Hurricane Irma struck Cuba as a Category 5 storm in early September 2017. Winds of up to 200 km/h pummeled the island, particularly the north central coast. The winds, intense rain and flooding caused power outages, damaged homes and infrastructure, destroyed crops and contaminated water sources. Ten peopled died and close to 200,000 households were directly affected.
Camaguey, the country’s third largest city, was hit particularly hard. Damage to the power grid, communications and agriculture put hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Flooding destroyed sanitation systems and contaminated cisterns, leaving entire municipalities with no access to safe water and increasing the risk of water-borne diseases.
In the hardest-hit areas, up to 90% of homes were damaged or destroyed. More than two million people were evacuated to emergency centres and to safer homes on higher ground.
Oxfam Canada intervened with the goal of assisting the most severely-affected families, particularly female-headed households, with shelter and access to potable water, hygiene and protection.
They worked to provide 1,500 shelter kits (including tarps, rope, mosquito nets and mattresses) along with the training required to help residents build shelters. They distributed 1,500 hygiene kits, water tanks, jerry cans, filters and water purification tablets and conducted information sessions on disease prevention and safety so residents would be aware of the increased risk of disease caused by the disaster.