Forgotten victims of Hurricane Irma

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You would think that, with all of the media attention that has been given to the three hurricanes and the Mexican earthquake in recent weeks, there would be little that we have not heard already. But, in fact, the situation in Cuba has been almost completely ignored in the wake of the devastation caused elsewhere.

World Hope Canada, a Christian relief and development organisation, based in Kemptville, has been approached by churches in Cuba which are facing a humanitarian crisis which parallels those in other Caribbean islands after Hurricane Irma. The storm hit Cuba for more than 72 hours, with winds reaching 240 to 250 kph, and affected 13 of the island’s 15 provinces. Almost 2 million people had to be evacuated, with around 215,000 homes severely affected, 10,446 of which were completely destroyed. Over 3 million people were left without water, and huge areas of farmland were laid waste.

The Wesleyan Church there has asked World Hope for help in getting food and medical supplies to the areas hit by this disaster, and, given Cuba’s strained relations with the U.S., it is to Canada that the Cuban Council of Churches are looking for help. World Hope have opened a space at the Kemptville Mall at which people can donate food and money, which will be sent to the churches for distribution. Very specific food items are needed: high protein, non-perishable items like canned tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken, ham, and beef. Canned vegetables are also needed, as well as canned black beans. Black beans have been requested specifically, as they are a central ingredient in Cuban cooking, so no chick peas or red beans – just black. Rice is also important.

Money is required for purchasing water filtration systems. These are light and easily transported, and can provide clean drinking water. Medications are really urgently needed. World Hope has a partnership with Health Partners International, and through them they can buy Physicians Travel Packs. They are easily carried as luggage on flights, and then transported into the most remote regions of Cuba. They cost around $775 each, and World Hope plans to buy ten of them.

Another category they hope to supply is roofing material: tin, aluminum, etc., to help to rebuild some of the tens of thousands of homes which were destroyed by the hurricane. The main aim is to collect enough food, medical supplies, and water filtration systems, to fill a 20-foot container, but a small team hope to leave North Grenville in about a week to bring down some food and medications. Depending on how donations go at the Kemptville Mall location, the hope is to get the container filled and shipped in about a month. The initiative looks to raise about $20,000, of which $6,000 has already been collected.

Although this project is being run by the churches in Cuba, the food and medications will be distributed to whoever needs them, regardless of denomination or religion, and at no charge. Medications will be administered by medical professionals only, again, at no charge.

The Cuban Government have been very supportive of this initiative and have agreed to allow the supplies into the country duty-free, without any customs delays. Contacts for World Hope in Cuba say that gardens and small farms have been destroyed, and the lack of food is already being felt.

Financial contributions can be made through the World Hope website, or over the phone at the office in Kemptville. Cheques can be mailed, or dropped off at the Mall location, and should be made out to World Hope Canada, and you can write in “Cuba Emergency Relief Fund” to have it assigned to that project. World Hope will report back on how things go.

World Hope Canada has sent supplies to Cuba before, and has a solid network of contacts there to ensure a proper distribution of whatever they send. Canadians enjoy vacations in Cuba, and now is the time to rally round and help the people of this devastated island in their hour of extreme need.

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