"I would like to wake up and see that this never happened"

A 13-year old Guatemalan girl tells in her own words how hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated her community.

By Manuel Moreno
Dulce Mode Ixmukane Xol Cuc
UNICEF/UN0376259/Billy/AFP-Services
09 December 2020

I am Dulce Mode Ixmukane Xol Cuc and I am 13 years old.

I lived with my father, my mother and my brothers in Campur (Alta Verapaz, north of Guatemala). We are in total a family of eight.

My dad is a farmer. He went every Monday and Thursday to the municipality of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, but the road was closed due to water.

My mother had her store, and my brother and I studied. I was in my 1st year of secondary school. My brother is supposed to go to study in Carchá (a nearby town in Alta Verapaz), but I don't know if it will be possible because of the water.

Hear Dulce's testimony about how hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated her community.

During the pandemic, we studied through letters and in writing. Our teachers left us homework and we solved it at home. Most of all, this year was the year of the lean cows, as everyone says.

We knew about the storm. One Thursday we went to see the water, we wanted to see if it was true, if it was actually flooding. The water was still behind the parish. We thought that it would not reach more, because 22 years ago, with Hurricane Mitch, there was also a storm, but it did not reach much, no one was affected.

We thought it was going to harm no one, but unfortunately, it did harm us all.

It took us a while to get out of our house because the water was rising very slowly. That Thursday, we went to my sister's house. It was already night. As her in-laws lived a little further down, we went to help them get their things out and we thought it wasn't going to reach my sister's house, but… we didn't expect what happened.

We told each other that it was not going to arrive... and around one o’clock in the morning it began to rise faster and faster. I told a girl who works with us to help me get some things out, because we no longer knew what to do. We started to get things out, but most of them were left behind.

At my sister's house we left beds, tables, chairs and some pots that we had just planted. That house was ready for less than a year and it hurt us a lot, because my sister has a debt to build that house. It was supposed be of support to pay the debt.

Later, the water reached the health center and we began to get upset because we did not know what to do.

It was when it reached my cousin's house that suddenly the water started to drop a little bit, and we were very happy. We thought it was going to come down at once, but then we were warned that another hurricane was coming, Iota. When that hurricane came, the water began to rise faster and faster, and it reached the wall of our house.

We came to sleep at the school. My brothers did not want to come, and they stayed sleeping there. We only managed to get some things out because we trusted ourselves.

Google Earth picture of Campur village,Alta Verapaz, Guatemala
GoogleEarth - © UNICEF/UN0376271/Billy/AFP-Services
On the left, a Google Earth image of the town of Campur, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. On the right, an image of a drone taken in the same area on December 3, 2020. Many towns like Campur are still affected by the floods or isolated

It was hard leaving the house. It's still tough. At least I don't get used to being here at the Cruce Chinamá school. I am used to my normal life, at home. I don't know what to do here. I feel like it's a dream, that it has never happened. I would like to wake up and see that this never happened.

 

 

I would have to start the following school year, 2nd of secondary, but the truth is that I don't know if I will continue studying, because there is no more school. We no longer have a church and we no longer have a home. We don't know what else we are going to do.

The school is under water as a result of Hurricanes Iota and Eta.
UNICEF/UN0376017/Billy/AFP-Services
Campur School, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, December 3, 2020. The school is flooded as a result of Hurricanes Iota and Eta.

Here in the shelter each one prepares their food. Only sometimes people in solidarity come to leave us a little food and, the truth is, that I appreciate it very much because we no longer have many things. But it is not the same as being at home.

A child is screened by a social worker
UNICEF/UN0376266/Billy/AFP-Services
A child is examined by a social worker from the Ministry of Health at the Cruce Chinamá shelter, Campur, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, on November 3, 2020. Following Eta and Iota, UNICEF-supported nutrition brigades visit communities and shelters to detect children under 5 years of age.

I have a rabbit named Angie. It hurts me to see her there, locked up all day. Sometimes I try to get it out, but the problem is that there are many dogs, and I am afraid that they will eat it. For now, she is my only friend.

My classmates and friends are in different shelters. Some went to Carchá. They have offered us accommodation in Carchá, Cojaj, but we did not want to move away from our house... even if it is already under water.

The only closest shelter is this one in Cruce Chinamá. A part of our house was left outside, but it is no longer habitable, even if the water goes down. It is not habitable because the block was flooded. My dad said if the water goes down, we will have to destroy our house. Fix one with wood, because we don't have enough resources to build.

What hurt us the most was seeing Campur flooded, because it was already developing. Many said it was going to be like a town, like Carchá, but unfortunately it can't be done because the people are going to have to destroy their houses. We will always live with this fear.

The new high school was finishing construction. We, many young people, boys and girls, were anxious to be able to be in the new school, because it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to study there.

 

Over 6.8 million people have been affected by Eta and Iota in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, among them approximately 2.6 million are children. The triple impact of Eta, Iota and COVID-19 on affected countries in Central America put in risk the future of the most vulnerable children, like Dulce, who may never return to school. Floods have not fully receded in some areas, and many communities and schools still underwater.

UNICEF, together with its partners, is working on the ground to provide an urgent integrated response, including water, hygiene and sanitation in shelters and communities, nutritional care, protection against any type of abuse or violence, as well as psychosocial support. Ensuring that schools are rehabilitated and that children have access to education is a high priority concern for UNICEF. 


Dulce is 13-years-old and lives in Campur, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. 

Manuel Moreno is a Communication Specialist with UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office currently in Guatemala. This article is composed of excerpts from an interview done with Dulce Mode Ixmukane Xol Cuc on the 3rd December of 2020, in the aftermath of hurricanes Eta and Iota.