Central America has been severely affected by a record-breaking hurricane season, with Category 4 Hurricane Eta raging through the region at 225 km/h at the beginning of November, followed by Category 5 Hurricane Iota just about two weeks later. The heavy rains, strong winds, flash floods and storm surges triggered by the Hurricanes have affected a total of about 8.3 million people across Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which are already hard hit by years of erratic weather patterns and more recently by the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, resulting in potentially significant catastrophic impacts. Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were the most heavily affected countries in the region.
The Hurricanes hit at the start of the second planting season (postrera). As a result, bean and maize crops have suffered irreparable damages, causing significant harvest losses, and the agricultural livelihoods of about 727 315 families were severely affected. The livestock and fishery sectors have also been impacted, with the loss of critical assets, equipment and infrastructure.
The damage to agriculture, livestock and rural livelihoods could further worsen the food security situation in the region at a critical time, considering the upcoming lean season (March–August), when stocks are traditionally low. Many households have also lost their food reserves and are at risk of facing acute food insecurity. The vulnerability of indigenous communities, in particular, has been exacerbated due to damaged roads and bridges, increasing their isolation. Unemployment and loss of income are also expected to increase.
Vulnerable households, who mainly rely on agriculture, livestock and fishing as their main source of food and income, will likely face challenges in accessing basic needs that could lead to the adoption of negative coping mechanisms, including selling what’s left of their productive assets or reducing the number of meals per day.
In a region where nearly 8 million people are projected to face high acute food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification and Famine Early Warning Systems Network), the effects of Eta and Iota have further aggravated the situation and urgent action is needed to provide emergency livelihood support to the most vulnerable people.