American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is supporting overlooked communities in Central America with much-needed assistance amid the devastation of Eta and Iota
NEW YORK – American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, is providing urgently needed relief to local Central American nonprofit organizations after two powerful storms left the region reeling.
As communities dig out from the devastation wrought by flooding and mudslides, including destroyed homes, AJWS partners are distributing food and providing aid in Nicaragua and Guatemala, where hundreds have died and thousands have been left without shelter in the wake of Hurricanes Eta and Iota.
Hurricane Iota, a deadly category 5 storm, made landfall Monday evening along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua—battering people who lost homes and loved ones to Hurricane Eta just two weeks ago. Our grantees on the ground have spent the last two weeks urgently aiding communities devastated by the floods and landslides of the last storm, and the force of Iota will cause further destruction and loss of life.
In Nicaragua, many communities were unprepared and are now stranded and isolated, most without cell service. As most indigenous communities live in the jungle along rivers where there is no road transportation, we are redoubling our efforts to reach them.
AJWS has launched an emergency fundraising campaign to support the most marginalized people, including rural indigenous communities, and help them to withstand these twin disasters by providing funds for food, medicine and the protective equipment needed to prevent the rampant spread of COVID-19. We are working closely with our grantees, who are constantly evaluating the mounting needs of their communities.
“Climate change is wreaking havoc around the world, with severe storms, drought, heat waves and other extreme weather conditions coming faster and more furious,” said Robert Bank, President and CEO of AJWS. “These crises are often most devastating for people who were already living in poverty or suffering from structural inequities, and such crises only deepen the injustices these communities face.”
Bank added, “AJWS focuses sharply on vulnerable communities in our disaster relief, as they are often overlooked by bigger charities and governments. We are also committed to moving fast, getting money out the door in less than two days. In the wake of Eta, we were able to join the recovery effort immediately because of our decades of supporting local advocates and organizations in Central America that are responding to this disaster on behalf of their communities.”
In Guatemala, the storm’s damage has been especially severe in the central part of the country, where multiple AJWS grantee-partners quickly ensured the safety of their communities. In the Ixcan region of northern-central Guatemala, for example, rivers flooded and destroyed people’s homes and vast swaths of agricultural land. The flooding forced most families to flee their villages for higher ground, often on foot, with only what they could carry.
Eta destroyed bridges and roads as well, shutting down bus transportation and effectively blocking many of these rural communities from escaping to safer parts of the country. And another threat looms in Ixcan: local communities fear that the nearby hydroelectric dam could collapse, wiping out villages downstream.
To provide urgent assistance to families and communities in the path of this devastating crisis in Guatemala, AJWS immediately sent an emergency grant to longtime grantee-partner Puente de Paz, which has used the funds to provide emergency medical supplies and food directly to 85 Indigenous communities inundated by flooding.
About American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is the leading Jewish organization working to fight poverty and pursue justice in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. By supporting hundreds of social change organizations in 18 countries, we respond to the most pressing issues of our time—from disasters, genocide and hunger, to the persecution of women and minorities worldwide. With Jewish values and a global reach, AJWS is making a difference in millions of lives and bringing a more just and equitable world closer for all.
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