Eta & Iota’s impact adding to existing crises
Tropical Storm Eta and Hurricane Iota struck Central America in November, bringing high winds, severe flooding and landslides in countries dealing with longstanding vulnerabilities and the fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Tropical Storm Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall on 3 November and 16 November, respectively, with both striking Nicaragua before moving westward over Honduras and Guatemala. The storms brought wind speeds as high as 240 km/h and rainfalls up to 600mm. Flooding and landslides damaged or destroyed homes and infrastructure in south-eastern Mexico, parts of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, nearly all of Honduras and parts of northern Colombia.
Beyond the immediate material damage, Eta and Iota drove thousands of people to shelters with limited health security capacities for preventing COVID-19 spread, stoking fears of localized outbreaks as affected health facilities and networks worked to restore functionality. The storms also damaged or destroyed crops and harvests that were critical sources of livelihoods and food security for many families already facing economic hardships as a result of the pandemic.
Honduras and Guatemala, which form part of the Northern Countries of Central America (NCA) along with El Salvador, and Nicaragua were hit especially hard by the twin storms, with official numbers from these countries collectively amounting to at least 7.3 million people affected.
The storms’ aftermath in Central America is adding to the longstanding vulnerabilities of a region prone to cyclical drought and flooding, chronic violence, gender-based violence and displacement within and across borders, high poverty and unequal access to basic services, food, clean water and livelihoods.
Honduras and Guatemala already had a combined 4.6 million people in need prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and Eta and Iota.
Moreover, Eta and Iota have dealt a serious blow to highly vulnerable communities with existing needs that have been greatly aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic for much of 2020, creating a complex web of interrelated needs that may persist for years to come.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.