USAID provides initial US$1.5 million for the Caribbean in wake of Hurricane Matthew

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Washington DC, CMC – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be providing an initial US$1.5 million to assist Caribbean countries affected by the passage of Hurricane Matthew.

“We have announced US$1.5 million for the region; US$1 million of food aid is just being announced right now,” David Harden, USAID Assistant Administrator for the US Department of State’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, told a press briefing here on Wednesday.

Residents walk in flooded streets as they return to their homes in Leogane, Haiti on Oct. 4. Matthew slammed into Haiti's southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris
Residents walk in flooded streets as they return to their homes in Leogane, Haiti on Oct. 4. Matthew slammed into Haiti’s southwestern tip with howling, 145 mph winds Tuesday, tearing off roofs in the poor and largely rural area, uprooting trees and leaving rivers bloated and choked with debris (NBC photo)

“As of a day or so ago, we had announced US$500,000 for the non-food items, such as shelter, blankets, hygiene kits, household items, and water purification equipment…. if there are further needs, we’re prepared to deploy more commodities and more relief supplies from Florida and potentially from Italy if required.”

Meanwhile, Kenneth H. Merten, Special Coordinator for Haiti and the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary, said the US continues to work in partnership with the Government of Haiti to assess the extent of damage in Haiti and to prioritize humanitarian cleanup needs.

“The goal of the US as a friend of Haiti and a partner looks beyond the day to day now, as we have for decades,” he said. “For us, the priority remains the safety and security of US citizens.

“We have issued Travel Warnings for Haiti, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and a Travel Alert for Cuba apprising US citizens of imminent and dangerous storm conditions,” Merten added.

“We’d like to remind everybody that it’s important to be aware and to read our Travel Warnings and Travel Alert, which provide our embassies’ emergency contact and other information, and it allows people to get the most recent information that we have available in their hands,” he continued.

In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, United Nations emergency response teams have been deployed to Haiti and Jamaica to coordinate rapid assessments and support disaster response.

According to a statement issued by UN  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, although the full extent of the impact remains unclear, the Haitian Government has reported that several lives have been lost and at least 350,000 people need immediate assistance.

The statement also noted that the UN is in contact with the authorities across the region and stands ready to assist with response and recovery if required.

At a regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York on Wednesday, a UN spokesperson told journalists that the entire southern part of the country, including capital Port-au-Prince have been affected and the south-east tip of the island suffered the brunt of the hurricane.

The UN officials said the main bridge connecting the capital to the south was also swept away, cutting off access.

Teams have since been deployed from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination , which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs .

On the ground, the UN said they are logistically supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti .

The UN Secretary-General has also expressed solidarity with the people and Governments of Haiti, Cuba and other countries in affected by the storm.

The UN chief lauded the preparedness efforts of the Cuban authorities, media, and civil society to protect people’s lives and economic assets.

In Cuba, more than 377,000 people were evacuated, 1,640 metric tonnes of food were pre-positioned in safe areas, and measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure threatened by strong winds, rains, storm surge and floods, the UN said.

In a separate statement on Wednesday President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson also expressed deep concern for the people of Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean, “as they struggle to cope with the effects of the hurricane,” and offered his condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives as a result of the storm.

“As a Fijian who has witnessed first-hand the power and devastation of such destructive tropical cyclones, I fully empathize with those facing up to the damage,” he said, adding: “The world must stand with the victims at this time as people of goodwill everywhere recognize their suffering and stand ready to offer a helping hand.”

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