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Central America: Crops vulnerable to severely flood damage

News and Press Release
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Tropical Depression No.16 made landfall in northern Honduras on October 16 and has brought heavy and constant rains throughout Central America. The system caused flooding and mudslides in several locations across the sub-region, affecting north-west Costa Rica (Guanacaste and Puntarenas provinces), some western and central areas of Belize (Cayo, Orange Walk and Stann Creek districts), north-western Nicaragua (departments of Chinandega, León, Esteli and Managua), northern Honduras (departments of Atlantida, Olancho, Colón, Yoro, Cortés and Copán), El Salvador and northern Guatemala (departments of El Petén, Izabal, Alta and Baja Verapaz).

As of October 27, it is estimated that about 410 000 people have been affected (70 per cent of them in Honduras), with tens of thousands of families evacuated from their homes, with loss of about 50 human lives and severe damage to housing and transport infrastructure. While official assessments are still underway, important losses are reported in the agricultural sector. Important staple food such as maize, beans and paddy, whose second season harvest was about to start, are among the most affected crops, but damage is also reported for important cash crops such as bananas, sugar cane, papayas, pumpkins and sesame. In many cases, households' food reserves have been washed away and lost. Floods also affected the livestock sector, with deaths of animals and losses of pasture land. Food and non-food emergency assistance is being provided by the international community.

Currently, a broad area of low pressure located about midway between the Cape Verde islands and the Lesser Antilles is drifting in a west-northwest direction. It is unclear whether it will become a full tropical cyclone in the next days but the situation needs to be closely monitored: additional precipitation may further affect local livelihood systems and food supply since soils are already saturated and river water levels very high.