The people of Pinar del Río will long remember the early morning hours of Sept. 27, when Hurricane Ian hit the island with a vengeance. After the disaster, HI mobilized to support impacted communities.
A night of terror
Almost a year has passed since Hurricane Ian hit Cuba. The western provinces of Pinar del Río and Artemisa were the worst affected. Many residents said they had “never experienced anything like it.” In the province of Pinar del Río, the hurricane damaged 100,000 houses, destroyed 660 schools and ravaged more than 51,000 acres of farmland. Crops such as tobacco – the region's economic driver – bananas and cassava, as well as pig and poultry farms, were severely affected.
“It’s been a long time since I've seen such a cyclone. It was terrible, the water was pouring into my house. My mother has been bedridden for years because of a degenerative disease. I had to move her several times during the hurricane so that she didn’t get wet,” recalls Minerva Machín, who lives in Minas de Matahambre.
Responding to the emergency
HI's immediate hurricane response provided 360 families in the municipality of Minas de Matahambre with hygiene kits including items such as towels, a water filter, a mosquito net and a 265-gallon water tank, as well as household goods such as an electric stove, a mattress, sheets and kitchen utensils. To help with their daily routine, 250 people with disabilities and their families received equipment adapted to their needs such as wheelchairs, walking sticks, hospital beds and crutches.
“The night Hurricane lan hit was terrible. The wind was extremely strong. I heard people screaming because the roofs of houses were being torn off. We lost a great deal. Fortunately, my family received various supplies. We were given a suitable toilet seat for my sister, whose mobility is reduced because of an illness, as well as toiletries and a winter blanket,” says Idania Martínez Moreno, who also lives in Minas de Matahambre.
HI organized awareness-raising sessions about the transmission of water-borne diseases and hosted community sessions on the prevention of gender-based violence, as crisis and disaster situations increase the risk of such violence. Furthermore, 870 people have been trained in workshops on sexual and reproductive health.
Nearly 4,000 people received support in Minas de Matahambre over the past year.
Long-term prevention and support
In order to continue supporting the communities affected by the hurricane, HI launched a new project in April 2023 that strengthens the resilience of residents in three towns: Consolación del Sur, San Juan y Martínez and Pinar del Río. Its objective is to help communities adopt preventive measures, with a focus on the inclusion of women, people with disabilities and elderly people. At the same time, HI is planning to provide training courses in disaster-risk preparedness in schools and awareness-raising sessions for supervisory staff on emotional support for children.
HI is also supporting the development of urban farms, offering training courses and encouraging the use of more environmentally friendly agroecological methods such as crop rotation and composting. These efforts boost food self-sufficiency in communities, improving resilience to future disasters.
HI's response to Hurricane Ian is funded by the European Union’s Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). It is part of the “Cuenca Resiliente” project, which HI launched in Pinar del Río in 2021, in consortium with CARE, and will run until May 2025.