(CMC) – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says despite a massive humanitarian effort over the past six months in the eastern Caribbean, Cuba and Haiti, there is still much work to be done to rehabilitate water and sanitation and other infrastructure damaged by powerful hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“So long (as) children are in need or in danger, we will continue working tirelessly so that everyone can look to the future with hope,” said María Cristina Perceval, regional director of UNICEF for Latin America and the Caribbean.
She said an estimated US$11.5 million in international donations continue to help the agency’s work in the region.
UNICEF said it continues to work on the ground while, at the same time, it prepares for the arrival of the new hurricane season, with the aim of minimising potential damage and impact to the most vulnerable areas.
In September 2017, the UN said, at least 1.4 million people, including 357,000 children, were affected by the two Category 5 hurricanes that wreaked havoc on Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Haiti, the British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands.
“Following the storms,” Perceval said, UNICEF responded immediately — mobilising supplies and human resources to meet the needs of those affected and save lives.
The agency said it continues to prioritise safe water and hygiene, giving more than 400,000 affected people, including children, access to drinking water and purification tablets — “fundamental actions that save lives and prevent the outbreak and transmission of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and diarrhoea.”
On protecting children, another of UNICEF’s priorities, some 16,000 participated in psychosocial activities and 1,500 people were trained to continue carrying out these programmes.
In addition, UNICEF and its partners launched a cash transfer system benefiting more than 4,600 of the most vulnerable families following the hurricanes.
“Along with these emergency response actions, UNICEF and its partners maintain their work in the Caribbean to contribute to an inclusive, equitable, and prosperous region that guarantees the provision of quality services and support to children in the areas of education, child protection, social protection and resilience, to guarantee the realisation of children’s rights,” Percival said.
With the next hurricane season in the region officially beginning on June 1, UNICEF said it is working to improve capacities and reduce vulnerability at national and community levels.
“The objective is to mitigate the impact on boys, girls and women and ensure a rapid return to normality,” Perceval said.