TACOMA, Washington — Communities in Central America continue to recover from the socioeconomic and health effects of COVID-19. However, these communities must now face a new challenge after the destruction caused by Hurricanes Iota and Eta in November 2020. USAID reports that, as of December 2020, 2.4 million people were affected in Guatemala, 4.6 million people in Honduras, 1.8 million people in Nicaragua and 302,996 people in Columbia. The hurricanes affected the livelihoods of communities and caused economic destruction to their resources. Because of this devastation, disaster relief organizations are providing aid for Central America.
Hurricane Iota and Eta’s Impact on Central America
Hurricanes Iota and Eta caused an economic loss of $7 billion in Central America. In addition, the hurricanes caused damage to the countries’ water and sanitation systems. In Honduras, farmers suffered from a loss of crops, leading to food insecurity for communities in the nation. Furthermore, the U.N. reported about 92,000 people residing in government-facilitated emergency shelters with many people lacking access to humanitarian assistance.
While Central America is prone to cyclical flooding and drought, hurricanes are a rare sighting in November. Nevertheless, the hurricanes impacted the most vulnerable communities in Central America. USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance provided emergency food, hygiene kits and kitchen supplies in Honduras and Guatemala. However, more needs to be done to restore the communities in Central America. The new mission in rebuilding the Central American communities involve recovery solutions as well as disaster prevention.
The Partnership for Disaster Recovery and Resilience
In December 2020, USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) began assessing needs in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua by meeting local authorities and disaster relief agencies. The Response Team provided support in shelters, food security, health and water to hotspots. However, despite nonprofit organizations like USAID and Operation USA delivering aid to all affected countries, more action must be taken to restore Central America.
On April 29, the Inter-American Foundation (IAF) launched the Partnership for Disaster Recovery and Resilience to support the severely impacted communities in Central America. IAF’s goal involves gathering all resources from multiple partnerships and funding civil society and grassroots organizations to provide medium-and-long-term recovery to Central America and Mexico. In addition, the partnership will work to implement post-disaster solutions to rebuild communities.
With 50 years of experience aiding in post-disaster recovery within communities, the IAF relies on four activities that will help restore the infrastructures as well as peace of mind within Central America:
- “Empowering community members as leaders and active participants in disaster preparedness.”
- Conducting rapid damage assessment to infrastructures and crops for local organizations to anticipate and respond to natural disasters.
- Providing mental and emotional “support to address the trauma associated with hurricanes.”
- Creating opportunities for “grassroots groups to improve food security and spur local economies.”
A Two-Phase Plan
Beginning in February 2020, the IAF allocated “$1.48 million to support disaster recovery activities.” The organization is currently operating a two-phase plan further to provide disaster relief and preparedness in Central America.
- Phase One: The first phase is currently in progress and involves partners supporting all organizations located in all affected Central American regions. These organizations are deeply rooted in these communities and continue to “mobilize human and technical resources.”
- Phase Two: The second phase will begin in June and run through August 2021. The organization will begin with a $1 million initial investment. Next, partners will begin “a Call for Proposals from additional community-led and civil society organizations.” The Call for Proposals will allow these organizations to pitch “ideas for developing medium-term recovery and long-term resilience efforts.” The IAF will adapt its grantmaking and monitoring skills to award grants to local organizations quickly.
Restoring Communities in Central America
Hurricane Iota and Eta brought a new challenge to the already financially impacted communities of Central America. These communities are still in the process of restoring homes, roads, bridges and communications infrastructure. A majority of the impacted communities in Central America live in low-income and impoverished environments. The IAF is currently seeking more community-led organizations to continue the recovery phase in Southern Mexico and Central America.
With the Partnership for Disaster Recovery and Resilience, the IAF will assist in preparing communities for future disasters. In addition, this initiative will help to rebuild the countries’ infrastructure and peace of mind within the victims.
– Nia Owens