Costa Rica + 2 more

ACT Alert Central America - No. 42/2008: Since the beginning of October, intense rains affected several parts in the Central America region

Geneva, 24 October 2008

In Guatemala, the rain caused flooding in the regional department of Petén, in the north of the country, in particular in the municipalities of La Libertad and Sayaxche. The overflow of the rivers Usumacinta, Salinas and Pasión has inundated families land plots and destroyed crops such as maize, beans and chili. Until now, one person was reported dead, another person injured. A total of 2,152 families have been affected, most of them had to be evacuated to shelters set up by the Secretariat of Social Work (SOSEP) under the leadership of the First Lady. However, these centers lack the necessary equipments to meet the essential needs of the families and do not offer enough space to host all the families in need for shelter. The affected families lost their belongings such as clothes, blankets, sheets, domestic utensils and beds. Additionally, they will have to face additional economic hardship due to the loss of crops.

Each family hosted in the shelters received one food kit, which is hardly enough to meet the nutritional requirements. The government's resources are limited both in capacity to respond and financial resources. The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and World Food Program (WFP) have made an assessment of damages and needs in the affected communities, but detailed information has not yet been received. UNDP has started delivering maize ratios to families, quantities of which are not yet known.

ACT members Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), through the ACT forum in Guatemala, had responded to the crisis in the period between 8 and 11 October 2008. They have provided food kits per family comprising of 1 pound of maize, a blanket, a poncho, a mosquito net, two water buckets and a water purifier to 75 affected families in the villages of El Pescador, La Unión, Elena, Santo Domingo and Roto Nuevo.

Because the rains have not stopped since, LWF re-assessed the situation in coordination with the Executive Secretary of the National Coordinator for Disaster Risk Reduction (SE-CONRED). Findings indicate that a total of 1477 additional kits would be needed. ACT Members in Guatemala are currently preparing a request to the ACT Rapid Response Fund which should be presented in the coming days.

In Honduras, the heavy rains resulted in flooding and landslides in different parts of the country of such extent that on 20 October, the Permanent Commission of Contingencies (COPECO) declared a red alert for the departments of Cortes, Yoro, Comayagua, Choluteca and Valle. A yellow alert was declared in the department of Francisco Morazán and a green alert in the departments of Copan, Ocotepeque, Lempira, Intibucá, Santa Barbara, La Paz, El Paraiso and Olancho.

The President declared the state of national emergency and prepared the government to respond to the crisis. On 22 October, the red alert was extended for an additional 24 hours in the departments of Copan, Ocotepeque, Cortes, Comayagua, Choluteca and Valle; yellow alert in Atlántida, Yoro, Olancho, Colon, Francisco Morazán, El Paraiso and Gracias a Dios. The green alert remains for the rest of the territory.

16 out of the 18 departments of the country report some level of impact. The main areas affected are the West, the South and the Valley of Sula. The following damage was reported so far: 23 deaths, 8 people missing, 22,742 people evacuated, 22,143 people affected, 19,835 people sheltered, 157 roads were damages, 7 roads were destroyed and a total of 142,356 people were impacted. A total of 2,417 houses were damaged and 374 houses were destroyed. The agricultural areas that report the biggest impacts are the Sula Valley, the Valley of Aguan and Olancho which produce corn, plantains, yucca, palm, sugar cane and coffee. A total of 16,083 hectares of basic grains were destroyed.

The Government has defined its procedures to respond to the emergency, which consists in the organization of regional emergency committees formed by delegates of ministries and municipal governments. These committees are going to respond in the short term with food aid, water and sanitation, medicines, blankets and clothes. The international response includes actions from UN organizations such as WFP, UNDP and UNICEF; the European ECHO, the Red Cross, Oxfam, and others. The response also includes food aid, water and sanitation, medicines, blankets, clothes and rehabilitation and reconstruction of agricultural production and housing.

ACT members have distributed food aid and water supply to affected population in at least four regions of the country. Assessment teams have been deployed by partner organizations to evaluate the damages and identify the needs of the population. ACT members have been participating in meetings with the Permanent Commission for Contingencies (COPECO) to establish mechanisms of coordination.

The response will focus mainly on food aid distribution, mattresses and blankets, kitchen supplies, hygiene kits, medicines, and clothes. Actions for basic rehabilitation and reduce future risks are under consideration.

In Costa Rica, the rains strongly affected Pacific and Guanacaste side, but also the Central Valley. According to data from the National Commission of the Emergency Prevention and Emergency Attention, the storm forced the more than 3,000 people to move to temporary shelters; damaged a reported 1,219 homes; impacted 474 communities; affected 17,652 people directly and more than 89,000 people indirectly; damaged 25 bridges, 10 drains, and 424 artesian wells; affected 474 communities in 51 cantons; and caused 6 deaths.

12 communities of the most affected are located in Guanacaste and on the Pacific coast. The majority of the people depend on agricultural activities. Many of these communities were cut off by the floods until just two days ago. Roads are damaged, bridges are in very poor condition. As the rains lessen, communities assess the magnitude of the damage and establish reconstruction plans with the help of local leaders, technical experts and eports from each municipality.

On 19 October, the Government declared the state and disbursed funds for the affected regions. However, the support has not reached all zones. The government, with support form the International Red Cross assisted the population with food supplies, but there remains large unmet needs for agricultural rehabilitation.

To date, the ACT member Lutheran Church of Costa Rica has coordinated with the local leadership to start the assessment of damage and needs. The member plans to respond to the crisis with activities in agricultural rehabilitation for a minimum of 250 families from the 12 affected communities in Guanacaste and the indigenous zone of the Pacific coast.

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jessie Kgoroeadira, ACT Finance Officer (

Thank you for your attention.

For further information please contact:

ACT Program Officer, Michael Zschiegner, (phone +41 22 791 6420 or mobile phone +41 79 608 8133)

ACT Web Site address:

ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.