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Hurricane Irma: Unicef braces to assist children, rehabilitate schools if necessary

Girl scouts walk down the street in Havana, Cuba. Source: Shutterstock

The United Nations children’s agency says it is bracing for the wrath of the powerful Hurricane Irma which is set to rip through the Caribbean.

The storm is now Category 5 – the highest possible – and is headed for the Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Maarten, St Kitts and Nevis, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba.

In the face of the crisis, Unicef said it was focused on ensuring the health and protection of children and adolescents in the region, including their education. It is distributing information to young people via the U-Report platform, sending messages via Facebook messenger and other social media.

“Considering the possible magnitude that Irma represents, it is both hugely urgent and necessary to be prepared, informed and vigilant so that we try to avoid the impact on the most vulnerable, that is to say children,” Unicef regional director in Latin America and the Caribbean Marita Perceval said.

Last year, Unicef rehabilitated 75 schools allowing 25,000 students to return to the classroom in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in October, it said. Unlike Irma, Matthew was only a Category 4 storm.

Unicef’s interventions also provided medical assistance to 80,000 people and access to clean drinking water for another 400,000.

In Cuba, 290 education centres in the province of Guantanamo were affected, with 96 percent of schools and day care centres taking damage from Matthew.

Unicef said that 6,500 girls and 8,000 boys in the municipalities of Maisi, Imias, San Antonio del Sur, Baracoa and Yateras benefited from education and recreation kits donated by the agency.

A further 12,700 children in Cuba across 153 education centres were benefitted by the provision of early development kits.

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