Back to happiness
One year after the devastating passage of hurricanes Eta and Iota through Guatemala.
On November 3, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Central America as a Category 4 hurricane, causing massive flooding and devastation. As families struggled to cope, two weeks later, storm Iota became a Category 5 hurricane, following the same path of destruction as Eta. The passage of Eta and Iota left more than 1.5 million children in Guatemala at risk and in even more extreme conditions than they already faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One year later, affected families are still trying to return to normalcy and to what their lives were like before the arrival of Eta and Iota.
Last year, 10-year-old Juana Tzoy showed us, on a boat, how her house had been completely submerged, as well as her school, church and the place where she used to play.
We visited Juana and her family in the municipality of San Pedro Carchá, Alta Verapaz, one of the departments most affected by the hurricanes and she tells us what life has been like since then.
“We returned to the same house we rented before and where we have lived many beautiful moments as a family. It was not easy to return and it took us 5 days to remove the mud and clean the house” comments Juana’s mother, Isabel Castro, 41 years old, while she shows us the marks on the walls where the mud had reached.
“We decided to return to Campur in February. We have lived here for fourteen years, we belong here. This is where Juanita and her siblings were born,” says Isabel.
“When I was in the shelter, I had nightmares every night. I never told my parents because we all had so much to deal with. My older sister told me they would disappear when we went back to Campur and they did,” Juana says.
"Now that I'm back I'm happy again. I know it well; I can go wherever I want and I feel safe here. I want to grow up here and become a doctor to help many people. In the meantime, I like helping my mom take care of my younger siblings and peeling potatoes for my family’s chicken and chips business. I also love to study and my favorite subjects are Spanish and English,” Juana adds with a big smile.
UNICEF, thanks to the support of the European Union, the Government of Japan and Sweden, responded immediately to the emergency and has since been working on the ground to provide a comprehensive response, including water, hygiene and sanitation, nutritional care, protection from violence, psychosocial support and school rehabilitation.
Juana opens her eyes wider and with hope comments: “although life is returning to normal, I hope that soon everything will be like it was before the pandemic and the hurricanes. I want to go back to school, play with my friend and see my teachers.”