National emergency in HondurasHONDURAS, 22 October, 2008 – UNICEF expressed concern today over severe flooding that has affected nearly 130,000 people and killed at least 10 in Honduras over the past several days, causing the government to declare a state of national emergency. The neighboring Central American countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize have also suffered flooding, and an additional 70,000 people have been affected there. Over 12,000 people are currently taking refuge in shelters in the five countries.
Life-saving supplies are quickly running out in Honduras, as the extent of the flooding has meant that many of the thousands of blankets, medical and hygiene kits, Oral Rehydration Salts and other supplies that UNICEF had pre-positioned prior to this year’s hurricane season have been called into use in the initial response to the emergency.
“The aftermath of a natural disaster like this one can be deadly for children, who are highly vulnerable to waterborne diseases.” says Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Children’s immune systems can also be weakened by poor nutrition. If we add, in a situation such as this, massive damage to crops that exacerbates already-high food prices, we’ve got a time-bomb in the making. We’ve already seen one dramatic example of storms aggravating an existing food crisis this year in Haiti, where the numbers of malnourished children coming to UNICEF-supported nutrition centres rose substantially in the wake of the storms there.”
The Honduran government has requested urgent assistance from UNICEF to ensure recovery for children and families, focusing on the areas of water and sanitation; health and nutrition; and education.
The floods in Central America were caused by a series of tropical storms that have moved slowly and steadily across the region during this year’s hurricane season. One storm after another has lingered over Central America for days on end, pouring heavy rains onto the land below.
The flooding is the latest in a series of natural disasters that have devastated parts of Latin America and the Caribbean during this year’s hurricane season. Earlier in the season, Cuba was hit hard by two successive hurricanes, and tens of thousands of Haitians are still living in temporary shelters more than a month after four storms affected that country back-to-back. The Eastern Caribbean has also suffered damages to infrastructure in the past several days, due to storm surges linked to Hurricane Omar.