Harvey and Irma Are Part of a Global Humanitarian Challenge | USAIM

Harvey and Irma Are Part of a Global Humanitarian Challenge

Hajer Naili's picture

First it was Harvey, and then came Irma.

Both were destructive.

Images and footage coming from Texas were heartbreaking. Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc in the Lone Star State leaving thousands of homes abandoned, covered by several inches of water. Cars were destroyed and highways immersed in floods of water. Residents fled to safety on inflatable boats or by feet, wading through knee-deep and even waist-high water.

A few days later, Irma made its landfall farther east, on the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico and some parts of Florida. At least, 43 people were killed in the Caribbean and at least 18 in the Southeastern U.S. In French Caribbean territory, the storm caused “major damage”, according to French Overseas Territories Minister, Annick Girardin. Even Saint Martin’s Government buildings, some of the sturdiest structures on the island, were destroyed.

In Texas, the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was estimated between USD 150–180 billion by its Governor, Greg Abbott. Harvey was the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, killing about 50 people, displacing more than a million residents and damaging some 200,000 homes.

It might be too early to determine how many of those who have been displaced will be able to return to their homes; however Harvey and Irma are here to remind us that displacement linked to natural disasters has become one of the biggest humanitarian challenges of our century. Between 2008 and 2016, 227.6 million people were forced from their homes due to floods, earthquakes, tropical storms, and other natural hazards, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

For several years now, IOM, the UN Migration Agency has been a first-responder to scenes devastated by natural disasters around the world and has, unfortunately, witnessed too often their disastrous and deadly effects.

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Picture credit: U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West

Hajer Naili
Hajer Naili is a Journalist and the Communications and Social Media Coordinator at IOM Washington, D.C. She previously worked as a web-reporter/photojournalist for the New-York based publication Women's eNews and was a freelancer for Al Jazeera Plus.

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