Hurricane Matthew in Cuba: People with disabilities especially vulnerable

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More than 300,000 Cubans were affected by Hurricane Matthew, which hit southeast Cuba on October 4. The homes of more than 107,000 people were damaged, and more than 100 square miles of crops were destroyed in four areas in the province of Guantánamo. The hurricane destroyed between 90% and 94% of homes in Baracoa and Maisi, located in this province. Handicap International is planning to support the most vulnerable victims of the disaster.

Maria Del Carmen, 48, lives in Baracoa. She describes her experiences: “My daughter took me to her house for protection. The hurricane was a terrible disaster. It’s not my first, but it was really violent, much worse than Hurricane Sandy. I thought my roof would be okay­–I’d strengthened it–but it was torn off. Lots of houses have been destroyed, and the palm trees and coconut trees have been flattened. It’s going to be years before Baracoa is restored. It’s such a beautiful town. My house has been partly destroyed, so I’m staying with my daughter. I sometimes go home by foot, but it’s difficult to walk with my crutches. All I want to do is to go home.”  

Onolys Mosqueda, Chair of ACLIFIM (Asociación Cubana de Limitados Físico-Motores), a partner organization that helps people with disabilities in Baracoa, adds: “Most people with disabilities have lost their homes. The hurricane has destroyed the city. Fortunately, we help each other out. Neighbors take people in if they have nowhere to go. Everyone is really brave, but we need help.”

Handicap International launched a response in Cuba following the passage of hurricanes Ike and Gustave in 2008 in three municipalities in Pinar del Rio and Holguín, restoring six schools for more than 2,000 students, including 266 with special education needs.

Handicap International has worked in Cuba since 1998. In January 2015, we began to mitigate future natural disasters in Cuba. To be able to cope with earthquakes in the cities of Santiago, Guantanamo, and Baracoa, we are increasing the management capacities of authorities, and technical institutions for the most vulnerable people–particularly people with disabilities—along with NGO partners Care and Oxfam. Learn more about our work in Cuba.

Handicap International is providing emergency response in Haiti, where more than two million people were affected by Hurricane Matthew. Read our latest updates from Haiti.