UN relief official urges donors to support Central American flood relief efforts

8 November 2011

The deputy United Nations humanitarian chief today urged donors to give generously to assist Nicaragua and El Salvador cope with the aftermath of the recent floods, saying that the scale of the disaster is beyond what the small Central American nations can handle on their own.

Late last month the UN and its partners launched flash appeals to help the hardest hit people in both countries survive the next six months. However, the $14 million appeal for Nicaragua is currently only 22 per cent funded, while the $15 million appeal for El Salvador is only 23 per cent funded.

“We sincerely hope that donors will give more. For hundreds of thousands of people, some of the poorest people in the Americas, this is only the beginning of a six-month crisis,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, told reporters in New York.

An estimated 1.2 million people in the region are affected by the disaster. Ms. Bragg, who just returned from a four-day visit to Nicaragua and El Salvador, said that many people have lost their homes and their livelihoods.

Thousands of homes have been damaged and hundreds of schools, roads and health facilities are closed. Water-borne diseases are spreading and children are unable to go to school, she added.

“Perhaps most worrying, thousands of acres of crops which were just ready to be harvested were destroyed, making it increasingly difficult for people to get enough food for the next six months,” she stated.

Ms. Bragg said both El Salvador and Nicaragua deserve a lot of credit. “When the crisis hit, they mobilized immediately and prioritized saving lives. This accounts for the low level of fatality in both countries… We can see that a high level of preparedness saved many lives.”

At the same time, she noted that Central American countries do not have large resources. Nicaragua, for example, is the second poorest country in the region, after Haiti.

“The scale of the disaster is so large that it is beyond their capability to manage alone,” she stressed. “We must not let them down.”

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