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Central American workshop to develop Plan of Action to prepare for 2006 hurricane season

(Guatemala City, 28 February 2006): A three-day lessons learned workshop and high level regional meeting on guidelines for better preparation for the forthcoming 2006 hurricane season begins today in Guatemala City. It has been organized by the Centre for Coordination for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America, CEPREDENAC, the Executive Secretary of the National Coordination for the Reduction of Disasters, CONRED, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala and the United Nations.
United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, who will be in Guatemala from 1 to 3 March, will participate in the event on 1 and 2 March. On 3 March, Mr. Egeland will undertake a field visit to San Marcos La Laguna (Sololá) to obtain first-hand information on the evolution of the projects carried out by the United Nations, in coordination with the Guatemala Government. Mr. Egeland will also meet survivors of the tropical storm from the Lake Atitlán area. While in Guatemala, the Emergency Relief Coordinator will express his support for the families affected by Hurricane Stan as well as for the other countries of the region constantly threatened by natural hazards that frequently result in disasters.

The participants in the Workshop and the High Level Meeting will recommend a concrete Plan of Action to overcome present difficulties and endorse a final common resolution, which will recommend actions to reinforce the preparation for the 2006 hurricane season, emphasizing the need to continue improving and strengthening preparation and response systems at the local, national and regional levels.

According to meteorological experts, the 2006 season could be as violent as that of 2005, which broke all world records with 27 tropical storms, of which 15 became hurricanes. The 2005 series of storms affected 3.6 million people in the nine countries that are represented in the Guatemala event--Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic. This represents a dramatic increase compared to the 14,400 persons affected in 2004. In Guatemala, tropical storm Stan caused economic losses of 7,473 million quetzals or USD 983 million, equivalent to 3.4% of 2004 Guatemala's GNP.

According to CEPREDENAC, Central America is one of the most vulnerable regions due to its exposure to a wide range of risks and to the increase of natural, socio-natural and man-made hazards. The number of disasters has also increased during the past three decades.

In past years, efforts have centred on the prevention and reduction of disasters rather than on strengthening response mechanisms. These essential measures to reduce the level of vulnerability of the countries and to promote development require continuous support that will produce results only in the medium and long term. For this reason the Guatemala event will focus on measures of disaster management that need to be reinforced in the region, in particular in the fields of prevention, response mechanisms, coordination and international cooperation.

For further information, please call: Isabel Garcia-Gill, Public Information & Advocacy Officer, OCHA Regional Office, tel. + 502- 5586 7502


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