The Venezuelan government has begun to send shipments of over 646 tons of much needed humanitarian aid to Cuba and Haiti after both countries were hit by Hurricane Sandy. The aid includes mostly non-perishable food items and water, as well as machinery to help remove debris.
The hurricane first struck the Caribbean last week before heading north to the US. So far, Haiti has been the worst hit by the disaster, counting a death toll of 54 people, followed by 11 in Cuba. (By November 4, the US death toll was well over 100 and growing.)
Both the Haitian and Cuban harvests were also seriously damaged as a result of the tropical storm.
After the disaster, Venezuela was one of the first countries to send solidarity and aid to both countries, with Minister of Domestic Affairs and Justice Nestor Reverol categorising the assistance as a “gesture of our commitment to our Latin American and Caribbean brothers ... to whom we are sending this humanitarian aid which will allow them to cover their needs in one way or another”.
On October 27, the Haitian government said the aid would help them address some of the problems brought about by the storm and thanked Venezuela for its quick response to the crisis.
“We have spoken to several foreign governments; Venezuela has already sent a boat containing 240 tons of food and water which will arrive within 3 days," said Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.
"In addition, Venezuela will send a plane on Monday with several tonnes of food and water to help the population.”
Lamothe also confirmed that the hurricane had caused floods in “almost all of the country”, where 370,000 citizens still remain homeless following the 2010 earthquake. “We have numerous towns which are cut off from the rest of the country, which are flooded,” he said.
Venezuela was one of the first countries to send aid to Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake and also played an instrumental role alongside Cuba in the country’s post-disaster reconstruction efforts.
“We just manage to get ourselves out of one problem and then we find ourselves in another,” said the Haitian ambassador to Venezuela, Leisy Davies.
“But we have always found that the Venezuelan people are concerned for the welfare of the Haitian people. In spite of everything that is happening in the East (in Valencia, Venezuela) where the rains have caused many problems, their hearts are so big that they still help the Haitian people who, alongside their government, don’t know how to thank President Chavez, his government and his people.”
On the evening of October 30, the Cuban government also confirmed that it had received its first aid shipment from Venezuela, which included 14 tons of milk, sugar, beans, rice, oil, tuna, sardines, lentils and pasta.
Although the Cuban government has not yet officially confirmed how much damage has been caused by the hurricane, estimates currently place the figure at over US$80 million in Santiago alone.
“Sandy has had a huge effect in our country and has seriously and fundamentally affected thousands of houses that were partially or totally knocked down, as well as severe damage to our harvest, electricity, communications and transport links, especially in the East,” said Cuban ambassador to Venezuela Rogelio Polanco.
“That is why I want to take advantage of this opportunity, at a time when thousands of Cuban citizens are preparing for the process of recovering from this problem... to deeply thank this gesture of solidarity, our people greatly appreciate it.”
Other countries such as Russia have also pledged to send humanitarian assistance to the Cuban people.