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A floood victim and her granddaughter in a flood evacuation shelter in the municipality of Guadalupe, El Salvador. Photo courtesy of CEPRODE.
LWR Special Report:
Flooding in Central America
By Nikki Massie
Like many of the victims of the recent floods that struck Central America, Anselmo Antonio Gonzalez is thankful to be alive.
“I thank God I can tell my story,” shares the elderly man, who lives with his wife, brother and adult son in Nicaragua.
The rainwater — brought on by Tropical Depression 12-E, which caused flooding, landslides and at least 80 deaths throughout Central America this October — seemed to turn to flooding in an instant.
“My son had left that morning to take the animals to a safer place,” shares Anselmo. “When we got the call to evacuate, the water was already waist high.” Like many in the region, Anselmo and his family left their home and took shelter in a school.
Arnoldo, a husband and father of four who lives in the municipality of San Vincente in El Salvador, also had to evacuate to a school.
“Our house flooded completely,” he says. “We had to leave our house early in the morning.”
Arnoldo’s family depends on their crops for income and survival. Although his house was completely destroyed, what worries him most is that all his crops were washed away.
“The crops we thought we would have went with the river and are now covered in water,” he shares. “Now we are all waiting for the land to dry to see if we can plant again.”
Lutheran World Relief responded immediately after the floods with critical relief items like food and hygiene supplies. Moving forward, LWR will continue providing the essential items families need to cope with post-flood conditions while working on long-term recovery.
In Nicaragua, where LWR has long worked to improve the agricultural livelihoods of farmers, we are working with two local partners to help families recover from the floods.
With the Interchurch Center for Theological and Social Studies (CIETTS), a local organization providing education and outreach to vulnerable communities in Nicaragua, LWR will reach out to 200 flood-affected families in five communities of Villanueva in the municipality of Chinandega.
Relief will include food packages that contain a month’s worth of culturally appropriate food items. Storage containers and water treatment supplies will help protect families against water-borne illnesses.
In the northern and western regions of Nicaragua, LWR is working with the Lutheran Church of Nicaragua Faith and Hope (ILFE), an ecumenical organization that reaches to impoverished communities with education, health and development services. Together LWR and ILFE will distribute food to families who have lost most of their crops to flood and help them repair their homes.
In El Salvador, LWR has partnered with a group of local organizations working together to help the people of Sierra Tecapa-Chinameca, a region highly susceptible to landslides. The community is especially vulnerable to hunger since the floods destroyed 50 to 80 percent of their bean crop, a nutritional staple in the area.
LWR and partners will provide food aid to 698 flood-affected families in the region, along with locally obtained hygiene kits, training on food safety and hygiene, and assistance with primary health care. Hygiene and sanitation become very important in situations of floods, where water-borne illnesses can spread quickly. The trainings, along with health care assistance, will help keep families healthy so they can work to recover their losses.
Both Arnoldo and Anselmo are thankful for the support they’ve received in the aftermath of the floods. “We appreciate the help and food given to us,” says Arnoldo.
What most farmers, like Arnoldo and his family, look forward to is the process of recovery. When the waters recede, they will be eager to begin replanting so they can grow their own food and support themselves.
Help Lutheran World Relief stay with the people of Central America to see that day. A gift to the Central America Disaster Response fund helps support people like Arnold and Anselmo as they seek to keep their families healthy, replant their crops and move forward with their lives.
Nikki Massie is LWR’s Staff Writer.