TJ Hickson, 5, stands outdoors near a partially destroyed brick building, in South Hill District, on the island of Anguilla – which was hard hit during Hurricane Irma.
PANAMA CITY/GENEVA/HONG KONG, 13 December 2017 – Three months after two category-5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria – barreled through the Caribbean, causing widespread damage and loss of life, thousands of children remain in need of support across the region.
Irma, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, caused extensive damage to the islands of the Eastern Caribbean, Haiti and Cuba. Hurricane Maria then wrought additional damage across the region with UNICEF estimating that the two hurricanes left 350,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance.
“Even before the hurricanes hit, UNICEF was on the ground, working with Governments and local partners to prepare communities and preposition humanitarian supplies for the areas at highest risk” said Maria Cristina Perceval, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. These included life-saving supplies that were most needed during the immediate response when access to clean water, shelter and basic social services were scarce.”
“Three months on, UNICEF is still on the ground in these countries and territories, working on programmes to support children and families in rebuilding their lives and returning to a sense of normalcy.”
However, challenges remain, with many of the most vulnerable families still feeling the effects of the storms.
In Dominica, over 35 per cent of children – particularly those living in shelters – are yet to be enrolled in education activities. In Antigua & Barbuda, many children and families remain in shelters and are unable to return home.
Working in collaboration with Governments and NGO partners, UNICEF has been providing not only immediate humanitarian relief to affected populations but also working to ensure longer term recovery and resilience.
“While life is returning to normal for many, children and families who have lived through these storms will need committed, sustained support to get their homes, communities and lives back on track,” added Perceval.
UNICEF, working with Governments and partners, has been able to support children, families and communities through programmes focused on recovery and resilience, including:
• Supporting training activities led by the Ministries of Health, Education and Human Development. All pre-school teachers are now trained on the Return to Happiness programme adapted to young children and their caregivers.
Antigua and Barbuda
• In Antigua, to prevent protection risks in temporary shelters, supporting national authorities to conduct gender-based violence (GBV) trainings for shelter administrators.
• Assisting in the integration of children displaced from Barbuda, into the Antigua education system. Based on identified needs, in coordination with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF provides materials and guidance for counselors and teachers.
• Improving child protection services in Barbuda, where displaced children are expected to return from Antigua in the coming months, including the development of age-appropriate psychosocial and resilience-building activities.
British Virgin Islands
• Supported the Ministry of Education in the reopening of schools through technical and recovery assistance. Five primary schools and one technical school received generators.
• UNICEF and partners will complement an ongoing Cash Transfer programme for vulnerable families, reaching beneficiary families with additional relief items.
• Working with the Government on WASH and education initiatives.
• Aiming at the strengthening of the social protection system – in partnership with WFP and authorities – a non-conditional cash transfer programme will reach 6,000 vulnerable children and their families.
• Assisting nearly 11,000 people to gain daily access to safe drinking water in key locations.
• Supporting the restoration of water services, to ensure that more than 86,000 people get access to cleaner water, and working with vulnerable communities to prevent and combat cholera.
• Providing education materials for schools and early childhood learning centers, benefiting more than 18,000 children.
Funding remains crucial for vulnerable children and communities, especially in the Eastern Caribbean, Haiti and Cuba. UNICEF requires HK$72.54 million to provide lifesaving assistance to children in the region.