The United Nations relief agency said today that 1.8 million Haitians and Cubans have been affected by hurricane Sandy, adding that food security remains an urgent concern in the Caribbean nation.
Initial data collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) showed that Hurricane Sandy killed 60 people and significantly damaged critical infrastructure such as roads, schools and hospitals in addition to destroying thousands of homes.
“Floodwater had been receding since Sunday but more than 18,000 homes have been flooded, damaged or destroyed,” Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesperson told reporters in Geneva. Preliminary data estimated that food security had been severely affected, Mr. Laerke said, with up to two million people at risk of malnutrition.
OCHA is also concerned about the nearly 350,000 people that are still living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the earthquake which hit the country in January 2010; in fact, some 1,500 people remain in 15 hurricane shelters.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported that access to health services and restocking supplies is limited as rivers had become impassable and roads had been obstructed. It also warned that poor sanitary conditions could increase the risk of water-borne diseases such as cholera, which is still endemic in the country. The WHO spokesperson said there has already been an increase in cholera alerts, especially in the south, and added that field teams are monitoring the situation.
Cuba was also affected by the hurricane. OCHA’s Mr. Laemke said that power cuts affected more than 890,000 people, and nearly 200,000 homes were damaged by the storm. In addition, 375 health centres and 2,100 schools were damaged.
UN humanitarian agencies are working closely with national and local authorities, donors and emergency organizations to support national efforts. An emergency cash grant of $100,000 has been approved and a request for the UN Central Emergency Response Fund is under preparation.