Hurricane Stan: humanitarian update from Central America

Despite continuing bad weather in the wake of Hurricane Stan, WFP food aid is reaching some 87,000 families in Guatemala and 77 beneficiaries in El Salvador ...

Introduction

Despite continuing bad weather in the wake of Hurricane Stan, WFP food aid is reaching some 87,000 families in Guatemala and 77 beneficiaries in El Salvador; highly nutritious biscuits are being flown in from neighbouring Ecuador and Honduras to assist some 1.5 million people in Guatemala.

El Salvador

  • 32,000 people remain in shelters (65,000 were originally evacuated), according to the National Emergency Committee (COEN). This figure includes both people evacuated as a result of both volcanic activity in Santa Ana and the widespread flooding.
  • The volcano evacuees and those who lost housing due to flooding will remain in shelters. The national alert level remains at yellow.
  • The volcano remains in a period of increased activity – according to the National Service for Territorial Studies (SNET). Monitoring centres have recorded both activity and a constant low frequency vibration; a 5 km radius exclusion zone remains at red alert.
  • The Chaparrastique volcano in the East (San Miguel) entered into an increased period of activity today with several seismic events causing alarm among people living nearby; at 2,130 metres it is historically one of the most active in El Salvador and is 10 kms west of the third largest city, San Miguel.

WFP response

  • In coordination with the government, WFP has so far dispatched 304 metric tons to 77, 000 beneficiaries in 402 shelters and affected communities for both volcano activity and flooding.
  • Rations comprising cereals (maize & rice), pulses, and highly nutritious corn soya blend (CSB) and vegetable oil have been provided.
  • Over the past week, 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.
  • “These communities are very poor people that in some cases have lost most of their assets and are completely dependent on the relief we can provide to them,” said Jaime Vallaure, WFP Country Director El Salvador.
  • “Using the navy boats is our only alternative in those areas. Many villagers, especially those living on the islands of the Lempa delta and surrounding communities were cut off from regular supplies by the flooding.”
  • Planned distributions: The next cycle of distributions is being planned jointly with the logistics command centre established by the El Salvador government and military. WFP has contracted transport to augment the military capacity and will deliver food directly to shelters and communities in affected municipalities.
  • Donated boats: 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.

Background: El Salvador

On 8 October, the Llamatepec volcano (Santa Ana) erupted sending plumes of ash and rock 1.5 km high.

Initially 65,000 people were evacuated to over 500 shelters nationwide.

A total 74 people have died; the toll from flooding reached 72, with an additional two people killed by the volcanic eruption.

Guatemala

  • 1.5 million people have been directly affected by Hurricane Stan and subsequent floods and mudslides, according to the National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction (CONRED).
  • Malnutrition rates in Guatemala’s highlands are between 49.3 percent and 89 percent among indigenous and rural people. (The sixth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world.) WFP is concerned that in the current emergency, the nutritional status of children could rapidly deteriorate, putting their lives at risk.
  • It is still difficult to reach many areas of the country where precarious conditions threaten the health and sanitation of affected families. In addition, most shelters are reported to be overcrowded and health centres are collapsing due to the great influx of people needing assistance.
  • Rain is forecast for the rest of the week in the western and southwestern regions (according to the National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology).

WFP Response

  • WFP has provided 1,723.687 metric tons of food from in-country stocks to the government. This is expected to feed nearly 87,000 families for at least seven days.
  • WFP has had difficulty reaching communities because of major damage to roads leading to the highlands. The US has provided logistical assistance in providing High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) to isolated communities. The governments of Honduras and Ecuador have facilitated air transport for 16.5 MT of HEBs.
  • The Honduras Government has agreed to loan 53 metric tons of HEBs; the GoH is providing two flights to airlift three tons of biscuits; the remaining tonnage is being brought to Guatemala by truck.
  • Ecuador is sending a direct flight carrying food aid to Guatemala on Friday 14 October. A ship with more food aid is planned next week, stopping first in El Salvador, and proceeding to Guatemala.

Background: Guatemaa

On 9 October, the UN in Guatemala launched a flash appeal to the international community seeking US$ 22 million to provide food, shelter, water and sanitation to the victims; of this, a provisional US$ 6.9 million is destined for WFP to cover food needs.

From 4 to 9 October, heavy rains affected the southern coast and western highlands of Guatemala as a result of Hurricane “Stan”, with rainfall as high as 267 mm on one day. Flooding and mudslides ensued in many parts of the country with heavy rainfall continuing to cause damage in affected areas.

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.