Help needed for victims of Hurricane Stan

Published on 10 December 2005

With the full picture of devastation in the wake of Hurricane Stan yet to emerge across Central America, WFP is today providing urgently needed food to assist thousands of affected families in Guatemala.

With the full picture of devastation in the wake of Hurricane Stan yet to emerge across Central America, WFP is today providing urgently needed food to assist thousands of affected families in Guatemala.

Torrential rains and ensuing landslides have swallowed up villages in the Guatemalan highlands, causing large-scale death and destruction. Two entire villages have been declared mass graves after digging for bodies had to be abandoned, due to dangerous conditions.

With around 650 people confirmed dead, the toll is bound to rise as many areas have not been reached because of widespread damage to roads and bridges. The continuing bad weather, while hampering relief efforts, could also threaten more havoc.

High Energy Biscuits

High Energy Biscuits will keep them going until we can provide more substantial sustenance; we’re particularly concerned about the women and children

Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director

A first delivery of five metric tons of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) is being airlifted to the most isolated areas through the National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction. A further three tons of WFP HEBs are being sent to Guatemala today with air support provided by the Honduran government.

The consignment is part of a 53 ton loan of biscuits from WFP Honduras.

This is in addition to WFP family rations of maize, beans, corn soya blend and vegetable oil.

Women and children

“Hundreds of people have been cut off without assistance for up to four days. The High Energy Biscuits will keep them going until we can provide more substantial sustenance; we’re particularly concerned about the women and children,” said Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director in Guatemala.

With low cloud preventing aircraft from flying to precarious hillside communities, the main problem has been access to the region’s poorest.

Malnutrition

Among the indigenous Mayan people chronic malnutrition rates already exceed the national average of 49.3 percent – the sixth highest rate in the world.

“Food assistance is vital to avoid further deterioration of the nutritional situation of these vulnerable families, especially in a country where one in two infants suffers from chronic malnutrition and is at high risk of sickness and death,” said Segura.

Within the current relief and recovery operation, WFP has already provided the government with 1,600 tons of food – enough to feed some 70,000 families for one week. However, food aid needs are expected to increase beyond current in-country stocks.

Flash appeal

The UN launched a flash appeal at the weekend seeking US$ 22 million to provide food, shelter, water and sanitation to the victims of Guatemala. Of this, a provisional US$ 6.9 million is destined for WFP, pending continuing food needs assessments.

In neighbouring El Salvador, some 70,000 people have been evacuated to over 600 shelters following the combined effects of widespread flooding and the earlier eruption of the volcano Santa Ana.

Confirmed deaths are 74 (two due to the volcanic eruption). Renewed heavy rain - last week’s rainfall was 10 times the monthly average - has resulted in more flooding.

Landslides

Coastal areas in Ahuachapan, Sonsonate, La Paz, San Vicente and Usulutan remain flooded, and saturated soil has increased the risk of further landslides.

In coordination with the government, WFP has so far dispatched 304 metric tons to 77, 000 beneficiaries in shelters and affected communities. Rations comprising cereals (maize & rice), pulses, highly nutritious corn soya blend (CSB) and vegetable oil have been provided.

Isolated

WFP has also been reaching isolated communities, particularly on the Island of San Sebastian, Usulutan in River Lempa delta, with support from the Salvadoran Navy which provided boats to transport the food.

Two rubber boats capable of bringing food to flood victims in the River Lempa delta area have been donated by the Swedish Rescue agency (SRSA), one of WFP’s standby partners.

The boats, which were airlifted in this week by one of WFP’s major corporate partners, TNT, are invaluable in reaching the hungry in El Salvador.