Emergency Response in Central America Following Hurricane Mitch
4th November 1998


Damage caused by Hurricane Mitch in Central America
photo: Oxfam GB Central America, Mexico & Caribbean website

Situation:

Hurricane Mitch’s week-long path of destruction through Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala has left thousands dead and disappeared, hundreds of thousands homeless, and devastation to homes, infrastructure and production that will leave these countries struggling to recover for years. As Hurricane Mitch moved on through Mexico as a downgraded tropical storm, Central America was left on Monday morning counting the cost of the prolonged battering by record winds and rains. The true scale of the impact is still unkown, the death toll continues to climb, with a mudslide from a volcano in Chinandega, Nicaragua leaving between 1,500 and 2,000 dead on Saturday (according to Nicaragua Civil Defense) adding to the loss of 490 lives from the previous days.

Reports of over 3,000 dead in Honduras, 600,000 people affected and large scale destruction of homes and loss of crops. In El Salvador a further 74 were reported dead, and 27,254 affected. The tragedy has severely affected the entire region, and has been particularly destructive in Honduras, where the hurricane was stationary for several days. Swollen rivers have flooded entire communities and buried others under mud. The scale of the tragedy is overwhelming. Saving lives is still a major priority as short-in-supply helicopters continue picking up people from roofs and treetops in flooded areas. Communities have been isolated, roads cut and bridges downed.

Local NGOs and Oxfam GB staff in the region suggest that the scale of the tragedy is beyond the capacity of the regions governments to respond on an appropriate scale within the time that is required. Throughout the region hundreds of communities will need both short-term and medium term support in the provision of food, shelter, medicine, water, clothing and rehabilitation of infrastructure, basic housing and production.


map of central america, showing Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala
Map of Central America

Actions:

Oxfam GB is working with other international agencies and with Oxfams from other countries to coordinate actions in response.

In Honduras: Oxfam GB will focus on support for 5,000 families to provide food, water, provisions, shelter, medicine, and logistics. Funding for over a million dollars has been requested.

Nicaragua: In the short term an initial request for basic provisions clothing, food, cooking utensils, shelter, plastic sheeting and medicines have been granted.

Oxfam GB is sending a team from the Emergencies Department to assess the overall situation together with staff in the region. The focus will be on on an appropriate response in the areas of water, health, and food security in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

Geographically Oxfam GB will prioritize its support in areas where we have ongoing development and/or emergency programmes (Leon and the Atlantic Coast in Nicaragua; the western Honduras departments of Intibuca, Lempira, Ocotepeque Santa Barbara, La Paz, Copan, Valle, in the capital of Tegucigalpa, women’s groups in San Pedro Sula, and in the region of Choluteca; southern San Vicente in El Salvador; the southern coast of Guatemala with the repopulations of refugees from the war). Another level of priority will be in areas which Oxfam GB has active partner organizations working and able to respond, in areas which have been particularly badly hit.


Communications:

Oxfam GB has put together a web updates page (in Spanish, with English translations) for more detailed information on the impact of Hurricane Mitch throughout the region, which will be updated as more information becomes available. Oxfam Canada and Intermôn (Oxfam in Spain) also have pages on Hurricane Mitch on their websites, which you can reach via our contacts page.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can call 01865 313131.

Communications Officer Daniel Alegria will be coordinating the communications work from Nicaragua and Claire Lewis, Press Officer will be coordinating from the Media Unit in the UK. Tel: 01865 312498. If anybody wishes to contact Daniel on media please come through Claire Lewis first.


Oxfam at work, Emergencies


© Oxfam 1998