The United Nations system is deploying staff and supplies to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in the Caribbean affected by Irma—a category 5 hurricane estimated to bring devastating damage to parts of the Caribbean. Thousands of people have already been evacuated from at-risk areas, but hundreds of thousands remain at high risk.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said: “We will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and to ensure maximum support is available to the commendable national and regional efforts.”
Stephen O’Malley, the UN Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, said: “Hurricane Irma is an unprecedented threat to the Caribbean. The United Nations is working closely with the [Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency] CDEMA-led Regional Response Mechanism 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.”
As of 6 September, OCHA had pre-deployed a United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team to Barbados to support CDEMA in the regional response across the Caribbean. The team comprises first responders who will support coordination of response, needs assessments and information management. UNDAC partners from the International Humanitarian Partnership and MapAction will provide support with logistics, communications and mapping.
Early indications show signficant damage to infrastructure in Anguilla, Barbuda and St. Martein. Information from other islands is still coming in.
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. They include engineers, medical doctors and logistics management, and experts in water, sanitation and hygiene, nutrition, waste water, and child-protection and social-protection. Emergency funding will be used to respond to the needs of people directly affected.
On 6 September, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that supplies of drinking water, emergency kits, and unperishable food and medicines were pre-positioned and ready for distribution in the most-affected communities.
The emergency and disaster response is coordinated by the Barbados-based CDEMA. Under this umbrella, the United Nations and donor agencies in the Caribbean, including USAID/OFDA, ECHO, DFID, Global Affairs Canada and others, are mobilizing resources in light of the impact of Hurricane Irma and in readiness for the approaching Tropical Storm Jose.