Ismael Sayyad Hernando/Oxfam
On January 27, a powerful tornado ripped through Havana Cuba for the first time in the city’s history, damaging basic infrastructure and destroying homes in five of the city’s municipalities. The Humanitarian Coalition, working through Oxfam Canada and with support from the Canadian government, is responding to the needs of residents in the hardest hit neighbourhoods.
Homes in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, one of the oldest and most highly populated areas in the city, were unable to withstand the force of the F4 tornado and the damage was extensive. Many families lost most or all their belongings along with their homes. Although electricity has been restored in most areas, water and sanitation systems are still affected, leaving communities vulnerable to the risk of water-borne disease.
Oxfam Canada has been active in Cuba for more than 25 years, supporting the work of local partner organizations and communities. Through this collaboration with the Humanitarian Coalition, Oxfam Canada will support the Cuban government’s emergency response by providing water storage kits, hygiene kits, kitchen supplies and household items to some of the most vulnerable households, including female-headed families, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Activities will include distribution of educational materials and sensitization efforts on the critical role women play in building resilience in their communities.
“Cuba is a country highly vulnerable to natural disasters,” says Gregory Queyranne of Oxfam Canada. “Most Canadians who visit Cuba enjoy the resorts and the natural beauty. Many Cubans, however, are affected year after year by natural disasters and do not have the resources to recover from this kind of storm without assistance. We are pleased to be able to intervene on behalf of Canadians, and provide essential support to the people who call this country home.”
In the case of humanitarian crises that affect a relatively small population and receive limited media attention, such as the tornado in Havana, Global Affairs Canada supports the Humanitarian Coalition’s response through the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund (CHAF). CHAF funding has so far enabled life-saving assistance to people affected by some 50 disasters in 31 countries.