WFP gears up to help Guatemala's hurricane victims

Published on 27 October 2005

As the devastation wrought by Hurricane Stan and the ensuing landslides continue to affect large numbers of people living in the Guatemalan highlands, WFP has launched a US$14.1 million emergency operation to assist 285,000 people with relief food.

“The most vulnerable communities have lost their livelihoods and income – their survival will remain precarious for several months,” said Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director in Guatemala.

“If WFP continues to provide the poorest and worst affected people with food, then they can concentrate on rebuilding their lives and their communities.”

Land washed away

According to new data collected by WFP teams who fanned out in the worst affected areas, a large proportion of arable land has been washed away. Crops have been lost in the highlands, where people depend on subsistence farming.

Those who earn a living through coffee and other export crops, or the fishing industry, or those who work as agricultural labourers or migrant workers as well as petty traders have been severely hit by the disaster.

Mud and landslides

The most vulnerable communities have lost their livelihoods and income – their survival will remain precarious for several months

Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director in Guatemala

The survey shows that most families in the departments of San Marcos, Sololá, Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango have lost not only most of their main crops (maize and potato) but also between 30-60 percent of their land due to mud and landslides.

And it is in these departments – as well as Totonicapan – where the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) is concerned about frosts between November and February, when temperatures drop below 10 degrees Celsius.

High energy biscuits

With the assistance of the US military, WFP has been airlifting high energy biscuits to isolated communities in order to reduce what are already high levels of malnutrition.

WFP is especially concerned that the current emergency could lead to a rapid deterioration in the nutritional status of children.

Flash appeal

The UN Flash appeal, launched on 9 October, was based on the limited information available soon after Hurricane Stan hit the country in early October.

The results of subsequent food needs assessments now indicate that more than a quarter of a million people in the 150 affected municipalities are extremely vulnerable and need relief food assistance.

As a result, WFP is increasing its appeal from US$ 6.9 million to US$14.1 million.

285,000 beneficiaries

During the first three months of the operation, WFP will reach 285,000 beneficiaries, reducing that number to 180,000 people in the remaining three months, as it is expected that those depending on fishing and daily wage labour will again be able to provide themselves with enough to eat.

While the Guatemalan government has committed to funding 40 percent of related logistics costs, WFP will open a new sub-office in San Marcos for the duration of the food distributions.

To date, WFP has received contributions from the United States (US$2 million), Norway (US$650,000) and Switzerland (US$300,000).