To date, at least 99 people have been reported killed by the eruption of the Volcán de Fuego on Sunday – Guatemala’s biggest in more than 40 years. A second eruption on Tuesday disrupted search and rescue missions for the 192 people who have been reported missing, and the death toll continues to rise.
The needs of the children, especially girls, affected by these deadly and devastating eruptions must be a top priority for the international community.
Plan International has launched a humanitarian response to the emergency, with actions so far including supporting the evacuation to the US of two severely burned girls for urgent medical attention, and provision of urgent items, including sanitary pads, to 500 displaced families who are in shelters.
Analí, 10 and Melanie, 15, were both severely burned when lava from the volcano fell on their homes. Thanks to swift action from Plan International Guatemala and the Guatemalan and US governments, the girls will now receive specialised medical attention at a hospital in Texas.
Many children forced to leave their homes
In total, 1.7 million people, including hundreds of thousands of children, have been affected and more than 12,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes due to severe damage to properties and the significant risk of further eruptions. More than 4,000 displaced people are now in one of the more than 20 temporary shelters.
John Lundine, Country Director of Plan International Guatemala, said: “Like Analí and Melanie, children, particulary girls, are vulnerable during emergencies and their specific needs must be considered. We mourn the loss of many children who have died and or had their lives turned upside down during the eruption and subsequent evacuations.”
“School and social activities have been disrupted, leading to a loss of children’s sense of security and stability. Children have become orphaned, lost family members and their homes and separated from their families.”
Plan International is deploying 12 psychologists to help address the emotional challenges these children face. The organisation is also working closely with the government and other humanitarian actors to provide the affected population with immediate support.
Funding needed to support children
Plan International is ensuring that children staying in temporary shelters are adequately protected against the risk of violence and abuse. They will also receive emotional support to help them regain a sense of normality while they continue to live with the uncertainty of further eruptions.
“In many of these shelters, more than half of the occupants are children. Providing a safe place for children to come together, be protected from any abuse or violence, and interact and play can go a long way to addressing the emotional challenges they face,” said Mr Lundine.
Plan International urgently needs funding to support its immediate response actions and longer-term response strategy, which will include restoring education to children whose schools have been damaged or destroyed, and supporting those children with long-term, specific needs.
To donate to the relief effort, please visit Plan International Spain at https://plan-international.es/