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Habitat for Humanity helps Central American families affected by floods

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A tropical depression that swept in from the Pacific forced thousands of people to abandon their homes throughout Central America. Habitat for Humanity is mobilizing to help affected families with housing solutions that consider immediate as well as long term needs.

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica (October 23, 2011) – In the early hours of October 12, Tropical Depression 12E, which had previously devastated Tehuantepec, Mexico, had fragmented into torrential rains that continued across Central America for five days. Damages were considerable, mainly due to severe flooding and landslides.

According to OCHA, some 570,000 people have been affected by the disaster throughout the region. Guatemala and El Salvador suffered the greatest impact, with more than 300,000 affected and some 40 thousand people evacuated from their homes in these two countries alone. Habitat for Humanity organizations in Guatemala and El Salvador are mobilizing to respond with housing solutions that consider both short and the long term needs.

In El Salvador, more than 150,000 people have been affected by the most intense rains recorded in the last 50 years. Habitat for Humanity is helping to cover the basic water and sanitation needs of people currently living in shelters in the departments of Usulután and San Vicente. Habitat will build 50 temporary showers, provide 40 portable toilets and contribute water tanks so that those staying at the shelters have a daily water supply for bathing, washing clothes and cooking. In addition, Habitat will donate 500 emergency shelter kits with the tools needed to make basic home repairs. Habitat will then facilitate 200 home improvements and help rebuild 200 houses for families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.

“We have made a commitment to serve 5,500 Salvadorans through a threefold plan that addresses both the short and long-term needs of the storm victims,” said Jorge Molina, national director of Habitat for Humanity El Salvador.

In Guatemala, where more than 154,000 people have been affected and some 3,316 families have lost their homes entirely, Habitat for Humanity is launching a long term response in the areas that have been most impacted by the storms: Quetzaltenango, San Marcos, Sololá, Chimaltenango, Totonicapán, Jutiapa, Santa Rosa and Retalhuleu.

“Families need to start to recover their livelihoods, and doing this from a safe and secure place is extremely important,” said Luis Samayoa, national director of Habitat for Humanity Guatemala. “After Tropical Storm Agatha, Habitat helped affected families through a 23.75 square meter progressive house design. This allowed them to focus on recuperating their livelihoods while knowing that they were in safe house, in a safe location.”

Habitat Guatemala’s response will include the provision of 200 new, progressive-style homes and the reparation of 800 damaged houses. Progressive housing can be expanded slowly over time, according to each family’s long term needs and financial capability. Affected families will also receive free educational workshops on topics such as financial education, disaster and emergency mitigation, sanitation and personal hygiene.

Habitat for Humanity’s ability to respond effectively to this disaster will require the generous support of individuals, churches, corporate partners and civic organizations. “In this time of need, we urge everyone to join us in serving families affected by this natural disaster,” said Molina.

Visit www.habitatlatino.org to learn more about how you can help in Guatemala or El Salvador.

About Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean Habitat for Humanity first opened its doors in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in 1979, and has since helped more than 100,000 low-income families to access adequate housing in the region. Headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Latin America and Caribbean regional office coordinates the efforts of 16 national organizations, as well as unique partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit habitatlatino.org.

Learn more about Habitat for Humanity in Latin America and the Caribbean.