Central America Flood Crisis Only Just Beginning

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The humanitarian emergency caused by last month’s devastating floods in Central
America is only just beginning, a top United Nations relief official has said,
warning that the situation could get worse for the estimated 1.2 million people
affected without urgent international support.

“The people affected by this crisis have lost everything, and their difficulties
are only just beginning,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for
Humanitarian Affairs, said as she wrapped up a four-day visit to Nicaragua and
El Salvador, two countries badly hit by the disaster.

“Hundreds of thousands of people face a struggle for survival over the next six
months. We must act now. We cannot let the people of El Salvador and Nicaragua
down.”

Up to 300,000 people fled the floods in El Salvador during the peak of the rains
in October, and the homes and livelihoods of 143,000 people have
been affected by heavy rains in Nicaragua. Thousands of homes have been
damaged, possessions destroyed and hundreds of schools, roads and health
facilities are closed.

The Governments and peoples of Nicaragua and El Salvador mobilized emergency
responders immediately after the floods, and have succeeded in minimizing the
loss of lives, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs (OCHA).

“But the cumulative effect of annual catastrophic events has pushed national
capacities to their limit,” the Office said. The UN is mobilizing international
assistance to assist the efforts of the Governments and last week launched
emergency appeals for both countries.

However, the $14 million appeal for Nicaragua is currently only 22 per cent
funded, while the $15 million appeal for El Salvador is only 23 per cent funded.

“The needs are real, and the situation could get worse if we do not step in
now,” said Ms. Bragg, who is also Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinat
or. “I hope donors will give generously to these appeals.”

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