This report is produced by OCHA in collaboration with humanitarian partners. It covers the period from 10 to 15 November 2020. The next report will be issued on or around 18 November.
Millions of people in Central America still reeling from Eta’s impact are facing the threat of a second major hurricane in as many weeks with the imminent arrival of Iota, set to strike potentially a Category 5 storm by 16 November in the evening along virtually the same path as Eta.
Iota comes as national authorities and humanitarian organizations continue to reach previously isolated communities, especially in Honduras and Guatemala, to respond and gain information on their needs. This gradual restoration of access is revealing the sobering magnitude of Eta’s impact and the catastrophic effects that Iota may bring on these communities.
While humanitarian organizations continue to carry out priority response efforts in affected communities, reports from the field indicate dire shelter conditions amid overcrowding, incidents of violence, gender-based violence and family separation, limited access to safe water, food and protection and inadequate COVID-19 prevention measures, conditions that Iota is likely to further strain with pre-emptive evacuations and the high likelihood of longer term stays in the wake of a storm of Iota’s projected intensity.
4.9M People affected across Central America and Mexico
3M People affected in Honduras
900K People affected in Guatemala
55.3K People sheltered in Honduras
17.6K People sheltered in Guatemala
Millions suffering from Eta’s consequences are now on the brink of facing a second major storm in as many weeks, with Hurricane Iota bearing down on Central America’s Caribbean coasts on a path virtually identical to that of Eta and setting up a potentially catastrophic scenario upon its projected landfall as a Category 5 storm. Iota, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season’s 30th named storm, is currently a Category 4 hurricane featuring maximum sustained winds of 245 km/h and is forecast to bring rainfall of up to 400mm in Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Guatemala and southern Belize. These conditions will bring significant, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides in higher elevation areas, risks that are compounded by high soil saturations from Eta.
The prospect of a second major hurricane is particularly daunting in Honduras and Guatemala, where authorities and humanitarian organizations are still carrying out ongoing assessments that are revealing the magnitude of Eta’s impact on millions of people ahead of Iota’s imminent arrival. Governments, NGOs and UN teams continue to overcome critical access constraints and reach affected communities and gather more comprehensive information on their needs.
The gradual gains in access have also increased rolling counts on people affected, deaths and people in shelters. Honduras’ COPECO civil protection agency now reports 3 million people affected, 1 million more than figures reported as recently as the previous week. In Guatemala, the 900,500 people directly affected by Eta are nearly triple the figures reported during the same time. Moreover, Honduras reported on 12 November that there are nearly 103,000 people still cut off in Eta’s wake. Several towns in northern Guatemala, mostly indigenous, remain isolated due to flooding and landslides, with reports of whole towns being completely buried.
Following Honduras’ call for international humanitarian assistance, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) deployed to Honduras to help Government and communities’ needs assessment and response coordination efforts; the UNDAC team is already in San Pedro Sula in the hard-hit department of Cortés. Guatemala similarly issued a call for assistance from international organizations and bilateral support on 11 November.
While humanitarian partners continue to provide immediate response focused on guaranteeing access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), food security, health and protection, there is particular concern over reports from shelters in Honduras and Guatemala, where there are tens of thousands of people facing dire conditions without the benefit of adequate space, COVID-19 prevention measures or equipment, access to WASH services or food security or protection.
Official data already shows that reported COVID-19 cases across Honduras have risen by 2,100 from 6 to 13 November, with more expected in coming days, while shelters in the capital of Tegucigalpa have a 33 per cent positive testing rate, per the Ministry of Health. Field reports from ongoing inter-sectoral evaluations in Guatemala, where there are 17,500 reported in official shelters, confirm high rates of positive COVID-19 tests as well.
There are also field reports from various areas in Honduras citing criminal presence and control, violence, gender-based violence (GBV) and family separation, where there are more than 44,000 people reported in shelters. Additionally, Honduran authorities, who are still dealing with Eta’s impact to at least 745 communities across 155 of 298 municipalities, ordered evacuations of at-risk areas ahead of Iota, increasing shelter numbers beyond their already concerning levels.
Guatemala is bracing for Iota after 10 of 22 departments declared a state of calamity over Eta. Northern Nicaragua is home to vulnerable indigenous communities still reeling from Eta’s impact, while southern Belize continues to deal with receding flood waters that have affected 50,000 to 60,000 people. Hazardous weather related to Eta and now Iota has already affected some 224,000 people in five northern Colombian departments. El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama have already issued alerts across all provinces. While Mexico is not directly on Iota’s projected path, the south-eastern states of Chiapas, Tabasco and Veracruz took on significant rains between Eta and a cold front that affected at least 238,500 people.
Iota formed after Tropical Storm Theta formed over the north Atlantic as the 29th named storm, pushing the 2020 season past an unprecedented milestone to become the most active hurricane season in recorded history.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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