Some 140,000 houses were destroyed by storms Eta and Iota and 330,000 people remain without emergency aid.
More than 400,000 people in Honduras and Guatemala urgently need humanitarian assistance, refugee rights group said Wednesday, more than a month after two big storms inflicted widespread devastation on the two Central American countries.
In a press release citing new data from the United Nations, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said 140,000 homes were destroy by the deadly storms, Eta and Iota and 330,000 people were deprived of emergency aid due to damaged roads and communication systems in Honduras.
“The situation is absolutely dire,” Dominika Arseniuk, NRC national director for Central America and Colombia said in a statement. “Entire communities have been cut off by floods and landslides. Hundreds of thousands of people have not yet received humanitarian aid, thousands are sleeping in the streets and under bridges. “
Eta and Iota have killed more than 200 people in Central America, according to press reports, and caused heavy damage to infrastructure and homes in countries already struggling with poverty and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even before the storms hit, 5.2 million people needed humanitarian aid in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), citing chronic poverty, gang violence and climate change.
More recently, coronavirus lockdowns have devastated Central American economies and pushed already underfunded health systems to the brink.
In San Pedro Sula, one of the largest cities in Honduras, the NRC says hundreds of displaced families have stayed in makeshift shelters. Others sleep in the streets and few have access to face masks, soap or clean water – which is essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Marlon, a 32-year-old man who fled hurricanes with his pregnant wife and one-year-old daughter, told NRC his family lost their home and most of their belongings in the recent flooding.
“We slept outside a building without eating. We managed to bring clothes for my daughter, but my wife and I only had what we were wearing, ”he said. “That first night the rain fell on us and we have been living on the streets ever since.
The NRC – along with 12 other international organizations, according to the press release – urged the UN to develop a funding plan to boost coordinated humanitarian response efforts in the region.
“This region has been completely neglected by the international community,” Arseniuk said. “It has one of the highest departure and asylum application rates in the world. The number of deaths linked to violent crime is higher than in many of the world’s worst war zones. And it is one of the most affected by extreme weather events, as we have seen this year, ”she added.
“What more does it take for the humanitarian community to scale up?” she asked.