passed, but the region’s children are now very much at risk because of the terrible scale of destruction," said María Cristina Perceval, Regional Director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean. "UNICEF is in constant communication with the authorities to provide urgently needed assistance so that all affected children have access to safe water and adequate hygiene conditions to prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.”
In the East Caribbean islands, which first bore the brunt of the Category 5 hurricane, the greatest damage has been recorded in Anguilla, Barbuda, the Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Some 73,000 people, including 20,000 children, are affected in this area and at least 132 schools have been damaged.
UNICEF is on the ground and has already deployed additional staff and humanitarian supplies, including water purification tablets, hygiene kits, tents and educational material.
“As we work with our partners over the coming days, our most urgent priorities are to ensure the availability of safe drinking water, provide psychosocial support to affected children, restore the education system as quickly as possible and protect children vulnerable to abuse and exploitation,” said Perceval.
In the Dominican Republic, approximately 175,000 people were affected by the hurricane, including 62,000 children.
In Haiti, 16 municipalities in the North, Northwest and Centre of the country were hit particularly hard and some areas are partially flooded. Nearly two million children who live in the most affected provinces are at risk in a country that is still recovering from Hurricane Matthew which devastated Haiti less than a year ago.
In Cuba, Irma caused serious damage in 13 island provinces and flooding in some of the major cities such as Havana, Guantanamo and Holguin. Telecommunications, electricity and water services have been severely compromised in the affected areas. 900,000 people, including 360,000 children, are in danger.
UNICEF is appealing for US$15M to support its humanitarian response to Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma.