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In Guatemala, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator helps region gird for storms

In Guatemala, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator helps region gird for storms

Jan Egeland
With meteorologists predicting a fierce hurricane season this year, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today in Guatemala met with victims of a recent storm, capping his recent efforts to spotlight the region’s need for preparedness.

Jan Egeland met with local officials as well as families who had been displaced by rains and mudslides when Tropical Storm Stan devastated Guatemala last October.

Mr. Egeland, who spent time in the country as a youth and worked on the peace process during the 1990s, was in Guatemala to show support for the victims of Tropical Storm Stan and to attend a conference aimed at helping the region prepare for future disasters.

Towards that end, on Thursday in Guatemala City he told regional officials gathered to discuss the issue that efforts should advance simultaneously on two fronts. “On one front, development models must be adapted so that risk reduction becomes a central issue in policies of sustainable development. And on the other front, response preparedness should be strengthened, including raising public awareness in high risk zones.”

In the two days prior to this event, a “Workshop on Forecast and Possible Lines of Action in Central America for the 2006 Hurricane Season” brought together meteorologists, experts in natural disaster management, representatives of national governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international cooperation agencies, and UN agencies working in Central America.

The participants agreed on emergency and contingency plans as well as related matters, such as resources, training, coordination, communications, humanitarian assistance, shelters and recovery. They also set priorities and timelines in each of these areas. Collectively, the main conclusions and recommendations from the workshop will help to prepare the region for this year’s hurricane season and to put into practice lessons learned from 2005.

According to meteorologists, the 2006 hurricane season could be as violent as that of 2005, which broke all of the records in history, with 27 tropical storms, including 15 that reached hurricane intensity.

In Guatemala, Tropical Storm Stan caused an economic loss of $983 million, equivalent to 3.4 per cent of the country’s gross national product (GNP), according to a recent evaluation by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).