The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season devastated much of the Caribbean and parts of Mexico. Recovery in Cuba is well underway, but this particular island faces unique challenges to its efforts. Specifically, the U.S. embargo makes the remittance of humanitarian aid to the island difficult. On September 9, 2017, in a foreboding move just hours before Irma hit Cuba, President Trump extended the U.S. Embargo against Cuba for yet another year.
Our Family & Friends In Cuba: All of the members of our teams in Havana, Matanzas, and Santiago de Cuba, as well as our family and friends have been accounted for and their homes are without substantial damage. Everyone on our teams in Cuba sends their gratitude for the concern expressed by our clients and friends.
The Challenges that Lay Ahead
The Cuban government is focused on infrastructure repairs, restoring the electric grid, water and food shortages, and resuming the school year for children. It is estimated that approximately 215,000 homes across the island were damaged or destroyed. Residents are busy cleaning their homes and salvaging their possessions. Notwithstanding all of this, Cuba has declared that the damage is recoverable and that the country is open for business.
As a result of wind, rain, and storm surge, parts of Vedado and Central Havana along the city’s famous Malecón seawall, experienced waist-high flooding for up to five blocks inland. Although there was damage to private homes, especially those that were not in good condition prior to the storm, Havana did not sustain widespread damage, as the flooding was contained to localized areas along the city’s seawall.
The Cuban government quickly mobilized resources and manpower to restore basic services to most residents (electricity, water, and gas), restore services to Havana’s tourism sector, and repair major roads and highways in unprecedented time. According to the Director of the Electricity Union of Cuba, more than 99% of the country's electrical customers have been restored, and the remainder will be restored before the end of September.
Conversely, in provinces, such as Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camaguey, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas, and Holguin, devastation is more widespread. For example, in the province of Villa Clara, the government estimates that approximately 52,000 families need building materials to repair their wind damaged homes. The government is subsidizing approximately 50% of the cost of these materials, but families must come up with the remainder of the funds to purchase materials. With the average Cuban salary being $20 per month, this will be extremely difficult for most families.
How Can We Help
We have received countless calls and messages from our past program participants asking how they can help. In the short term, Cubans are in need of money, building materials, perishable food, bottled water, hygiene kits, medical products and fuel. Here is how you can help:
We suggest making monetary donations to organizations with experience administering and distributing donations on the ground in Cuba. We have teamed with CÁRITAS CUBANA, a Catholic charity based in Havana, and a division of Caritas International. Our objective is to raise funds, recruit volunteers, and distribute aid to families in need. The initial focus will be on providing emergency items such as clean water, food, shelter, hygiene kits, livelihood support, and building materials. Please consider making a donation. 100% of donated funds will go towards recovery efforts in Cuba. DONATE HERE
B) DO NOT CANCEL YOUR PLANS
The people and the economy benefit from visitors and your presence on the islands is more important now than ever. Tourism is the country’s number one industry. Jose Marti International Airport in Havana resumed services on September 13, 2017. Hotels in Old Havana began reopening on September 17, 2017, and basic services have been restored throughout the island.
Reach out to us if you’re interested in visiting in the coming months with a specific focus on helping to rebuild, in which we’ll prioritize interactions with entrepreneurs, artists and community programs affected by Hurricane Irma and offer ways to help.
In addition to money and goods, the Cuban people need our moral support, as much as possible. We are organizing service trips for individuals or groups that want to lend their time and energy to helping families rebuild their homes. These programs will include a visit to Havana, but will primarily be designed to assist rebuilding efforts in the towns of Camaguey and Villa Clara where there is more need. Click here to sign up to receive more information on service opportunities.
We are monitoring the recovery progress in Havana and beyond, and will be redesigning programs where possible to support affected areas with recovery efforts and prioritize businesses and individuals in the rebuilding process. We remain steadfast in our support of the Cuban people and facilitating responsible programs that improve the lives of citizens and private businesses.