Guatemala + 2 more

Floods in Central America: Crops and homes are gone

By Tomm Kristiansen/ACT International

Geneva, 27 October - More than 300 000 people are affected by floods in Central America. Close to fifty people have died in the floods. In Costa Rica bridges have been destroyed, in Honduras roads have been swept away and in Guatemala thousands of people have been evacuated and all crops are gone. ACT International is now involved in operations in all the three countries, providing food kits to the homeless as well as necessary equipment like mosquito nets, ponchos, blankets, buckets and water purification sets.

Guatemala; the crops are gone

In Guatemala, 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 equipment to meet the essential needs of the families and do not offer enough space to host all the families in need of 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 their nutritional requirements. The government's resources are limited both in capacity to respond and financial resources.

ACT members Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have responded to the crisis and provided homeless families with food kits consisting of maize, blankets, ponchos, mosquito nets, water buckets and a water purifier.

Honduras; 142 000 people impacted

In Honduras, the heavy rains resulted in flooding and landslides in different parts of the country. 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.

Before the weekend, the President declared the state of national emergency and prepared the government to respond to the crisis. 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. 142 000 people were impacted, 23 people have been found dead, eight are missing. 2500 houses were damaged and more than 20 000 people have been evacuated, and sheltered. The agricultural areas that report the being hardest hit 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.

ACT members have distributed food aid and water supplies 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. The homeless need food aid, mattresses and blankets, kitchen supplies, hygiene kits, medicine, and clothes. Actions for basic rehabilitation and reducing future risks are under consideration.

Costa Rica; bridges, wells, drains are destroyed

In Costa Rica, the rains strongly affected the Pacific and Guanacaste side, but also the Central Valley. According to data from the National Commission of Emergency Prevention and Emergency Attention, the storm forced the more than 3,000 people to move to temporary shelters and twelve hundred homes in 474 communities were destroyed. More than 89,000 people are effected, while bridges, drains and wells were destroyed.

12 of the most affected communities 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 recently. 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 and technical experts from each municipality.

The Government has declared the state and disbursed funds for the affected regions. However, the support has not reached all zones. To date, the ACT member Lutheran Church of Costa Rica (ILCO) has coordinated with the local leadership to start the assessment of damage and needs. ILCO plans to respond to the crisis with agricultural rehabilitation for a minimum of 250 families from the 12 affected communities in Guanacaste and the indigenous zone of the Pacific coast.

Tomm Kristiansen is the Communications Officer in ACT International, Geneva.