UN World Food Programme

WFP battles to get food to victims of Hurricane Stan

Introduction

Despite worsening weather conditions, WFP is working around the clock to bring much-needed food assistance to poor and isolated communities in Guatemala, which were especially hard hit by Hurricane Stan. WFP’s main concern is that, given the current emergency situation, children’s nutritional status could rapidly deteriorate.

Latest news

  • WFP has received from USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) US$2 million for food assistance to families affected by the devastation following Hurricane Stan earlier this month.
  • In addition, WFP has received US$615,000 from Norway and US$ 500,000 from Switzerland. An emergency operation is to be launched imminently.
  • WFP’s main concern is that, given the current emergency situation, children’s nutritional status could rapidly deteriorate. Guatemala’s chronic malnutrition rates – especially among the indigenous and rural people – are among the highest in the region, rising from the average 49.3 percent to over 80 percent.
  • Andrés Botrán, Secretary of the Presidential Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SESAN) told a press conference in Guatemala City on 20 October that the government would “work specifically to coordinate food security issues in the reconstruction phase, while roads and bridges are being rehabilitated, people’s access to food will have to be a priority to avoid further damage to their nutritional status.”
  • He added: “We will coordinate all efforts with WFP, FAO, and the Ministry of Agriculture in order to execute programmes that will ensure food security for all.”

Situation update

  • Despite worsening weather conditions, WFP is working around the clock to bring much needed food assistance to isolated communities.
  • Poor and isolated areas have been especially hard hit, particularly indigenous communities in the western highlands of the country, where most of the villagers depend on casual labour in Mexico as well as the coastal region. A dramatic drop in tourism has made an immediate impact on cash income and daily subsistence.
  • Some communications have been restored and local market prices have stabilized. However, there are several inaccessible areas that remain cut off by damaged roads and bridges, where families still have limited access to food and potable water.
  • Most of the humanitarian distributions are taking place in the San Marcos area, which was worst hit by Hurricane Stan. Helicopters are operating in the area from San Marco or Quetzaltenango.

WFP intervention

  • Since the emergency began in early October, WFP has provided to the Guatemalan Government, within the framework of its continuing relief and recovery operation, 1,724 metric tons of food to assist affected families.
  • In coordination with government authorities, this food aid is reaching some 87,000 families in 15 out of 22 departments (Escuintla, Retalhuleu, Suchitepéquez, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, Totonicapán, Sololá, Chimaltenango, Sacatepéquez, Jalapa, Jutiapa, El Quiché, Guatemala and Santa Rosa).
  • By 19 October, a total of 18.1 tons of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) have been distributed in the most isolated areas of San Marcos and Quetzaltenango, funded from WFP’s own immediate response account.
  • The US military has contributed logistical assistance and airlift support of HEBs to isolated communities, while the governments of Honduras and Ecuador have facilitated WFP transport of 68 tons of HEBs from WFP warehouses in those countries.

Assessments

  • Since the initial assessment was conducted for the flash appeal (9 October), the number of beneficiaries has risen from 150,000 people to 285,000, which will prompt WFP to increase its appeal from the current US$6.9 million.
  • The increased numbers in need are based on preliminary results from a second assessment coordinated by WFP with government institutions and other UN agencies.
  • The survey indicates that most families in the departments of San Marcos, Sololá, Huehuetenango and Quetzaltenango have not only lost most of their main crops (maize and potato) but also between 30-60 percent of their land, due to mudslides.
  • There are currently some 150 affected municipalities, representing some 285,000 people in need of food assistance, mainly living in the most affected and poorest departments.
  • WFP has maintained a continuous line of communication with government counterparts and national emergency structures, the donor community and UN agencies as well as with civil society representatives.
  • A new WFP Emergency Operation has been prepared in coordination with various in-country players (UNICEF, WHO/PAHO, FAO, Red Cross Societies, NGOs, UNDAC and relevant government counterparts, such as CONRED, CONSAN, MAGA and SESAN) in order to avoid duplication with other food and nutritional interventions.
  • The new emergency operation will be coordinated jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), the National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) and the Ministry of Planning and other WFP partners such as the Presidential Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SESAN), Departmental Development Councils, Municipalities, and local and international NGOs, in order to provide food aid and nutritional support to the most vulnerable and food insecure households in the areas mostly affected by Hurricane Stan.
  • The government has committed to funding 40 percent of related costs.

Background

  • Some 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).
  • Heavy rains between 4-9 October affected the southern coast and western highlands of Guatemala.
  • Some 654 people are known to have died, while more than 800 people have been reported missing; 3,755 houses were destroyed, another 7,200 dwellings affected and more than 100 bridges either damaged or destroyed.
  • On 5 October, the President of Guatemala declared a State of National Calamity for a period of 30 days and two days later requested international assistance. The UN System in Guatemala launched a flash appeal to the international community on 9 October for US$22 million for immediate humanitarian assistance.