Alarming situation in Central America due to the impact of hurricanes (ETA and IOTA), the COVID-19 pandemic and children in shelters. | Plan International Skip to main content

Alarming situation in Central America due to the impact of hurricanes (ETA and IOTA), the COVID-19 pandemic and children in shelters.

19 November 2020
More than 4.2 million people affected in total by hurricane ETA in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, and with the arrival of the second hurricane (IOTA), even more damage has been generated in the same countries, now including El Salvador. In disasters and emergencies situations, it is essential to consider the most vulnerable populations, those who face the most risks and those who are most exposed, including girls, who due to their age and gender are at greater risk of suffering cases of violence and sexual abuse.

Aerial photo of Cobán, Guatemala

Two weeks ago, hurricane ETA struck Nicaragua then Honduras and Guatemala as a tropical storm, causing more than 4.2 million people affected in the 3 countries. The second hurricane (IOTA) impacted Nicaraguan territory as a Category 5 hurricane on Monday, November 16th at night, then crossed the country to the north and entered Honduras as a tropical storm on Tuesday 17th in the afternoon. Today it is found in El Salvador in the category of tropical depression.

After Hurricane IOTA according to Plan International staff in the city of Bilwi (Nicaragua), 80% of the city's infrastructure has been damaged. Based on the initial information from the government, 48,000 people are in 561 shelters nationwide, of which 70 are in the most affected region (North Atlantic Autonomous Region - RAAN).

“First, we faced the disaster caused by the category 4 hurricane Eta, and in less than 15 days, we experienced the devastating and aggressive impact of the category 5 hurricane IOTA, which has caused devastation of great magnitude in the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Many people lost their homes and are living in shelters, where food, shelter and protection for girls, boys and their families are urgent ” Gerardo Lara, Country Director of Plan International Nicaragua

Given that the rains persist in Honduras and El Salvador, there are still no official figures on the effects caused by Hurricane IOTA, but it is estimated that the impacts and needs are increasing.

After the impact of both hurricanes, with the soils saturated by intense rains and floods, with landslides and with thousands of damaged structures in the territory, the situation of the Central American countries becomes more complex, since in addition to the COVID-19 Pandemic, they must deal with possible outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya, and Zika due to the water accumulation.

Plan International as a development and humanitarian organization has deployed its response team throughout the territory to quickly respond to the emergency. The early response in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala focuses on supporting affected people with supplies of water, food, materials for hygiene and prevention of COVID-19; in addition, actions to protect children and especially to prevent violence against girls and women; and the delivery of menstrual hygiene kits for adolescents and young people. In El Salvador, the Plan International Emergency Response Team is closely monitoring the situation since many people have taken preventive refuge, which is why hygiene kits, biosecurity and play kits are being delivered for girls and boys.

Children in a shelter in Honduras learning on COVID-19 prevention by reading the COVIDBOOK

Testimonials of protagonists:

“The water was rising and rising and we had to climb to the roof of a packing house where there were approximately 400 people, and that roof did not have the capacity to hold so many people, at any moment we could fall, it was a disaster. We spent two days and one night there” Ana (17 years old) Honduras.

Darci 16 years old (Nicaragua): "I felt that my house was moving, I looked when the roof was coming off; I was afraid that something would happen to my family and me, that a tree would fall on us or that my house would be flooded by the heavy rains. That's why we ran to the shelter. "

Special situation of girls during emergencies.

In any response to emergencies, it is essential to take into account the most vulnerable populations, among whom are children, especially girls, who due to their age and gender are at greater risk of suffering cases of violence and sexual abuse.

During the emergency caused by hurricane ETA, families have been forced to leave their homes and take refuge in temporary shelters where overcrowding and reduced spaces make it difficult to guarantee the safety and protection of children and adolescents. According to official reports on November 16th, 55.3 thousand people in Honduras and 17.6 thousand in Guatemala are in shelters, and with the arrival of Hurricane IOTA, the situation will get worse. If girls are already exposed to different risks, the situation of these shelters increases them even more. In the case of Honduras before the arrival of IOTA, cases of sexual abuse of girls in shelters have already been reported.

Plan International, in its experience in responding to emergencies and disasters around the world, prioritizes the protection of children as the fundamental axis of its response, with an emphasis on the rights of girls due to the greater vulnerability to which they are exposed. That is why the central part of its intervention in the 4 countries (Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador) is going to be aimed at child protection with emphasis on the prevention of violence and sexual abuse against children in shelters and shelters.

It is essential that States guarantee that initiatives that contribute to the prevention, monitoring and accompaniment of cases of violation of children's rights are incorporated into its response actions to emergencies, with a special emphasis on sexual violence.