AJWS Grantees Respond to Tropical Storm Agatha


AJWS Grantees Respond to Tropical Storm Agatha

June 3, 2010

Reuters/AlertNet. Two sisters walk down a street flooded by rains from Agatha in Amatitilan, Guatemala.

Tropical Storm Agatha swept through Guatemala and El Salvador on May 30, killing 120 people and destroying Central American infrastructure. According to news reports, landslides have buried dozens of rural communities in Guatemala, rivers have overflowed, water pipes have burst, roads have been washed away and bridges have collapsed. Many isolated communities have been cut off from supply routes. In El Salvador, landslides have caused at least ten deaths, and more than 20 villages have been flooded. 

Guatemala's president, Alvaro Colom, stated that Agatha was even stronger than natural disasters of the last decade—hurricanes Mitch and Stan—and that an escalating number of national emergencies have taken a toll on the government's capacity to provide emergency relief.

Many of AJWS's grantees in Guatemala—including Rights Action, Comite Campesino del Altiplano (CCDA), Rxin Tnamet, OPCION and FESIRGUA—were adversely affected by the storm. Representatives from these grantees reported damages to their offices and homes of staff. AJWS grantees in El Salvador, including ACAMG and AMSATI, lost crops, livestock and cooking stoves.

To respond to the immediate needs of the affected communities, AJWS is supporting its Guatemalan and Salvadoran grantees to provide emergency shelter and food so that people can ride out the immediate crisis and begin to plan their recovery.

In Guatemala, the National Association for Disaster Reduction (Conred) is coordinating civil society responses to the emergency, clearing roads, evaluating damage and assessing Guatemalans' immediate needs. Conred released a preliminary report that 21,465 people are still at risk, 29,245 are housed in shelters and 111,964 have been evacuated. Shelters are full of people needing food and materials to rebuild their homes.

"The most important thing our grantees are doing right now is conducting needs assessments," reported Oscar Andrade, AJWS's consultant for Central America. "They are distributing hot meals, bedding and health supplies." Andrade continued, "Now that the rains have stopped, they are assessing the damages and have been gathering medicine, clothes and bedding for victims. As people try to recover from the storm, money will be needed to help revitalize local economies."

In order to plan for reconstruction and long-term development, AJWS is working with its grantees to replant damaged crops, reestablish small businesses and implement disaster risk-reduction initiatives.

"A storm that would barely make the news in the U.S. has the capacity to bring total devastation and destroy tens of thousands of lives in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, where communities lack the infrastructure to withstand what would be considered a minor storm elsewhere in the world," said AJWS president Ruth Messinger.

"AJWS stands with vulnerable communities in their time of acute need and is fortunate to have partners in place who can ensure that our assistance has immediate and lasting impact."