9 out of 10 children have been exposed to at least two climate shocks
In Latin America and the Caribbean, 1.5 million children and adolescents have been affected by natural disasters.
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Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are historically prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, landslides, and droughts. Children and adolescents are the most at risk from natural hazards, as it severely threatens their access to health, nutrition, education, and protection.
From January to September 2022 more than 3.8 million people, including 1.5 million children, were affected by natural disasters in 17 countries and territories in the region.
At least four major climate shocks occurred during the hurricane season in the Caribbean. Hurricanes Fiona, Ian, Julia, and Liza caused road closures, downed power lines, destroyed homes, interrupted electricity and water services, and left thousands of people in shelters.
On 19 September, Hurricane Fiona, a category 2 hurricane, made landfall in the Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 155 km/h. The hurricane, which hit the Caribbean island, forced 43,000 people to abandon their homes, left two people dead and 28 communities isolated, and affected water and electricity supply.
The early hours of that fateful Monday morning are etched in the memories of Vickiana and her children. "It was a terrifying night. There was a lot of wind, many trees were falling, you could hear the wind and the zinc flying (...) I went out with the children, all together under the water and that wind that hardly allowed us to move. It was terrifying, we were very scared, especially with the children, with the baby", says Vickiana, who together with her children Luisania (20), Edgar (17) and Keruin (11), and her grandson Brainiel (1) had to take shelter under the bed and the table during the worst hours of the storm. In the photo, Edgar and Keruin are looking at the damage caused by the hurricane that completely destroyed their home.
"All my mattresses got wet, I had to leave them out in the open because I have nowhere to put them. I was able to save some things, but others were damaged, and we don't have the money to rebuild our house," says Vickiana.
Among the wet mattresses and the belongings they were able to salvage after the hurricane, the children are waiting for their mother and grandmother to tell them where they will spend the night.
UNICEF, together with its partners and national authorities, supported the response through the distribution of hygiene kits and plastic drums with drinking water in community centres. Support was also provided to authorities for the restoration of drinking water services, as well as for the early detection and care of acute malnutrition in the affected territories to 40,000 children, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
At the end of September, with maximum sustained winds of 205 km/h and heavy rainfall, Hurricane Ian caused devastation in the provinces of Pinar del Rio, Artemisa, in the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, and significant damage in the province of Havana in Cuba.
Families as the one shown in this photo tried to save their belongings and to protect their homes before the strong winds and heavy rains arrived. However, the impact of the hurricane caused partial and total destruction of thousands of homes, affected public institutions' roofs and infrastructure, downed trees, damaged the country's electricity supply, flooded low-lying areas, and caused extensive damage to agriculture.
UNICEF, together with the authorities, supported public health responses through actions in education, nutrition, protection, water, hygiene, and sanitation.
In October, Hurricane Julia – category 1 as it passed through the region – affected Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. In El Salvador alone, more than 1,200 people had to seek shelter.
"In the city of Bluefields, Nicaragua, there were repeated similar situations to the one shown in the photos. Hundreds of houses were destroyed due to the high winds, and children made use of these spaces to play in the rubble."
Hundreds of people had to abandon their homes, taking all the belongings they could carry with them to flee the disaster, such as this mother breastfeeding her baby in the street while waiting to be relocated.
In natural disaster emergencies, UNICEF's team, together with national authorities and partners in the field, supports affected families by providing access to safe water and psychosocial support, as well as other protection services to affected populations, and by ensuring the continuity of education for children and adolescents.
UNICEF is requesting US$15.1 million for 2023 to support overall emergency preparedness and response to emerging crises across the Latin America and Caribbean region.The funds received will contribute to: strengthening linkages between humanitarian action and development programming; building social services to respond to crises; and to ensure that child protection is at the centre of humanitarian action.