The Government of Belize has declared most of the southern half of the country a disaster area and has issued an appeal for international assistance following the aftermath of Hurricane Iris, which struck Belize on October 8.
Widespread and extensive wind damage to housing, schools, community centres, hotels and communication infrastructure in dozens of southern towns and villages was reported by October 9. The Stann and Toledo districts were most affected by Iris, where the majority of the population is made up of Mayan and Garifunas communities. These ethnic groups experience the highest rates of poverty of the country. Particularly hard hit was the department of Toledo, with a poverty rate of 58% compared to the national average of 33%. According to NEMO reports, three-quarters of all houses in this district have suffered some degree of damaged. An estimated 19,000 people have been affected by the hurricane. Villagers are requesting the provision of shelter, water, food, and fuel to help them cope with the disaster.
Significant damage to agriculture and industry in the area is being reported. Almost all the banana crop has been destroyed, and there has been significant damage to citrus, extensive damage to rice, corn and bean crops, and to shrimp farms that are located in southern Belize. Water and sanitation and health services have also been affected. 15 schools have been totally destroyed and another 22 damaged, representing an estimated loss of USD 2 million.
The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Human Development, is presently covering immediate food aid needs of the affected population. Some international organizations and donors, including Mexico, Norway and the U.K., are providing cash and in-kind assistance. The organization Food for the Poor has contributed USD 1 million to relief efforts.
At the request of the UN community in Belize, WFP dispatched on October 9th a staff member to participate in a UNDAC assessment mission organized by UNDP. WFP has no country office presence in Belize. The mission is currently carrying out a general evaluation of the food needs situation in affected areas and is obtaining relevant information from actors involved in the emergency. WFP has met with UNDP, UNICEF, PAHO, the Red Cross, the Ministry of Human Development, and technical staff of the Government Food Committee. WFP has attended meetings with the Foreign Assistance Committee of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and the United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT). WFP also participated in a fly over of affected areas on October 10th.
The UN-DMT (PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and UNDP) remains activated. A PAHO/WHO health assessment team arrived on October 11th to assist the Ministry of Health with their assessment. PAHO/WHO and UNICEF have each made US$50,000 immediately available for disaster relief activities, and UNDP ERD has contributed $100,000.
ODM submission compiled with extracts from UN Belize Situation Reports
2. Central American Drought
A meeting of Country Representatives of Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala and WFP Regional Bureau staff was held in Managua on October 10 to discuss the post-drought situation. The discussion emphasized how WFP could better meet the immediate and long-term needs of the population most vulnerable to food insecurity.
The severe malnutrition problem, especially among children, combined with recurring natural disasters is of immediate concern. Consensus was reached that the urgency of the problem requires a well-defined strategy to improve people's nutritional status and secure their livelihoods. The strategy could eventually take the form of a follow-on protracted relief and recovery programme. ODM's course of action will be based on in-depth assessments planned for October and January and donor interest.