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Assistance for flood-affected communities slowed by landslides in Nicaragua

Heavy rains have caused deadly floods and landslides across Central America and the United Nations is warning that tens of thousands of families remain cut off.

The worst-affected countries in the region are Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. More than 100 people have lost their lives in the tropical depression and many families have been left homeless.

Last week, the United Nations (UN) and other aid organisations launched an emergency appeal to raise 30 million dollars. The appeal asked for 15.7 million dollars to help displaced families in El Salvador and 14.3 million dollars for aid to families in Nicaragua. Here, an estimated 134,000 families have been affected by the floods. But due to collapsed bridges and roads blocked by mudslides, efforts to reach some of the affected areas have been severely hampered.

The UN’s assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs spoke to Alertnet about the situation. She told the news agency that many communities in Nicaragua and in other countries had yet to be reached. Because of the threat of further landslides, it is anticipated that families in cut-off areas will need to be evacuated once roads are passable. The UN is anticipating a large number of these people will be in need of emergency food aid.

The full extent of damage to infrastructure and agriculture in Nicaragua has yet to be assessed. But the UN is calling the situation there “serious” and said the crisis in the country “is still unfolding”. With floods having washed away harvests and livestock, food security across the region is a growing concern. While the immediate priority for any money raised will be to provide emergency food rations, medical supplies and temporary shelters, the UN is hoping that support from the international community will also help people rebuild their lives.

Over the past four decades, Central America has suffered a series of natural disasters, including earthquakes and hurricanes. More than 50,000 people have lost their lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage has been caused. The governments of the region know that extreme natural events are only likely to increase in the future and there is a growing call for better prevention measures. These would include a halt to the building of houses in high-risk areas and better protection of the environment through reducing the rates of deforestation. It is now widely recognised that many communities have become increasingly vulnerable to landslides because of the felling of trees, which prevent soil from being washed away by heavy downpours.

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