Belize: Hurricane Iris appeal No. 33/01 final report

Situation Report
Originally published


This Final Report is intended for reporting on emergency appeals.
Appeal No. 33/01; Launched on: 12 October 2001 for three months for CHF 655,000 to assist 4,350 beneficiaries. Extended by four months to 31 May 2002.
Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) Allocated: None


Appeal coverage: 100.6%
Related Appeals 01.32/2001; 01.23/2002 Caribbean


Hurricane Iris, a category 4 hurricane, struck the southern coast of Belize on 8 October 2001, tearing apart houses and community buildings, ripping up trees and electricity lines, and flattening standing crops across an arc of coastal plain some sixty kilometres long and thirty kilometres wide throughout Toledo district. The southern area of Stann Creek district was also affected. An airborne and ground assessment was carried out on 10 October 2001 by Federation and Belize Red Cross Society (BRCS) staff. Subsequently, a detailed village-by-village assessment of the impacted areas was carried out by BRCS personnel from the Toledo branch in Punta Gorda.

Based upon assessments and coordination with different organizations, 14 villages in the Toledo district were selected for assistance by the Toledo BRCS branch, for which the Federation launched an appeal on 12 October 2001, to assist 4,800 beneficiaries for three months. Remaining areas not covered by the Toledo branch were assisted by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

During the initial phase of the operation, food and non-food relief assistance was provided to the beneficiaries to ensure their livelihood as well as access to essential household supplies.

One-time distributions of non-food supplies were carried out, including kitchen sets, hygiene kits, plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans and buckets. In total, five cycles of family food basket distributions were carried out during the operation.

As part of the rehabilitation phase, basic houses were constructed consisting of concrete postings, roofing and concrete slabs or side panelling. In addition, in several communities, water collection systems were also constructed to provide secure water in the event of post-hurricane flooding of wells.

The initial appeal was intended to cover a period of three months - food distribution was in fact ended in January 2002 - but the rehabilitation phase extended until May 2002, due to local resource constraints. Related to the final financial report (attached), payment of CHF 19,476 from the British Red Cross contribution is pending and in process.


During the first stages of the emergency, coordination with NEMO with a view to avoiding duplication of assistance was undertaken, and the Toledo branch of the BRCS also liaised with DEMO, the district equivalent of NEMO.

The National Society liaised with other agencies, in particular those which made contributions to the BRCS in the wake of the hurricane. Coordination was also ensured with OXFAM particularly in regard to food security issues. In February 2002, an evaluation meeting was held with participation of local organizations and local branches of the BRCS. During this meeting, various aspects of the operation and the cooperation with the other organizations were discussed.

At the end of May, a final overall report on the operation was presented during a media event in order to thank donors and citizens of Belize publicly for their support. This provided an overview of the work of the National Society and gave details as to how contributions had been used to assist those affected by the hurricane.

Objectives, activities and results

Water and sanitation

Objective 1. Water purification - To ensure access to safe drinking water and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases.

Although proposed in the appeal, the provision of chlorine did not take place since, despite early fears, the hurricane did not result in flooding and water supplies were therefore not affected.

Available resources from the appeal were instead allocated to fund rainwater collection systems in those communities where these were not available. The aim is, in the event of a future hurricane to ensure the provision of potable water in the first hours/days of the disaster. Therefore, in addition to undertaking basic construction for shelter, seven water-collecting containers were set up in order to secure potable water.

Relief distribution of food and basic non-food items

Objective 1 Food Relief - To ensure adequate food supplies for 800 families for a period of three months, reducing the risk of malnutrition or reliance on survival strategies with long-term negative consequences.

An assessment team identified 820 families from 14 villages in the Toledo district as beneficiaries of the assistance as outlined in the Federation's appeal. These families were made up of approximately 4,350 persons. It was decided to reduce the number of target beneficiaries referred to in the appeal in order to avoid, in the event of the selection of an additional village, not being in a position to cover all those who met the beneficiary criteria, and in order to stay within the budget as outlined in the appeal request for food assistance.

After comparative bid analysis, a local supplier was selected for provision of food aid, with the aim of avoiding unnecessary transport costs and handling. The goods were loaded directly from the supplier to the distribution truck on the day of the distributions.

In total, five food distributions - four funded by ECHO, and one by DFID - were carried out by BRCS volunteers from the Toledo branch in Punta Gorda, to an average of 820 families in each round. Food packages were provided at two-week intervals and were based on an average family size of six persons. In accordance with the SPHERE standards and with cultural differences addressed, each 50 kg. food parcel consisted of the following items: 50 lbs of rice, 30 lbs of flour, 20 lbs of beans, 7 lbs of sugar, 6 lbs of lard and 1lb of salt. The first distribution started on 1 November 2001 and the last distribution took place on 8 January 2002.

Outside the framework of the appeal, the BRCS also distributed food parcels, mostly with the same contents and funded through direct donations to the BRCS, to six villages in the Stann Creek district. These distributions were managed by the BRCS disaster committee in Belize City.

Objective 2 Non-Food Relief - To ensure access to essential household supplies and implements, allowing scarce available resources to be directed towards rebuilding of homes and recovery of agricultural activity.

Kitchen sets, an in-kind donation from the German Red Cross, were distributed at an early stage of the operation as were relief goods provided through the El Salvadorean and Honduran Red Cross Societies/delegations and transported to Punta Gorda. The American Red Cross also provided an in-kind donation of water jugs. In addition, one-time distributions of non-food supplies were carried out to beneficiaries including hygiene kits, sanitary kits, plastic sheeting, blankets, jerry cans and buckets.


Objective 1 Emergency shelter - To address immediate shelter needs for 800 families, reducing exposure to a harsh environment during the rainy season, increasing resistance to disease and supporting the maintenance of community and family life.

In a first stage, each beneficiary family received one tarpaulin to assist with short-term emergency shelter needs.

The BRCS, as a result of a donation from the Canadian government through the Canadian Red Cross and various bilateral donations, funded the construction of a basic structure for 59 houses with a dimension of 16 x 24 feet and consisting of six concrete posts, seven wooden roof frames (rafters) and zinc sheeting, in three villages in the Toledo district. In addition to these structures, four roofs were also funded. With additional funding from the Federation appeal and a local in-kind donation of plywood to the BRCS, 42 structures were provided with concrete slabs and 19 with plywood sidings. The support to the constructions took place in Tambran, Santa Cruz, Crique Jute and Big Falls villages.

In addition, the National Society received in-kind donations of various construction materials from different local donors. These donations were distributed to beneficiaries in four villages in the Stann Creek district. Contributions included a donation from the Embassy of the People's Republic of China of construction materials including zinc sheets for roofing, sheets of plywood, nails, and paint, which were distributed to beneficiaries in Seine Bight and Dangriga.

Agricultural support

Objective 1 - To assess the need for and feasibility of support in agricultural reactivation and food security for subsistence farmers who have lost crops through hurricane damage.

A workshop on food security, facilitated by a nutritionist from OXFAM and supported by the Federation and the BRCS, was held on 19 October in Punta Gorda. Participants from organizations working with the District Emergency Management Organization attended the training sessions, including members of the Belize Red Cross Society. Six people were trained in assessment techniques, and took part in the assessment of food security which took place between 20 and 22 October within six villages assisted by the Red Cross programme. The findings revealed that the affected population may be divided into four categories based on the source of livelihood:

  • Small scale subsistence farmers (with some three acres of land), representing 60 per cent of the population;

  • Cash crop and animal farmers (rice, cocoa, cattle rearing), representing 25 per cent of the population;

  • Waged labourers in shrimp farms, banana plantations, representing 10 per cent of the population;

  • Fishermen and lobster catchers - representing 5 per cent of the population.
The most food insecure sectors of the population are subsistence farmers and waged labourers who lost their crops and source of income respectively. Waged labourers work in the banana plantations and on the shrimp farms which were severely damaged by the hurricane. Subsistence farmers usually work some three acres of land, which they do not own, and produce mostly corn and beans. In general, harvests are barely sufficient to meet family food needs.

Corn seed, from private donations, was distributed to beneficiaries selected in relation to the size of their plot of land and the number of family members. Selection was carried out in close cooperation with the community leader of each village.

Advocacy and protection

The Federation-supported Belize Red Cross Society operation in Toledo district focused on areas where the majority of the population are of Mayan ethnicity, and in particular concentrated on the poorest and most vulnerable villages. Community leaders and members were significantly involved in the setting of priorities for the relief effort and its implementation, and the Belize Red Cross Society branch in Punta Gorda actively promoted the needs of these communities in its interaction with the BRCS leadership and with the authorities.

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement -- Fundamental Principles and priorities

The hurricane Iris relief operation, taking place in a relatively remote area of southern Belize, allowed the local branch of the Belize Red Cross Society, located in the district capital, Punta Gorda, to expand its activities to previously-unreached communities, taking with it dissemination of the Fundamental Principles of the Movement, and information about other standard Red Cross activities. The branch itself was strengthened and given a heightened profile by the programme, which will position it for future projects in other areas of Red Cross work. The gender balance in the branch leadership is adequate, and women are, in fact, more numerous than men. The hurricane Iris relief operation concluded with workshops on disaster preparedness at community level, tying in with the community-based disaster preparedness (CBDP) programme supported in the Caribbean region by the Federation.

National Society Capacity Building

CBDP training was provided by National Society trainers to representatives of 36 communities in the Toledo and Stann Creek districts. Posters in various local languages were printed to make the community aware of disaster preparedness. These posters were distributed during the training sessions. 369 persons participated from the local community, including health workers. The first training session was held on 29 January 2002 and training of all selected communities was completed by the end of March 2002.

The radio system at the Punta Gorda branch of the BRCS was upgraded. This involved erecting an antenna mast at the branch and the installation of a more powerful antenna at the repeater site. Following the upgrade, radio communication was restored between Punta Gorda and the BRCS headquarters in Belize City. A local telecommunications company which has been involved in similar projects in Belize, undertook these installations.

Assessment and lessons learned

In contrast with the operation in Belize from October 2000 to June 2001 in the aftermath of hurricane Keith, the hurricane Iris operation (October 2001 to May 2002) was smaller and more geographically-concentrated. Again, in contrast to hurricane Keith, the damage caused by hurricane Iris (a category 4 storm) was wind-related rather than flood-related, and therefore demanded a different response.

As in the hurricane Keith operation, Federation and National Society personnel were in the affected areas within hours after the hurricane struck. Coordination with governmental agencies and NGOs was positive during the first hours of the response, and at a key meeting on 10 October 2001, 36 hours after the impact, consensus was reached that the Federation appeal should concentrate on a limited number of very vulnerable families in Toledo District (implemented by the Toledo branch of the Belize Red Cross), while the BRCS would also implement a relief programme in the Stann Creek District to the north of Toledo, using other resources including locally-raised funds. This agreement simplified the implementation of the programme, and permitted the bulk of relief activities to be completed in the first quarter of 2002.

Some difficulties were encountered. For almost a month after the impact, it proved impossible to find a long-term team leader for the Federation operation (the Federation team in Belize was intentionally restricted to one delegate); the concentration of Federation resources on one district, while simplifying operational issues, meant that a special effort had to be made to emphasize constantly the BRCS "ownership" of the entire operation; and, finally, donor specifications complicated reporting requirements for both the BRCS and the Federation.

The Federation presence in Belize ended in early March 2002, after five months - an improvement on the hurricane Keith operation in 2000/2001, when such a presence remained for almost nine months. The Belize Red Cross Society responded well to the emergency triggered by hurricane Iris, showing that it had absorbed and benefited from the lessons learned during the hurricane Keith operation. In all, although posing some challenges - Iris was the second hurricane to strike Belize in twelve months, and put the NS to a severe test - the hurricane Iris relief operation was a success and demonstrated improved coordination and implementation at all levels.

For further details please contact: Leon Prop, Phone: 41 22 730 42 22; Fax: 41 22 733 03 95; email:

All International Federation Operations seek to adhere to the Code of Conduct and are committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (SPHERE Project) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable. The procurement for this operation was carried out in full compliance and conformity with the Federation's standard for international and local procurement.

For support to or for further information concerning Federation operations in this or other countries, please access the Federation website at

This operation sought to administer to the immediate requirements of the victims of this disaster. Subsequent operations to promote sustainable development or long-term capacity appeal no. 33/01:Belize - Hurricane Iris final report building will require additional support, and these programmes are outlined on the Federation's website.

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John Horekens
Division of External Relations

Santiago Gil
Americas Department