Picking up the Pieces – Belize one month after Eta
Belize, 21 December 2020: More than one month after flooding from Hurricane Eta affected Belize, the impact could still be seen in some parts of the Central American country. In some flooded communities, water levels were still relatively high. In other communities, even though the water level receded, the water marks on houses and furniture and other items placed out in the sun to dry, were a tell-tale sign of the damages that were wreaked by the rainfall and flooding, first by Eta, then by Iota a couple weeks later. “I’ve never seen this before,” Larry Jimenez shared as he sat on a stool right outside his home, which was perched on the banks of the Mopan River. “I’ve lived here in Bullet Tree Falls around seven years and this is the worst I’ve seen it [the flooding]." Larry and his family had to evacuate their home when the river behind his house started rising due to heavy and consistent rainfall from Hurricane Eta. They returned days later to everything in their home completely damaged by water, which had covered up to 9 feet of his house. They managed to save a few items including clothes and some important documents before they evacuated, but everything else was water-logged. Now back home, they are trying to pick up the pieces and still salvage what they can. As Larry relayed the ordeal, his children and niece and nephew sat nearby playing on the remains of a couch outside, which had been damaged by the flooding. Over in Maskall Village in Belize district, Teresita Madrill explained that the water had risen over her knees and while she has seen her community flooded before, this is the first time in years that she has seen it like this. “It has definitely gotten worse. We had to move out and stay with family members elsewhere until the water went back down,” she stated. She said when they returned, they could hardly go in the house. Since then, while she has managed to clean up most of the house, some items were damaged. Her husband and son are a wooden sculptor and carpenter respectively and the wood they used were also drenched and had to be tied to trees in the yard, so they did not float away. Since the water receded, the wood pieces have been laid out in the sun to dry so they could still be used. For Joel Sutherland and his family in Scotland Halfmoon in Belize district, the experience was unexpected. “It was a very frightening situation for us, the water just continued rising and when we got up in the morning, the entire yard was flooded,” he shared as he pointed to the water which had settled in his yard. “I have three canoes because I am a fisherman, so I use them for fishing, but they came in very handy with the floods, as I used them to take my family from the house, across the water to the road,” he added. The Belize Red Cross has been responding by assisting with damage assessments and distributing well needed items such as food packages, cleaning kits, blankets, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, jerry cans (water containers) and COVID-19 kits in several of the affected communities. Lily Bowman, Director General of the Belize Red Cross, stated that these same communities have also been feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Belizeans have been experiencing challenges even before the hurricanes with COVID-19 and the Belize Red Cross had been helping families by distributing food packages, especially to those who lost their income as a result of the pandemic,” she noted. Now, the response must be merged. “With the flooding, we find that we have to be doing a dual response – attending to the needs of those impacted by the flooding while also carrying out our COVID-19 response activities, all while trying to ensure the health and safety of our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries,” she explained. Additionally, through a partnership with UNICEF Belize, US Embassy Belize and the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), the Belize Red Cross recently assisted in distributing food and hygiene packages to communities in Cayo district which were also impacted by the flooding. Larry’s family was one of those who received packages. “I really appreciate the help from Red Cross and partners, it’s helping us a lot because right now things are hard,” shared Larry, who usually does maintenance at a resort, but with COVID-19 and now the floods, he has not had much work. When asked what is next for him and his family, in a true spirit of resilience, Larry replied, “we can’t just leave ourselves and do nothing, we have to keep going, we have to go forward.” The Belize Red Cross, which is a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), will continue providing relief and recovery assistance, with IFRC’s support, to over 1000 families (approximately 5000 persons), to help them pick up the pieces and recover from Eta. The IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working to save lives and promote dignity around the world. For more information or to arrange media interviews, please contact: In Belize:Lily Bowman, Belize Red Cross Director General - mailto:[email protected] | +1 501 627 8801 In Jamaica:Trevesa DaSilva, IFRC Communications Officer - [email protected] | +1 876 818 8575 In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, IFRC Regional Communications Manager - [email protected] | + 506 8416 1771
Volunteering in the midst of adversity: Red Cross volunteers affected by Eta & Iota help others cope
Belize, 21 December 2020: It is said that ‘in times of adversity and change, we really discover who we are and what we are made of’ and this was evident in the aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Belize, where Red Cross volunteers impacted by the floods, were on the frontline helping others who were also affected. Jenine Kerr from Burrell Boom Village in Belize District stayed in the shelter in her community after her house was flooded. After receiving training from the Belize Red Cross approximately two years ago under the Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT) training programme, Jenine forms part of a cadre of volunteers equipped to help in times of disasters. However, in this instance, the disaster literally hit home. “I was home when [the floods from] Hurricane Eta started affecting Belize. We got a lot of rain and the river kept rising and eventually my house got flooded out and [I had to go to] the shelter,” shared Jenine. However, being displaced did not stop her from executing her duties: “I have been helping out in the kitchen. We sanitize on a regular basis; because of COVID-19 we have to keep the place clean, especially because we have a lot of children around,” shared the mother of 5-year-old twins, Jordan and Jordany. Kimberly Seguro, also from Burrell Boom Village, is the President of the CDRT in her community and was also impacted by Eta, two years after her family was subjected to another catastrophe. “I was affected by a fire two years ago and I was able to rebuild … and now the flood came and destroyed the flooring [of the house]” she noted. However, despite the calamities she experienced, Kimberly is grateful for the training from the Belize Red Cross. “During the fire, I knew what to do and because I knew what to do, lives were saved. Our home was not saved but lives were saved,” she highlighted. Kimberly added that the CDRT training also came in useful after Hurricane Eta: “Here at the shelter, we know how to take care of ourselves and take care of the entire village. We assess the other families and ensure that they get assistance from the Belize Red Cross to meet their needs.” Herlet Bull lives with her husband in Lemonal Village in Belize District and not only was her home impacted by the floods but her husband, who is a farmer, lost all his crops. They retreated to a shelter close to their community, where Herlet helps with cleaning, cooking and anything else she can. When asked how she has managed to still help others even in her time of adversity, Herlet explained: “Although I lost everything, as a volunteer with the Belize Red Cross, I would still like to help people because they were affected too. We help each other; they help me cope with it and I help them cope with it.” The Belize Red Cross continues to assist families impacted by the hurricanes and has received support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to further help improve the lives of over 5000 people over the next four months. With the help of its volunteers, the Belize Red Cross will continue distributions of food and hygiene kits, promotion of disease prevention measures, as well as roll out a cash and voucher assistance programme for the most vulnerable. For more information or to arrange media interviews, please contact: In Belize:Lily Bowman, Belize Red Cross Director General - mailto:[email protected] | +1 501 627 8801 In Jamaica:Trevesa DaSilva, IFRC Communications Officer - [email protected] | +1 876 818 8575 In Panama: Susana Arroyo Barrantes, IFRC Regional Communications Manager - [email protected] | + 506 8416 1771
Humanitarian response to hurricanes Eta and Iota one of the most challenging faced by Central America in decades
Panama/Geneva, 14 December 2020– One month after hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America and Colombia, affecting more than 7.5 million people, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warns that millions are still in need of immediate humanitarian support in what has become one of the most challenging disasters faced by the region in recent history. The IFRC and National Red Cross Societies are currently addressing the most urgent needs of over 100,000 people through seven simultaneous humanitarian operations in Colombia, Belize, Costa Rica, Panamá, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. The situation is especially severe in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, where more than 6 million people have been affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides. In-depth damage and needs assessments are ongoing but results from all rapid assessments conducted so far paint a bleak humanitarian picture in both the short and medium term. Felipe del Cid, Head of the IFRC’s Disaster Response Unit in the Americas, said: “Millions of people still need immediate humanitarian support: shelter, health care, psychosocial support, access to food, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. We are talking about a huge disaster, exacerbating an already ruinous combination of COVID-19, poverty and inequality in the region.These overlapping crises are making our operation one of the most complex we have ever mounted. The support of the international community is urgent to protect lives and livelihoods”. On 8 November, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal for 20 million Swiss Francs to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua for at least 18 months. Currently only 58% funded, the appeal focuses on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, addressing health needs, including COVID-19 prevention measures, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address the mid-term consequences, such as the hurricanes’ impact on livelihoods and displacement. “Eta and Iota have wiped out livestock, destroyedtools,harvests and farming areas, and impacted popular tourist spotsacross a region that was already facing an economic crisis related to COVID-19 and where the incomes of thousands of families had already been severely depleted. People are at risk of resorting to coping strategiessuch as selling their animals and properties,eating less food, andabandoning their homes to look for new ways of generating income”, added del Cid. History has shown that hurricanes can cause displacement influxes as the loss of housing and livelihoods fuel unemployment and lead to increased movement of people to urban centres. Eta and Iota also represent a challenge for returned populations. InGuatemala and Honduras,some of the areas hit hardest have also welcomed large groups of returned people whose journeys have not ended in the way they expected. Figures on unemployment, poverty, and vulnerability were already high due to COVID-19 and will very likely deteriorate due to Eta and Iota. Audiovisual materials including high quality B-roll and images available to download and use here.
Red Cross launches massive, multi-country operation as horror of Hurricane Eta emerges
Panama/Geneva, 10 November 2020 – The national, regional, and global resources of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are being mobilized as the full, destructive picture of Eta begins to emerge across Central America. According to Red Cross assessments, more than 2.5 million people from Panama to Belize have been affected in some way, although the impacts are most severe in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Felipe del Cid, IFRC's Operations Manager for the Americas, said: "Eta has been a devastating disaster. In Honduras alone, 1.7 million people have been affected. Many of them are women, children and members of indigenous communities that have lost everything and have no access to water and food. In several communities, families are drinking contaminated water and are in urgent need of support." A plane and two trucks carrying a combined 98 tons of humanitarian aid are departing from the IFRC’s Humanitarian Logistics Hub in Panama to Nicaragua and Honduras. Aid items include mosquito nets, kitchen kits, hygiene kits, tarpaulins, jerrycans, cleaning kits, tool kits and COVID protection equipment. The IFRC has launched a 20 million Swiss franc Emergency Appeal to support and dramatically expand local Red Cross efforts in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. This operation aims to assist 75,000 of the worst affected people for at least 18 months. It will focus on rebuilding and repairing damaged shelters, improving access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, addressing health care needs, including COVID-19 prevention needs, and providing psychosocial support. The operation will also seek to address issues related to gender and inclusion, as well as displacement. Historically, disasters in the region have led to increased movement of people towards urban centres. IFRC is also deploying a series of Emergency Response Units from its global network as part of the multi-country operation. "The region is facing a triple crisis: Eta, COVID-19 and the one caused by the pre-existing conditions of vulnerability that have been affecting Central American countries. We are talking about millions of people affected in seven countries. The need for humanitarian aid is dramatic," Felipe del Cid added. National Red Cross Societies across Central America were active before Eta made landfall. They coordinated with authorities to prepare for Eta’s impact and assisted in the evacuation of communities lying in its path. Since the storm made landfall, they have been involved in search and rescue efforts, offered support to people in shelters, provided prehospital care to the injured, and offered psychosocial support and COVID-19 prevention information to survivors. In addition to mounting this operation, IFRC is also closely monitoring potential new storm systems that could develop and threaten Eta-affected communities in the coming days.