Central America recovers after Hurricane Otto

تم النشر: 28 نوفمبر 2016 22:58 CET

After the passage of Hurricane Otto that hit the border zone between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, causing great affection in both countries and in Panama, National Societies of the Red Cross are working on response and recovery.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates, in Costa Rica approximately 60,000 people have no access to safe water on the North and Pacific coast, 9 people have died and there is no certainty in the number of missing persons. In the case of Nicaragua, approximately 10,143 people were evacuated, 597 remain in shelters. For its part in Panama, an estimated 2,431 people were affected in a period of 7 days. 4 people remain missing and there were 8 deaths due to the storm, the agricultural and livestock sector is considered the most affected.

The Nicaraguan Red Cross activated 1,400 volunteers specialized in community and psychological first aid, restoring family links, damage assessment and needs analysis teams, search and rescue teams. Water and sanitation, as well as hygiene promotion teams where also deployed. The institution made 9 water treatment plants available to meet the needs in this area.

In the case of the Panamanian Red Cross, the institution has been carrying out various activities to support the National Joint Task Force. In addition, they have been serving as a collection center for donations and have already initiated distribution actions to populations that are difficult to access, as those located in the Emberá region on the Atlantic coast of the country.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has approved for Panama resources of US$ 254,000 from the Emergency Fund (DREF) to continue recovery efforts at the community level, following the path of the storm. These resources will be used to implement activities in water and sanitation, community psychosocial support interventions, promotion and prevention of diseases, as well as support to the Panamanian government in the distribution of non-food items.

Costa Rica, the most affected country

According to OCHA, 7,800 people have been housed in 24 shelters. In the provinces of Alajuela and Guanacaste, floods, landslides, fallen bridges, damaged roads, power outages, destroyed homes and other damages have been reported. About 1,600 houses have been affected. According to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's National Highway Administration Council damage to transport infrastructure (roads and bridges) has been initially estimated USD$8,8 million.


The Costa Rican Red Cross has been working since the beginning of the alert, issuing messages of preparation to the population, and once the hurricane passed, immediately joined the response work.

"The Costa Rican Red Cross is working hard for the benefit of the society after Hurricane Otto. We are working on rescue, search and care of victims and patients, we also helped to evacuate to secure areas the people who needed it. For this purpose, the National Emergency Commission indicated the location of shelters intended to accommodate the most vulnerable people," said Carlos Herrera, National Head of First Aid for the Costa Rican Red Cross. Approximately 250 people have been deployed to deliver out pre-hospital care.

The Costa Rican government designated the Red Cross as the organization in charge of coordinating the reception and distribution of donations at the national level.

In a first distribution of food parcels, the Costa Rican Red Cross delivered a total of 8,457 packages in the affected communities of: Fortuna de Bagaces, Upala, Canalete  de Upala, Bijagua, Rio Naranjo, San Bernardo, Cuipilapa, Guayabo, La Cruz, among others.


The unloading, sorting and preparation of food packages, as well as the load of humanitarian aid in distribution vehicles has been made possible thanks to the contribution of about 400 community volunteers, who have spontaneously come to collaborate in this work.

In addition, the Costa Rican Red Cross has launched the "Restoring Family Links" program to help people who have not had contact with someone in the affected areas.

"The institution has come to help find people who are missing, it is important to inform the population suffering from the anxiety of not knowing about their family members that the Costa Rican Red Cross can collaborate through the program of restoring family links," said Milton Chaverri, National Director of Doctrine, Principles and Values.

So far, the program of Restoring family links has met:

  • 44 requests to search
  • 156 people to search for
  • 45 people located


People who wish to contact a family member who does not yet know their whereabouts in the affected area may contact the telephone numbers (+506) 25425013 and (+506) 25425012, or send an email to: rcf@cruzroja.or.cr, or enter the website www.cruzroja.or.cr in the part of restoring family links.

Following on-the-spot assessments, the Costa Rican Red Cross requested resources from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Emergency Fund (DREF) to address the most urgent needs of affected communities.


The approved DREF for US$ 335,000 will focus on addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene, livelihood, nutrition and food security needs and will also have support actions to repair damaged housing.

With information from: Red Cross Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.