After the storm | Perspective

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, here’s how you can help the islands most badly affected

The island of St Martin, which sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, was one of the region’s  worst affectedThe island of St Martin, which sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, was one of the region’s  worst affectedThe island of St Martin, which sustained a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, was one of the region’s  worst affectedThe cost of hurricane damage

For people of the Caribbean, the start of the annual hurricane season in June is a time of watchfulness, if not anxiety. Hurricanes are a fact of life in the region, but it’s impossible to grow accustomed to the catastrophic damage they can inflict on small island communities.

In future histories of the Caribbean, September 2017 will have a tragically prominent place, thanks to the Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which inflicted life-changing destruction on Barbuda, St Martin, St Barthélemy, the British and US Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, Cuba, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, and other parts of the region. Between them, the two storms were responsible for over two hundred deaths and more than US$114 billion in damage.

First reports from some islands spoke of damage that resembled large-scale bombing. Airports were among the infrastructure shut down by hurricane winds, slowing initial relief efforts. In some places, restoration of basic utilities like electricity and running water may take up to six months. Full recovery may be years away. And with many of the affected territories financially dependent on tourism and agriculture, damage to those key industries — farms and livestock washed away, hotels and resorts torn apart — will deprive governments of the economic resources needed to fund rebuilding.

Around the Caribbean, the response was immediate and heartfelt, from official disaster relief assistance by Caricom governments and NGO programmes to hundreds of small-scale personal efforts by ordinary citizens who have collected food and emergency supplies, chartered boats, and staged fundraising events of all kinds. Like other corporate entities, Caribbean Airlines stepped up as well, sending in aircraft to deliver supplies and emergency personnel and help evacuate residents of affected islands.

 

How you can help hurricane recovery efforts

An arm of Caricom, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) immediately activated a regional plan to coordinate hurricane relief in affected islands. That includes an Emergency Relief Fund open to private donations, which can be made online or via local bank accounts. Visit www.cdema.org for more information.

GlobalGiving, an online crowdfunding platform, has set up a Puerto Rico and Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund, with a target of US$10 million. Donations are pledged to support regional relief efforts including long-term recovery assistance. You can contribute at www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-maria-caribbean-relief-fund.

For more about country-specific relief efforts and how you can help, visit caribbean-beat.com/hurricane-recovery, where we’ll be updating information as new initiatives are announced and needs change.