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Hurricane Matthew in Cuba: people with disabilities especially vulnerable


Hurricane Matthew hit southeast Cuba on the night of 4th to 5th October, after making landfall in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. In Cuba, the hurricane had a significant impact on vulnerable people, particularly people with disabilities. Handicap International has been present in Cuba for more than 18 years and part of its work includes preparing the most vulnerable people for natural disasters.

Maria Del Carmen, affected by hurricane Matthew in Cuba

Maria Del Carmen, affected by Hurricane Matthew in Cuba. | © Handicap International

More than 300,000 people in Cuba were affected by Hurricane Matthew, which hit southeast Cuba on the night of 4th to 5th October. [1]

The homes of more than 107,000 people were damaged and more than 26,000 hectares of crops were destroyed in four communes in the province of Guantánamo. Between 90% and 94% of homes in Baracoa and Maisi, located in this province, have been destroyed [2]. Handicap International intends to provide humanitarian response to the victims of the disaster.

Onolys Mosqueda, Chair of ACLIFIM [3], a partner organisation of Handicap International which helps people with disabilities in Baracoa, says:

“Most people with disabilities have lost their homes. The hurricane has destroyed the city. Fortunately, we help each other out. Neighbours take people in if they have nowhere to go. Everyone is really brave, but we need help.”

Maria Del Carmen, 48, lives in Baracoa. She describes her experiences:

"My daughter took me to her home for protection. The hurricane was a terrible disaster. It’s not my first, but it was really violent, much worse than Hurricane Sandy. I thought my roof would be okay - I’d strengthened it - but it was torn off. Lots of houses have been destroyed, and the palm trees and coconut trees have been flattened."

"It’s going to be years before Baracoa is restored. It’s such a beautiful town. My house has been partly destroyed, so I’m staying with my daughter. I sometimes go home by foot, but it’s difficult to walk with my crutches. All I want to do is to go home."

Our actions in Cuba

Handicap International launched a response in Cuba in 2008 following the passage of hurricanes Ike and Gustave in three municipalities in Pinar del Rio and Holguín, rehabilitating six schools for more than 2,000 students, including 266 with special education needs.

Since January 2015, Handicap International has worked with the NGOs Care and Oxfam to build the management capacities of the authorities, technical institutions and the most vulnerable people, particularly people with disabilities, to cope with seismic risks in the cities of Santiago, Guantanamo and Baracoa.

Handicap International is also providing an emergency response in Haiti following the passage of Hurricane Matthew, which affected more than two million people.

1. Particularly in Baracoa, Imías and San Antonio del Sur.
2. http://reliefweb.int/report/cuba/cuba-hurricane-matthew-emergency-dashboard-25-october-2016.
3. Asociación Cubana de Limitados Físico-Motores.

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