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Millions in Central America needing urgent food assistance after hurricane

  |   SUN Country Network, SUN UN Network

© WFP/Oscar Duarte

Millions of people in Central America urgently need food assistance in the wake of Hurricane Eta, one of the worst storms in decades, as fears grow of another storm brewing in the coming days.

Heavy rains, high winds, deadly landslides and floods unleashed by Eta after making landfall in Nicaragua earlier this month killed dozens of people, destroyed infrastructure and hurt rural livelihoods along its path in Central America, including in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

“Eta arrived at the worst time, making life harder for millions of people already hard hit by years of erratic weather and the socioeconomic crisis COVID-19 caused. We are also concerned that more heavy rain and flooding can destroy the upcoming harvest subsistence farmers depend on to survive,” said Miguel Barreto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Eta was the 28th hurricane in an already record-setting season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that there is a high chance another storm will form in the coming days.

WFP used internal resources to preposition food, scale up current operations focused on people affected by COVID-19, and mobilize teams to respond to the emergency in the most affected areas in Central America.

The hurricane compounds hunger already deepened by the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, the Dry Corridor of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) saw five years of prolonged drought and failed crops due to erratic weather patterns, which left smallholder farmers, day labourers and their families’ food insecure.

© WFP/Oscar Duarte

WFP predicts the number of people with severe food insecurity in the Dry Corridor could increase from more than 1.6 million in 2019 to close to 3 million in 2020, due to the socioeconomic fallout of COVID-19.

“To prevent the situation from becoming a larger humanitarian crisis, WFP calls for increased support from donors”, said Barreto.

An initial assessment indicates that our immediate funding needs to support the most vulnerable people are approximately USD 13.2 million. This figure is expected to increase over the next few weeks as the extent of Eta’s impact becomes clearer.

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