Heavy rains over the last ten days have caused floods and landslides which have affected around 300,000 people. One of the main priorities for money raised by the UN-backed appeal is to provide emergency food rations for those affected.
The UN’s World Food Programme has already distributed high energy biscuits to over 7,500 people as part of a wider programme to deliver food supplies to 70,000 people across El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All these countries have been hit by the severe weather from the tropical depression. More than 120 people have died across Central America as a result of the weather system and many communities have been left isolated, following damage or blockages to roads.
In El Salvador, over 50,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and are living in shelters. Money from the UN’s appeal will go to providing extra shelters and emergency supplies. With an estimated 1,200 wells inundated by the flooding, agencies in the region are already concerned about a rise in cases of illnesses such as diarrhoea. Other water-related diseases, such as dengue fever, are also proving a threat.
Longer term, the people of El Salvador are also likely to need substantial food aid. The level of rainfall is the highest recorded for more than half a century, causing widespread damage to harvests. Early estimates suggest at least two-fifths of crops such as corn, beans and vegetables have been destroyed, but the extent of the damage could be far higher. Recent shortages have lead to even higher food prices in a country where many are already struggling. One market vendor told the BBC that before the rains, corn cost 14 dollars for 100kg. Now the same amount of corn costs 25 dollars.
It will take some weeks for the government of El Salvador to assess the full extent of the losses, though damage is already being put at around 650 million dollars, equivalent to three per cent of the country’s gross domestic product. This includes a hit to coffee production, one of El Salvador’s main exports. Though the country is used to floods and hurricanes, the losses from this month’s disastrous weather have been particularly high. The President has therefore promised the country’s farmers that the state will buy their next harvest to help them pay off any loans.