Belize: thousands of homeless desperately need food and shelter

Published: 12 October 2001

Thousands of people are in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter, after Hurricane Iris devastated the southern coast of Belize on October 8, according to a joint Belize Red Cross/Federation assessment team. Just back from an aerial and ground survey of the most affected areas, conducted on 11 October, the team also reports crop loss seems to be severe.

According to government figures, 19 people are now confirmed dead and three are still missing, while up to 14,000 are homeless. The category-4 hurricane (equivalent in violence to Mitch) destroyed over 95% of buildings in 35 villages and severely damaged infrastructure (roads, electricity and water supplies).

In response to the needs of the most destitute, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched a preliminary appeal for 655,000 Swiss francs, to support a Belize Red Cross relief operation for 4,800 people in the worst-affected villages of Toledo District, in southern Belize. The funds will be used to provide them with shelter materials, food, blankets, kitchen sets, hygiene articles and jerry cans. Many of the inhabitants are subsistence farmers barely eking out a living in normal circumstances; they have no resources to fall back on in times of disaster.

"It is absolutely essential for us to provide people who have lost everything with enough food to tide them over until the next harvest, in early 2002", underlines John Humphreys, Federation head of delegation in Santa Domingo and leader of the assessment team. "We also need to make sure they are well-protected from the elements, since the rainy season is not over."

The Belize Red Cross immediately mobilized its volunteers to help in the evacuation of people and the distribution of emergency relief in the hours that followed the passage of the storm.

The Federation and the Belize Red Cross are coordinating relief efforts with the government and humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam and the Pan American Health Organization.reFor further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

IMarie-Françoise Borel, Information Officer Tel.: +41 22 730 4346 / + 41 79 217 3345