Operations: Regional context
Hurricane and tropical storm Eta has caused considerable damage across Central America, affecting almost 3 million persons. Currently 120,600 people have had to evacuate their homes, mainly in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, but many communities remain affected in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. Flooding, mudslides, and road damage has occurred in several parts of the region, reducing humanitarian access. Eta heavily impacted indigenous and ethnic communities in Nicaragua (especially Miskita, Sumo, Garífuna and Creoles) resulting in new displacements.
The COVID-19 pandemic further complicates the emergency response. Tens of thousands of people remain in shelters, where maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene practices is challenging. The main protection concerns reported include sexual violence and harassment, as well as criminal gang violence in affected areas around the shelters.
UNHCR and partners are providing information sessions on the prevention of SGBV and referral pathways, the identification of specific needs and information on the prevention of COVID-19. Due to an increase in humanitarian needs, UNHCR is also distributing NFI kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hygiene kits in shelters located in affected municipalities. UNHCR continues to provide assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers affected by the storm, with food and water, while monitoring the situation in the host communities. See more about UNHCR’s response.
Rising temperatures are changing rainfall patterns at the global level. In Central America, climate change is increasing the intensity of both rain and droughts, particularly across the region known as the “dry corridor”. Such phenomena can exacerbate conditions of insecurity which continue to drive people to flee their communities.
Generalised violence appears to be on the rise once again in the North of Central America. Following a recent decline in El Salvador, there was an increase in violent deaths during the month of October, with 154 violent deaths, 30 more than in the same period of 2019. In 2020, SGBV in Honduras has significantly increased since the onset of the COVID-19 movement restrictions which began in March. In September, 30 femicides, 55 cases of violence against women and 17 sexual assaults were reported, according to the Centre for Women’s Rights (CDM). In Guatemala, departments of Huehuetenango, Chiquimula, and Solola saw an increase in homicides according to a study carried out by the Centre of National Economic Investigations (CIEN). This study also notes that Solola experienced the highest percentage of homicide, an increase by 89% compared to the same period in 2019.