Central America continues to stagger from storms

With an estimated 1.2 million people in Central America affected by severe floods, the United Nations is mobilizing resources to provide life-saving assistance to those in need. A senior U.N. relief official visiting Nicaragua Thursday described the situation in the country as a real disaster.

“When you have close to 10 per cent of your geographic area under water, I would say that is a disaster,” said Catherine Bragg, the assistant Secretary general for humanitarian affairs, who will also visit El Salvador starting today.

“I have been seeing areas where the poorest people were affected and now they have moved to drier land. There is the immediate response that has to happen. The level of the lake that surrounds Managua is still rising, which is a permanent threat,” she said when she visited the flood-affected Domitila Lugo area, a low-lying part of the Tipitapa municipality, about 19 kilometers from the capital of Managua.

The U.N. Population Fund, meanwhile, reported that many medical facilities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras have been damaged or are inaccessible after the flooding that has followed weeks of torrential rainfall blamed on a tropical depression in the region.

In El Salvador, where over 300,000 people have been affected by floods, the fund has deployed two mobile health centers to cater to 150,000 people, including 50,000 who have sought refuge in shelters.

More than 5,000 hygiene kits were distributed to families by fund partners at the onset of the crisis. The kits include hygiene items such as soap, sanitary pads and towels. An additional 5,000 kits will be distributed in the coming weeks.

The U.N. has issued a flash appeal for $15.7 million to provide emergency assistance to an estimated 300,000 people affected by the disaster in El Salvador, and a separate appeal for $14.3 million for 134,000 affected Nicaraguans.

In Guatemala, the fund is helping to coordinate health units made up of doctors and nurses who will travel to the most affected communities to provide emergency maternal health care and conduct epidemiological surveillance.

In Nicaragua, the fund is focusing on preventing gender-based violence in shelters for those displace by the floods and on providing assistance to survivors of sexual violence. Psychosocial assistance is also being provided to women in Guatemala through the training of 50 local psychologists on post-traumatic stress management.

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