CENTRAL AMERICA Tropical depression causes widespread destruction

Approximately 1.5 million people affected by heavy flooding, mudslides

GENEVA (November 3, 2011) – A tropical depression brought heavy rains to Central America destroying houses, damaging infrastructure and devastating large swaths of farmland. Around 1.5 million people are affected with El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras bearing the brunt of the disaster. 120 persons have died in rural areas and more than 100.000 persons have sought temporary shelter to be protected from the rains. Those women and men living in precarious and poor conditions are the most affected, they have few income sources, often living from subsistence agriculture and daily jobs on farms. Now, after the rains have receded, emergency teams are trying to get access to many of the affected communities.

In El Salvador, 300,000 people are affected to date. The country has experienced the highest levels of rain in the past 50 years. The government has declared a state of national emergency and requested international assistance. Floods have caused significant damage to roads, which hampers access to remote areas. Rural communities report the contamination of wells and the lack of potable water, cities and towns are facing a shortage of clean water. Crops such as beans and corn have been destroyed, leaving many people without a source of income and nutrition.

Of the more than half a million people affected in Guatemala 78,000 have lost their homes. In the south of the country, the soil is saturated with water, causing mudslides and overflow of rivers. As much as 80 percent of crops have been lost in some regions – and this could exacerbate the recent prices hikes of staple foods. The price of corn, for example, has increased by ten percent within the country and by 25 percent in some of the affected areas. Furthermore, wells have been damaged and some areas experience water shortages due to damaged pipes.

Almost 9,000 homes were flooded in Nicaragua and 10,146 women, men and children had to seek shelter. As in Guatemala and El Salvador, roads and bridges have been destroyed, power lines cut, water sources damaged and crops devastated.

In coordination with the authorities and other agencies in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, CARE’s emergency teams within those four countries have finished an initial rapid assessment of damages and needs. People in the affected communities have found their houses damaged, their personal belongings and food stocks lost. Many water systems are not functioning. The agricultural production has been severely affected. The affected population is severely threatened not only by a deteriorating health situation due to water borne diseases, but also with the loss of income sources, food insecurity, and malnutrition over the next six month. The CARE teams have identified that it is most important to focus on immediate and medium term support to the affected communities with rural water supply and sanitation, as well as with provision of food and agriculture assets so affected people have enough to eat while re-establishing their agriculture.

Media contacts:
Geneva: Sandra Bulling, Communications Officer, +41 79 205 6951 (mobile), [email protected]

About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid agencies, headquartered in Switzerland. In over 70 countries, CARE works with the poorest communities to improve basic health and education, enhance rural livelihoods and food security, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, and provide lifesaving assistance after disasters. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor women because, equipped with the proper resources, women have the power to help whole families and entire communities escape poverty. Women are at the heart of CARE's community-based efforts to improve education, health and economic opportunity.