Guatemala

Humanitarian aid for the victims of Hurricane Stan in Guatemala

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Posted
Originally published

Attachments

Location of operation: GUATEMALA
Amount of Decision: EUR 2,600,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/GTM/BUD/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

On 5 October 2005 Guatemala declared a state of National Emergency and requested international support after Hurricane Stan hit the country. Ten days of continuous rain brought on by Hurricane Stan caused flooding and landslides in Guatemala where the soil was already saturated by the rainy season. According to the Guatemalan Government(1), these events affected some 3,500,000 people (31% of the total Guatemalan population) in 15 departments(2) (out of 22 departments, i.e. 68%); of these, 474,928 people (4% of Guatemala's population) have been severely affected and it is estimated that another three million people in the country have been indirectly affected by the floods. To date, there are 669 confirmed deaths, with another 844 people listed as missing.

Department
Affected
Deaths
Missing
Injured
San Marcos
185,938
264
133
29
Escuintla
157,824
25
49
Solola
28,034
271
691
208
Quetzaltenango
19,686
18
1
Jutiapa
15588
3
3
Huehuetenango
14,619
15
1
3
Chimaltenango
14,282
31
12
3
Quiche
10,148
9
1
79
Santa Rosa
9,017
8
Retalhuleu
8,799
2
13
Totonicapan
3,440
5
Suchitepequez
3,381
2
1
Sacatepequez
2,689
2
Guatemala
1,404
2
Jalapa
79
14
1
TOTAL
474,928
669
844
386

Source: SE-CONRED

The area affected by the hurricane corresponds to 33% of the national territory, i.e. 36,000 Km². 40% of the Guatemalan municipalities (i.e. 133 out of 333) were impacted by the storm.

According to ECLAC(3), the impact of Hurricane Stan amounts to more than EUR 800 million, which is equivalent to 3.1% of GDP in 2004. In the list of the ten countries most affected in 2005 by natural disasters, CRED classified Guatemala's catastrophe as second in the world in terms of number killed/100,000 inhabitants. Regarding its economic impact, this disaster ranked third in terms of percentage of previous-year GDP.

An analysis at departmental level shows that the hurricane had the greatest impact in those departments with the lowest human development indices and which are home to populations with low income levels, who are often indigenous peoples.

Department
Affected population
% Indigenous Population
Impact
(% GDP)
HDI
(2002)
San Marcos
39.2%
35.3%
21.9
0.583
Escuintla
33.2%
6.5%
9.1
0.605
Solola
5.9%
96.3%
34.9
0.579
Quetzaltenango
4.1%
52.3%
7.3
0.655
Jutiapa
3.3%
2.8%
16.0
0.593
Huehuetenango
3.1%
64.6%
9.8
0.560
Chimaltenango
3.0%
78.8%
8.6
0.618
Quiche
2.1%
88.4%
2.0
0.508
Retalhuleu
1.9%
21.0%
19.9
0.632
Santa Rosa
1.9%
2.4%
7.7
0.604
Totonicapan
0.7%
98.3%
6.4
0.540
Suchitepequez
0.7%
48.0%
4.7
0.587
Sacatepequez
0.6%
41.1%
2.9
0.708
Guatemala
0.6%
12.3%
0.3
0.795
Jalapa
0.01%
14.9%
5.3
0.568
TOTAL
100%
41%
3.1
0.649

Sources: SE-CONRED; INE; UNDP; SEGEPLAN

DG ECHO(4) reacted very promptly and a first primary emergency decision to allocate EUR 1.7 million was taken on 6 October 2005 to help meet the initial urgent needs of the victims of Hurricane Stan in Guatemala and El Salvador. This included a humanitarian operation of EUR 0.3 million in the South-Western coast of Guatemala. Basic relief items like food parcels and non-food items were delivered during the first days of the emergency.

Efforts to determine the damage caused by the hurricane were hindered by the rain as floods and landslides wiped out roads, making it difficult for assessment teams to reach the affected areas. However, when the magnitude of the disaster was revealed with the first results of these assessments, DG ECHO adopted an emergency decision on 10 November 2005 of EUR 4.0 million for Guatemala and El Salvador. Of this amount, EUR 3.6 million was channelled to Guatemala through the implementation of 12 humanitarian operations in the six departments in which 90% of the affected population were concentrated: San Marcos, Solola, Escuintla, Quetzaltenango, Santa Rosa and Retalhuleu. Basic relief items (food, water, hygiene kits, etc) were distributed to the affected population who remained in public shelters and to those who were slowly returning to their homes. Medical assistance (including psycho-social support) was delivered to these families. Water supply was quickly restored in several communities. Several families who lost their houses were provided with temporary shelters. Some rural roads were repaired in order to re-establish access to communities that were isolated by landslides. DG ECHO partners implemented some actions aimed at restoring agricultural assets lost through the disaster.

At the moment, more than 12,000 people remain in temporary shelters. At the peak of the emergency phase there were around 43,000 people. These figures do not include the families who were sheltered in houses of relatives and friends.

In Guatemala, the poorest families have been hardest hit by Hurricane Stan. These families, the majority of them indigenous, lost their houses and most of their economic assets that would have allowed them to recover from this catastrophe. The Guatemalan Government recently presented their Reconstruction Plan to the international community. This plan confirms the significant gap that exists between the public resources and the actual needs in terms of rehabilitation and reconstruction. Currently, donors are analysing the request made by the Government in reconstruction terms, but few actors are focusing on the current post-emergency phase that will build the bridge between the emergency humanitarian aid and the long-term reconstruction phase. Furthermore, during a DG ECHO needs assessment mission, partners reported that some populations in the more remote areas have not been taken into account in the government assessment.

1.2. - Identified needs:

The productive sector concentrates 27% of the damage, especially the agricultural subsector. Agricultural risk-prone areas were severely affected by the disaster. The hurricane affected primarily poor peasants and rural workers by washing off crop lands located on slopes and flood-prone areas. These families usually have a poor diet and very limited food reserves. As they depend on agriculture, income for food purchases is very limited as their crops were damaged. As their second source of income is generally daily wage labour, their earning possibilities were also severely reduced by the hurricane. According to ECLAC, more than 17,000 jobs were lost as a consequence of the disaster. The Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the hurricane has damaged an agricultural area of 720,000 hectares. It estimates crop losses to be 50% in the cases of yellow maize and rice; 80% for black beans; 30% for white maize; 90% for banana, sorghum and sesame and 5% for sugar cane. The same source estimates that in some areas of the western departments 100% of the small livestock died as a consequence of the disaster.

In order to prevent a deterioration of the nutritional status of the most vulnerable population, these families continue to require humanitarian assistance. This kind of assistance is particularly relevant in a country where almost one out of every two children under five suffers from chronic malnutrition and any external shock immediately leads to an upsurge in acute malnutrition rates. Food assistance should be linked to rehabilitation efforts (agricultural activities, housing reconstruction, training, watsan rehabilitation works) and to the prevention of a decline in people's nutritional status. In line with the Food Aid Security Regulation, the EC's actions in this field shall be limited to food interventions for identified targeted groups (vulnerable groups) and the action to be promoted shall consist of "non free food aid distribution mechanism" (i.e. through Cash for work or food for work programmes).

In addition to food distribution, it is important to help to restore livelihoods through the promotion of agriculture (distribution of seeds, agricultural inputs and tools), small animal and fish activities. Economic reactivation could combine the support of traditional agricultural and livestock programmes with other economic activities like weaving, etc.

At the moment, more than 12,000 people remain in temporary shelters. These shelters need a regular provision of drinking water and basic sanitation services, together with domestic and hygiene items. The disaster that forced people to move to temporary shelters also impacted the health system in the affected areas, thus increasing the risk for already prevalent diseases such as respiratory, diarrhea and vector-born diseases. In this context, children, women and the elderly are especially vulnerable groups whose special needs must be taken into account. Preventive measures (including close monitoring for epidemics) should include general health assistance and psycho-social support activities, especially in the shelters.

Although the damage to the water and sanitation sector only represents 1.2% of the total damage, destruction took place at critical points in water and sanitation systems that rendered them unusable. Water provision and sanitation are always critical issues in hydro-meteorological disasters and these problems were rightly addressed by many DG ECHO partners during the emergency phase. These emergency solutions were aimed at quickly re-establishing water provision for the affected population. Although these repairs proved extremely useful during the emergency phase, they did not provide a permanent solution and these systems remain highly vulnerable to future hydrometeorological events that might occur in the next winter season. This sector provides an excellent opportunity for mainstreaming risk reduction in this post-emergency phase.

43% of the total damage is related to the transport sector. Thus, 1,400 km of paved roads (26% of the total) and 5,400 km of unpaved roads (52% of the total) were damaged by the landslides and floods. Several rural communities were cut off for days and weeks until partial rehabilitation works were carried out by the machinery provided by municipalities and some NGOs. Although in theory this is a sector traditionally covered by the Central Government, rehabilitation of access to some rural communities is not always prioritised by government large-scale road reconstruction programmes. Therefore this sector might offer some opportunities for those DG ECHO partners interested in implementing small scale risk mitigation actions in the transport infrastructure at community level.

According to ECLAC's assessment, the damage in the housing sector represents 13.3% of the total. The Guatemalan Government(5) has reported that over 13,500 houses were affected by the hurricane: 12,500 houses need to be rebuilt and more than 1,200 houses require repairs. Out of the 12,500 houses that have to be rebuilt, 64% of them also need to be relocated. Finding suitable risk-free land for such relocation is not an easy task in a country like Guatemala, where public land is scarce and expropriation of private land is not a politically viable option in a highly speculative market. Housing is, after transport, the sector where the Government has identified the biggest gap in terms of funding: 22.4% of the housing needs identified by the Government have not found yet a funding source. While not targeting shelter as a major component, interventions under this decision may, as part of an integrated approach, include a shelter component.

Local authorities' capacity was clearly exceeded by the magnitude of the disaster. Coordination mechanisms between the civil society and the central, departmental and municipal governmental levels did not always work properly during the emergency phase. Local authorities require external support to deal with the complexity of the rehabilitation process. Funding initiatives aimed at strengthening local governments' capacities to coordinate rehabilitation actions and to plan the reconstruction phase would be a useful input also for LRRD purposes and may be incorporated into some projects.

Disaster risk reduction should be mainstreamed as much as possible in humanitarian operations, not only through the inclusion of specific disaster preparedness and mitigation activities, but also through the adoption of a risk reduction approach in the post-emergency humanitarian activities.

1.3. Target population and regions concerned:

The Decision will target around 80,000 people, either living in temporary shelters or who have been relocated to new sites and families, or who have returned to their homes. This Decision covers the most severely affected departments such as San Marcos, Solola, Quetzaltenango.

Operations will take into account the special needs of vulnerable groups such as children, women, elderly, disabled and indigenous minorities.

Priority will also be given to operations that mainstream disaster risk reduction in their rehabilitation activities as this population will most probably continue to live in disaster prone areas.

Notes

(1) SE-CONRED (Secretaria Ejecutiva de la Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres - national coordinating agency for disaster reduction)

(2) Santa Rosa, Jutiapa, Sacatepéquez, Escuintla, Chimaltenango, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, San Marcos, Totonicapán, Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Huehuetenango, Jalapa, Quiche and Guatemala.

(3) United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL)

(4) Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid - ECHO

(5) Ministerio de Comunicaciones, Infraestructura y Vivienda