UNDP offers relief as Central America's torrential rains continue

Oct 19, 2011

Torrential rains blanketing five Central American countries and Mexico have affected nearly 570,000 people and left more than 80 dead. (Photo: UNDP Honduras)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is providing assistance to those hit by torrential rains that have devastated five Central American countries and Mexico, affected nearly 570,000 people and left more than 80 dead, according to preliminary reports.

In Nicaragua, where over 130,000 people were affected by the rains, and nearly 100 of the 9,100 in emergency shelters contracted the H1N1 influenza strain, the UN has been providing US$100,000 in medical and health-related relief, responding to the government’s request for humanitarian assistance.

The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in El Salvador, Roberto Valent, called the situation a catastrophe, estimating the destruction costs in the country at more than US$1 billion. Valent also called on the international community to  assist  Central America in order to rebuild the flood-affected countries in a more resilient manner, alerting that climate change-related disasters are likely to hit the region again.

A team of UN disaster assessment and coordination experts is working in Nicaragua and El Salvador—where precipitation levels are the highest in 50 years—to help prepare an urgent appeal to partner countries and donors to support the flood-affected population.

El Salvador and Guatemala are the countries worst affected so far—with at least 310,000 people affected and nearly 70 deaths—followed by Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Rains from Tropical Depression 12-E began falling on 12 October and continued to date, resulting in significant human and economic losses, including damaged public infrastructure, and destroyed homes, crops and livestock.

Countries affected by the rains have evacuated more than 60,000 people, and are accommodating nearly 50,000 in temporary shelters.

Among the most urgent needs of the affected population are drinking water, food, medicines, personal hygiene supplies and blankets, according to OCHA.

The World Food Programme has begun distributing food in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

UNDP has stressed the importance of starting recovery efforts as swiftly as possible, in the earliest stages of the emergency.

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