HAVANA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), in coordination with the Government of Cuba, today launched a US$5.7 million emergency operation to provide food assistance for four months to more than 660,000 people affected by Hurricane Irma.
Irma - one of the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded - battered the Caribbean, including hundreds of kilometres of Cuba's northern coast, leaving extensive damage to agriculture, food stocks, electricity and transport networks.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley, who today concluded a two-day visit to the island, announced that WFP has 1,606 metric tons of food prepositioned in the country and is releasing US$1.5 million from emergency funds to purchase additional food stocks for the affected population.
"I've seen the unprecedented damage Hurricane Irma has caused in Cuba, but I also see rebuilding going on," said Beasley. "What's next? Who knows. Hurricanes and droughts are stronger, and we need to respond and be prepared for the future."
"The World Food Programme is committed to supporting the Cuban Government and providing relief assistance to help the large numbers of people in need," said Beasley after meeting top Government officials and visiting areas affected by the hurricane. "The magnitude of Irma's devastation demands that we all work together to ensure that the country recovers swiftly and the Cuban people have water, food, shelter and working health facilities."
The first phase of WFP's emergency operation will begin immediately with the distribution of a monthly ration of rice and beans to 664,000 people living in the hardest-hit areas.
Beasley said WFP is working in coordination with the Government of Cuba to mobilize the funds needed to continue the assistance for a total of four months, with priority given to schoolchildren, children under 5 years of age, pregnant and nursing women, and the elderly.
WFP will support the Government's logistics capacity in the affected areas by providing 10 temporary warehouses, tarpaulins, lighting equipment and pallets.
WFP activities complement the Government's efforts to guarantee that the people affected by Hurricane Irma have permanent access to nutritious food. WFP activities are also part of the coordinated response the United Nations System in Cuba undertakes to support ongoing recovery initiatives.