United Nations aid agencies are ramping up their efforts to provide shelter, food and health care to El Salvador, which is facing one of the greatest disasters in its history as heavy rains continue to cause severe flooding across Central America.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that 56,000 people have been displaced and many are in need of water, food and sanitation. The agency also said there has been an increase in reported cases of flood-related illnesses such as diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, chicken pox, and dengue fever.
During a press briefing in Geneva, OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said a $15.7 million joint flash appeal with the Government was launched today with the aim of assisting 300,000 people in the next six months.
The appeal will focus on providing shelter, drinking water, food and health services as well as actively monitoring the country’s two principal volcanoes, as there is particular concern about possible mudslides and seismic movements in populated areas, including San Salvador, the capital.
OCHA reported that 69 per cent of the country has been affected, with the floods causing significant damage to roads and infrastructure, and hampering access to remote areas.
The situation is also precarious in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize, which have also been affected by the heavy rains. At present, OCHA estimates the overall number of affected people to be 1.2 million, but said this figure was constantly evolving, making it difficult to calculate how many people need assistance.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also launched an emergency operation in cooperation with local governments, and has already provided food to an estimated 230,000 people.
But the agency expressed concern for the food security situation as the region was already facing increasing food prices before the floods which will be exacerbated by crop losses. In Honduras, floods have wiped out 64 per cent of existing rice crops, and in Guatemala the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that some regions in the country have lost as much as 80 per cent of their crops.
FAO added that it is supporting affected areas through the allocation of $1.5 million for agriculture and livestock production.
Flood damage has also been reported in Costa Rica and the Mexican state of Tabasco. However, the damage has been less intense in those areas and OCHA said it was closely monitoring the situation in both countries.