UNEP Tunza Youth Advisor Gives First-hand Account of Hurricane's Impact on Cuba
Cuba, 8 September 2008 -Year after year, between June and November, the Caribbean region suffers the impact of several hurricanes and tropical storms.
For us Cubans the impact of hurricanes and tropical storms is simply something we have to deal with.
Each year we prepare to face this type of disaster.
But today our main concern is about climate change and how global warming is intensifying the destructive power of hurricanes, making them more severe and frequent .
The last week the nation was severely affected by Hurricane Gustav, mainly the western provinces of Havana and Pinar del Rio.
The impact of this category IV hurricane was really devastating.
Houses without roofs; trees plucked from the earth, roots in the air; coastal flooding; overturned trucks, their cargo spewed on the ground, and faces - many faces - with the uncertainty of having lost everything, except their own lives.
More than 60 per cent of the territory of the province was directly affected.
Eighty high tension towers were demolished, and three television transmitters towers were put out of service.
Sixty-three poultry farms and 3,500 tobacco-curing houses were damaged, 90,000 housing units and 600 electrical substations were damaged, and many are having to face water and food scarcity .
Now Hurricane Ike is over Cuba, and we are waiting the latest damage report.
Our main concern is for those who already lost their houses and everything.
Ike will lash all of Cuba, but mainly the eastern provinces.
The situation will only get more complex, due to the lack of food, electricity, gas, water and communications.
Agriculture has been seriously damaged. Also ecosystems have also been affected.
Public services, such as schools, hospitals, markets as well as several industries and facilities have been severely damaged, as were several hotels and tourism installations.
All these problems will affect our national economy.
The main role of youth in this kind of situation is to help in our schools and our work to prevent serious damage.
Under the hurricane warning we help in each community in clearing up and securing houses and buildings.
Others are helping repair houses and towns with the help of the army.
Medicine students and the social workers, most of them young people, are providing relief to the most affected population, mainly children and elders.
With our concerns about climate change and global warming we also looking at how we can contribute to stop this process.
We will continue supporting the Plant for the Planet campaign as well as promote local sustainable development.
We believe in the role of education to prevent, mitigate and adapt to climate change, but we also need international support to face this new task.
A final message is that people in Cuba are worried and sad but we trust in the support from the international community as well as the hard work of our government to face this and the upcoming disasters.
By: Handy Acosta Cuellar, Tunza Youth Advisor