UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has deployed teams to assist relief efforts in Central America and southern Mexico, where an estimated three million people have been affected by hurricane and tropical storm Eta, in what is considered to be one of the worst weather-related disasters in the region in the past two decades.
Since Eta hit the region on 3 November, heavy winds and rains have damaged homes, roads, energy infrastructure and health centers. Entire crops have been destroyed and with them, many sources of livelihoods have disappeared. Mudslides have buried whole communities and over 120,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes across Central America, where brutal gang violence and persecution had already forced nearly 1 million people to flee.
“The impact of the storm comes amid an already critical economic contraction in the region as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing further hardship to forcibly displaced people and host communities alike. Increased movements across borders are now more likely, including of people fleeing violence and persecution,” said Giovanni Bassu, UNHCR’s Regional Representative for Central America and Cuba.
Rising temperatures are changing rainfall patterns at the global level. In Central America, climate change is increasing the intensity of both rain and droughts, particularly across the region known as the “dry corridor”. Such phenomena can exacerbate poverty and conditions of insecurity which continue to drive people to flee their communities.
Across the region UNHCR is assisting by stepping up shelter capacity, and providing facemasks, hygiene kits, soap, food kits, thermal blankets, mosquito nets, and solar lamps, among others.
Honduras has been hit hardest by extensive rains and overflowing rivers, with an estimated 1.3 million people affected, 58 dead and 88,000 evacuated. Among these are 103 people who had been previously displaced by violence and persecution.
In Guatemala, over 640,000 people have been affected, including 46 dead and 96 missing nationwide. Some are buried under landslides or remain inaccessible to first responders. At least two families of asylum seekers have had to be evacuated from their homes due to flooding. UNHCR is coordinating the delivery of aid with authorities and partners and has made refugee housing units and essential supplies available, in response to the government-led appeal for support.
UNHCR is also offering assistance in southeastern Mexico where at least 27 people have died and an estimated 180,000 people have been affected by flooding. The states of Chiapas and Tabasco, which are host to large numbers of asylum-seekers and refugees, mostly from the north of Central America, are particularly hard-hit. UNHCR teams are coordinating with local authorities to provide affected communities with 3,300 sleeping mats and food assistance for 700 families.
Extensive flooding and power outages have also been reported in northern Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize and El Salvador, where UNHCR teams are complementing UN and humanitarian-wide efforts.
UNHCR urges governments to include people who had already been displaced by violence in their relief efforts in the aftermath of the storm. UNHCR’s response to the effects of Eta are in line with our commitment to support the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework – MIRPS — to help states address the needs of forcibly displaced people and the communities that welcome them.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Mexico, Sibylla Brodzinsky,[email protected], + 52 55 8048 5054
- In Mexico, Silvia Garduño,[email protected], + 52 55 2848 7440
- In Panama, Diana Díaz [email protected], + 507 6646-3469
- In Panama, William Spindler,[email protected], +507 6382 7815
- In Honduras Pamela Villars, [email protected], + 504 3316-3176
- In Guatemala Zasha Millan, [email protected], + 49 1525 7438189
- In El Salvador Oscar Ramirez, [email protected], + 503 7003-7684
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney,[email protected], +1 347 443 7646
- In Geneva,Shabia Mantoo,[email protected], +41 79 337 7650