Guatemala: UN appeals for urgent funds to feed 285,000 hurricane victims

11 November 2005

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today issued a new urgent appeal to donors to help feed an estimated 285,000 Guatemalan victims of last month’s Hurricane Stan, warning that they face a severe hunger crisis as early as this Christmas.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today issued a new urgent appeal to donors to help feed an estimated 285,000 Guatemalan victims of last month’s Hurricane Stan, warning that they face a severe hunger crisis as early as this Christmas.

“We are looking at a ticking time bomb with grave consequences for thousands of people,” WFP Emergency Coordinator for Guatemala Duilio Perez said, noting that the agency had already appealed at the end of last month for $14.1 million to aid the affected population for six months.

“There is a very short time-line to receive money for this crisis,” he added, directing the appeal especially to governments and corporations in Latin America to show their support for their sister country.

Many people have lost some or all of their crops, especially those dependent on terracing, their homes have been damaged and in some cases destroyed, and entire villages have seen their sanitation and water systems partially or completely wiped out.

“All of this has occurred in a country where even before the Hurricane struck, the rate of chronic hunger among children was almost 50 per cent – the highest in the region,” Mr. Perez said. “Many people, if they haven’t lost everything, only have enough food to last them until the harvest begins in December, assuming they will harvest anything.”

He voiced concern that as the weather grew colder, people would need a higher intake of calories. Also, if their bodies were weakened by hunger, they would be more susceptible to disease. Local authorities point to a growing danger of gastro-intestinal diseases caused by damage to sanitation and water systems, which could have a devastating effect on children already suffering from chronic hunger.

“We need to be able to move quickly to buy food, distribute it and prepare for the coming months,” Mr. Perez said. “As people’s dwindling supplies run out and as they gather smaller harvests, they will need food assistance – especially when you take into consideration that it will be another year before they can harvest the next crop.”

 

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