WFP thanks US military and USAID for help in Guatemala

Published on 19 October 2005

WFP has welcomed the intervention of the US military and thanked the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for its generous US$2 million contribution towards providing food aid to families affected by the devastation following Hurricane Stan earlier this month.

Once again, the US military intervention has speeded up humanitarian assistance, as was the case following the Indian Ocean tsunami and, in the past few days, after the earthquake in south Asia.

After the hurricane

Since the hurricane and its aftermath hit Guatemala, WFP has provided the Government with 1,723 metric tons of food – enough to feed some 87,000 affected families for a period of at least seven days.

The US military has contributed logistical assistance and airlift support of High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) to isolated communities, while the governments of Honduras and Ecuador have facilitated WFP to transport a total of 68 tons of HEBs from WFP warehouses in those countries.

UN Joint Flash Appeal

Our biggest challenge is to ensure that food reaches those children who are already malnourished

Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director in Guatemala

The USAID donation is in response to the UN Joint Flash Appeal, launched on 9 October, seeking US$22 million for humanitarian assistance to the victims of floods and landslides which left a trail of destruction in 14 out of 22 departments.

WFP’s portion of the Flash Appeal is approximately US$6.9 million.

Combining efforts

“USAID will support WFP’s emergency operation in Guatemala,” said Glenn E. Anders, Director of the Guatemala Mission of USAID.

“We need to combine efforts in order to help the communities that suffered most. This food will save lives and ensure the food security and nutrition of those affected. It will help start recovery as soon as possible,” he added.

Reaching the children

With Guatemala’s chronic malnutrition rates among the highest in the region, especially among the indigenous and rural people, WFP’s main concern is that children’s nutritional status could rapidly deteriorate as a result of the current emergency.

“Our biggest challenge is to ensure that food reaches those children who are already malnourished – and stop them from slipping into a state of acute malnutrition,” said Guillermina Segura, WFP Country Director in Guatemala.

1.5 million affected

Official data from the National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) reports that 1.5 million people living in the hard-hit communities have been directly affected.

The most vulnerable communities have lost not only their sources of food and/or income due to the heavy rains but they have also been cut off by damaged roads, swollen rivers and mudslides.

Around the clock

We need to combine efforts in order to help the communities that suffered most

Glenn E. Anders, Director of the Guatemala Mission of USAID

Helicopters and small planes have been essential in getting supplies to communities which are suffering. Despite terrible weather conditions, WFP has continued to work around the clock to bring much-needed food assistance to isolated people.

WFP has been working jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture, and through the coordination of National Coordinating Committee for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) as well as the Ministry of Planning.

Other partners include the Presidential Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SESAN), Departmental Development Councils, Municipalities, and local and international NGOs.

Rain forecast

The National Institute of Seismology, Vulcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) forecasts rain for the rest of the week in the western and southwestern areas of the country.

The UNDAC Team expressed concerns regarding the vulnerability of the infrastructure in the affected regions if rains persist.

Relief to rehabilitation

As in any disaster, USAID’s efforts will quickly shift from emergency relief to rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Activities connected with distributing medicines, water, food, hygiene and basic shelter move towards work on infrastructure such as re-opening mountain roads, repairing and rebuilding bridges, buildings and houses, economic rehabilitation, as well as longer-term health and food security issues.

Close coordination

USAID–Guatemala is on the ground working with the office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the National Council for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), partner NGOs and UN agencies to assess impacts, identify specific needs and deliver emergency assistance.

USAID/OFDA, USAID/Guatemala and U.S. military are coordinating closely with CONRED, using nine US helicopters to bring relief commodities to affected communities.