Hurricane Matthew is now passing over Haiti where it represents a catastrophic threat. The storm will dump heavy rains in coming hours, increasing the risk of severe flooding, landslides, mudslides and the collapses of homes.
UNICEF estimates that 6 million children are in the path of the storm in Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. UNICEF has activated its disaster response plans to ensure rapid lifesaving action for children and families.
As the full impact of Hurricane Matthew becomes clear in the next hours, UNICEF is prepared to take immediate emergency response measures in coordination with governments and other partners.
"This is an extremely dangerous storm and represents a great risk for the most vulnerable children of the countries in its path. Sadly, there will be many children that tomorrow won't have access to clean water, shelter, schools and the protection they have today," said Maria Cristina Perceval, regional director for UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hurricane Matthew poses a severe threat to children's lives
Tropical Storm Matthew, which became the Atlantic's first Category 5 hurricane since 2007, is still a powerful Category 4 storm carrying sustained winds of 140 mph, powerful enough to damage buildings and power infrastructure. The storm poses a severe risk to lives and property.
The impact of the storm will be felt in Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba today with hurricane conditions arriving tonight. Devastating winds, a destructive storm surge, severe flooding and landslides are very possible.
UNICEF is prepared to respond at scale with emergency relief
Our colleagues at UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
as well as in the potentially-affected country offices
have been working around the clock in advance of the storm, monitoring its path and coordinating with emergency and disaster risk reduction staff in the event families and children require aid. UNICEF is prepared to respond at scale and has been coordinating closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.
Pre-positioned essential supplies are ready to be deployed from local warehouses and from the largest humanitarian warehouse in the world, UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen
. To respond to the damage that may be caused by a storm of Matthew's severity, these supplies could include water purifcation units, medical supplies, therapeutic food and emergency generators.
A girl in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 1998. UNICEF has been working for children in Jamaica for almost 40 years. © UNICEF/UNI33046/Alsbirk
Keeping children safe in times of emergency
UNICEF provides children and families with disaster relief whenever emergencies strike. A disaster's severity often depends on a community's vulnerability. UNICEF works to reduce risks and increase resiliency by helping shape the choices children and their families make about about where they grow their food, how solidly they construct their houses, and even what they teach in school. This helps prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best.
With landfall on Jamaica and western Haiti imminent, and forecasts of up to 40 inches of rain in the most intensely hit areas, UNICEF's preparations are becoming more urgent by the hour. We'll continue to keep you updated as the situation unfolds.