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At a glance: Guatemala

Bettering children’s lives devastated by Hurricane Stan

© UNICEF Video
More than 136,000 people, many of them children are affected by Hurricane Stan in Guatemala alone.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 12 October 2005 – UNICEF and partners are mobilizing international support to help the half a million children and their families across Central America and Mexico who have been made homeless by Hurricane Stan – the worst disaster ever to impact the region since 1998.

“In many indigenous villages hit by the disaster, children and adolescents make up close to fifty per cent the population,” said Nils Kastberg, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Like the terrible earthquake that struck Pakistan on Saturday, this tragedy also has a child's face.”

Guatemala was hit hardest by the storm. An estimated three million people – nearly half of the country's population – were affected by the flooding and mudslides. "In some villages in Guatemala one hundred per cent of the village has been affected, in fact even buried,” said Mr. Kastberg. The official death toll stands at 652 right now, and hundreds more are reported missing. More than 107,000 people are now crowded in temporary shelters.

© UNICEF Video
A funeral service is being held for a Guatemalan child killed in the disaster caused by Hurricane Stan.

UNICEF in action

UNICEF is seeking close to $6 million for the humanitarian effort in Guatemala and El Salvador, and has already diverted $350,000 from its regular country programme to respond to the crisis in Guatemala. The assistance will address the urgent need for safe water and sanitation, monitoring the nutritional status of women and children, and providing food, basic health care, and educational supplies to children and families living in shelters.

In El Salvador, where volcanic eruptions last week added another tragic dimension to the emergency, more than 72,000 people have been displaced. UNICEF delivered 2,000 family hygiene kits to meet the immediate needs of 10,000 people, as well as 50,000 packages of oral rehydration salts to treat diarrhoea. The agency is also seeking an additional $2.2 million to provide further relief support.

In Costa Rica UNICEF and a range of partners mobilized to provide food and water purification tablets, as well as psychosocial support for children living in shelters.  In Nicaragua and Honduras, where the impact of the storm was less severe, UNICEF offices are closely monitoring the situation.

© UNICEF Video
Survivors burying the dead in a village in Guatemala.

Close to 1,000 schools were reported destroyed or damaged in the affected countries, half of them in Mexico alone. UNICEF's initial response has been to send 6,000 ‘school-in-a-box’ kits to affected schools in the southern state of Chiapas. UNICEF is also working with the government in Chiapas to make sure that children can complete the school year – no matter whether in surviving schools, shelters or other temporary facilities.

Damage is severe

The damage caused by Hurricane Stan is severe. Throughout the region the most vulnerable communities have lost their entire livelihoods and incomes. Preliminary estimates indicate that damage to national agriculture will surpass $400 million, and the availability of food will be curtailed in the short term.

The United Nations, in conjunction with governments throughout the region, has identified priorities for international emergency relief assistance, which include the areas of water, sanitation, food, shelter, health services, among others. The United Nations is poised to launch a ‘Flash Appeal’ for approximately $22 million for Guatemala alone.




12 October 2005: 
UNICEF Correspondent Kun Li reports on the devastation caused by Hurricane Stan in Guatemala.

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