Oxfam Canada helps Cubans return to everyday life after Hurricane Irma

by Paula Baker | July 27, 2018
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When Hurricane Irma struck Cuba as a Category 5 storm in early September 2017, pummeling the island with winds up to 200 km/h, Caridad Pérez Gonzalez’s already difficult life – and that of her family – became that much harder.

The winds, intense rain and flooding caused power outages, damaged homes and infrastructure, destroyed crops and contaminated water sources. Ten people died and more than two million people were evacuated to emergency centres and homes on higher ground. In the hardest-hit areas, Irma damaged or destroyed up to 90 per cent of homes and shelters.

Caridad, 43, lives in the town of Esmeralda, where Irma forced the evacuation of more than 7,000 people.

Oxfam has been active in the Cuba for 25 years, working together with local partners to support equitable and sustainable development and respond to natural disasters. Oxfam was able to respond rapidly to the widespread destruction caused by Hurricane Irma.

Caridad participated in a program provided by Oxfam, the Red Cross and the government of the Camaguey province, designed to support the 3,120 families affected by Hurricane Irma. The program offered shelter support to more than a dozen vulnerable settlements, but it didn’t end there.

"We had a problem with water access and water quality in many of our communities in Camaguey province,” said Caridad. “When families received access to water and water purification tablets, we finally had clean water."

“We received mosquito nets, mattresses, water filters, tanks, jerry cans and hygiene kits for post-Irma recovery,” she said.

Caridad doesn’t expect her life to be easy as she continues to balance working for a living with coming home to heavy domestic chores, but with support from the Canadian government, Oxfam and the Humanitarian Coalition, she and many others are moving beyond Hurricane Irma.

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