Central America: Drought - Information Bulletin N° 1 (17 August 2018)

The Situation

A severe drought is affecting Central America’s Dry Corridor, which stretches from southern Mexico to Panama, threatening the food security of millions of Central American people. The most impacted countries are El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, which have experienced prolonged periods without rain since late June 2018; the drought conditions are expected to persist until 15 August 2018, and the LVI Climate Forum in Central America predicts below normal rainfall for the affected region from August to October 2018, further compounding the situation.

The agriculture calendar below shows the various seasons in Central America. Typically, there is little to no rainfall in August, which is called the canícula in Spanish. However, since the canícula arrived much earlier than usual this year, crops losses have been significantly higher in the affected areas due to the sustained drought conditions.

The drought could lead to further internal immigration in the Americas, as climatic factors have impelled people to emigrate from the Northern Triangle’s Dry Corridor to the United States of America and elsewhere. A United Nations study found that more than 50 per cent of the Central Americans migrants apprehended by Mexican authorities identified as agricultural workers, and 80 per cent of Guatemalan migrants are from rural, predominantly agricultural areas with comparable homicide rates to the United States of America. Furthermore, a 2017 World Food Programme study revealed that almost half of the migrants that were interviewed reported they were food insecure and that 75% of them had been obliged to use emergency coping strategies such as selling their land; migrants from the most drought- afflicted areas that left between 2014 and 2016 gave “no food” as their primary reason for emigrating. Increases in oil prices and corn prices spurred by the situation in Nicaragua, crop losses and price speculation, and a continued decrease in coffee prices could cause further instability and spark more internal immigration.