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Published on 19 September, 2008

Double hurricane wallop leaves Cuba in need

Cuba (MNN) — Hurricanes Gustav
and Ike together delivered the worst hurricane-related blow in Cuba's
history. Damage estimates are coming in
at five-billion dollars. 

"The real needs now in the
country are food and construction material, but especially food", says Rodolfo
Juarez of the Cuban Council of Churches. 

How long will it take to recover
from the storms? "Nobody
knows. This is a poor country, and still
in some areas we are suffering from the effects of Michelle, when the
hurricane passed in 2003. Most of the
province has no electricity yet (from the recent storms)." 

Nearly 450,000 homes were
ravaged, and more than 63,000 are damaged beyond salvage. Twelve days after Ike, hundreds of thousands of
Cubans still need temporary housing
while the government rebuilds.

While the housing sector was hit
hardest, the nation's power grid and highway system fell, thousands of schools
were damaged and the infrastructure seemed on the verge of collapse.  

Sonny
Enriquez with
International Aid (IA) says they are supporting the ministry efforts of the Council to get
emergency relief in, with plans to help address longer-term medical needs to
one of the harder hit areas, Pinar del Rio.

Enriquez is working with the
Cuban Council of Churches to supply thousands of additional hygiene kits to the
province of Pinar del Rio, where an estimated 300,000 houses have been
destroyed. "Whatever little they have, has been wiped away. Essential
medicines and the poor little clinic that exists in Pinar del Rio has also
been damaged."

An export license held by the
ministry expired after IA's emergency response several years ago. When Gustav and Ike hit, relief efforts were
complicated a bit. IA made an immediate
application for renewal, but that could take up to four weeks IF it is granted.

That's four weeks too long for
many of the storm survivors who need food, clean water and medicine now. Enriquez says they gave the Council representatives
the immediate response for distribution, with the hope that when the new
license is granted, they can bring in the heavier medical equipment. 

In the meantime, the local
believers are taking care of those they can help. It's putting feet to the Gospel. Enriquez says the churches in the area saw a
lot of growth after Michelle passed through because "when a church comes to
the need of the people at their point of desperation, the people are so open
to listen to the Gospel."

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