In the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean region, 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, though the full extent of the impact remains unclear, the Haitian Government has reported that a number of 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.
Also today at a regular briefing at UN Headquarters in New York, 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. A main bridge connecting the capital to the south was also swept away this afternoon cutting off access.
The teams have been deployed from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), which is managed by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On the ground, they are logistically supported by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
UNDAC is part of the international emergency response system for acute emergencies. It was created in 1993 to help the UN and governments of disaster-affected countries during the first phase of a sudden-onset emergency.
Further, in the statement from his office, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his solidarity with the people and Governments of Haiti, Cuba and other countries in the hurricane affected region. It added said that 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 was pre-positioned in safe areas, and measures were taken to protect communities and infrastructure threatened by strong winds, rains, storm surge and floods.
In a separate statement today, President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson also expressed deep concern for the people of Haiti, Cuba, 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 empathise 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 recognise their suffering and stand ready to offer a helping hand.”