Marking one year since Hurricane Sandy, UN officials urge focus on Caribbean

Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Nicaro, Mayarí municipality, Cuba. UN Photo/UNDP/AIN FOTO/Juan Pablo Carreras

29 October 2013 – On the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy making landfall in the United States, United Nations officials are reminding the public not to forget the storm’s less documented Caribbean victims.

Commemoration ceremonies will take place around the northeast United States today, particularly in New York, where the devastating storm caused over $18 billion worth of damage to the city.

In an editorial published yesterday, in Aljazeera, Heraldo Muñoz, Director of UN Development Program (UNDP) Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, called on New Yorkers not to forget that the US was but the last stop on Sandy’s tour of destruction.

“Sandy, one of the largest Atlantic hurricanes on record, rumbled across the Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other countries before finally reaching the eastern seaboard of the US,” Mr. Muñoz wrote in the online editorial.

One year on, UNDP says that recovery efforts from the storm are underway, but some of the agency’s officials say that the suffering of those in developing Caribbean nations may have been underplayed.

“Because of socio-economic vulnerabilities, people in developing countries are often less prepared for a large event and unfortunately are not as quick to bounce back or recover,” said Jo Scheuer, UNDP Coordinator of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery.

“While the mainland US suffered greater losses in terms of total fatalities and the extent of damage, for the Caribbean nations, Cuba and Haiti in particular, the storm was comparatively more expensive – having a much more profound impact on local livelihoods and the GDP,” Mr. Scheuer said, adding that in Haiti, the storm intensified the humanitarian crisis caused by the 2010 earthquake.

Efforts to help prepare Caribbean nations for disaster minimized the potential loss caused by the storm.

“In Cuba, UNDP support to the government over the years has made that country particularly good at preventing deaths from hurricanes,” Mr. Scheuer noted.

Over the last 10 years, fewer Cubans die in the hurricane season than in any neighbouring states, according to the UN agency figures.

Likewise in Haiti, earthquake recovery projects set up by the Government and supported by the UN have helped mitigate the impact of storms.

Projects undertaken in Haiti include disaster- resilient construction for homes, sea walls and flood barriers, as well as short term employment to generate income and rebuild better.


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