Central America Becomes Certified in Aquatic Rescue and Humanitarian Aid
By Lorena Baires / Diálogo June 07, 2017Central American Humanitarian Rescue Units (UHR, per its Spanish acronym) certified teams in specialized aquatic rescue equipment and humanitarian aid. Thousands of communities situated in flood-prone areas raise the alarm every year before the arrival of winter. The certification took place within the framework of the “Comprehensive Humanitarian Aid Course I,” taught April 25th–May 19th at the Regional Humanitarian Aid Training Center of the Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CARAH-CFAC, per its Spanish acronym), located in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The winter season always challenges the region’s armed forces to heed the population’s call to deploy their resources to save human life and evacuate individuals from rain-damaged homes, farms, and workplaces. “These officers are now prepared to pass on their newfound knowledge in their countries and to react quickly to emergencies. In Central America, the chance of a flood or landslide is always imminent,” Honduran Army Colonel José Luis Mendieta, director of CARAH-CFAC in Tegucigalpa, told Diálogo during the certificate ceremony. For four weeks military members were immersed in intensive classes in first aid, aquatic rescue in enclosed spaces and open water, as well as supply delivery, damage evaluation, and needs analysis. For Salvadoran Army Captain Jorge Alfaro, interim commander of the Salvadoran UHR, these new skills are invaluable in a country where almost two million people live in places affected by winter weather. “We are bringing new skills related to aquatic rescue, not only in enclosed spaces but also in open water, which will definitely allow us to provide better assistance during floods or other emergencies. Our people trust our soldiers, and for that reason, we train constantly as a way of returning that trust,” he told Diálogo. The Salvadoran Secretariat for Security Issues and the General Directorate for Civilian Protection confirmed that over one million Salvadorans live in areas at risk for landslides and that the majority of the country’s population lives in flood-prone areas. In Guatemala’s case, residents of seven departments were put at risk of flash floods, downed trees, and property damage by rain and strong winds in early May. “The knowledge acquired by the officers will help them to better serve the victims of floods, landslides, overflowing rivers, and other phenomena [such as volcanic eruptions]. Also, what we learned will help with prevention and mitigation of disasters during the winter season,” Guatemalan Army Colonel Miguel Ángel Orozco, commander of the Guatemalan UHR, stressed to Diálogo at the close of the workshop. Additionally, the Guatemalan UHR has already planned a local training so course participants will be able to put what they have learned into practice. High-performance center CARAH-CFAC motivates, prepares, trains, and educates the UHR personnel of the CFAC member countries to form specialized aid units to provide support during natural disasters and other emergencies. Since it began operations on January 14, 2014, this specialized center has trained more than 200 officers in various rescue and humanitarian aid themes. During the April workshop, 26 men and women from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras were trained. “Top quality human resources, plans, and knowledge are provided by CARAH-CFAC in Honduras for humanitarian aid during natural or manmade disasters. We are raising the level of professionalism with respect to the protection of human life and the pursuit of sustainable development in the region,” Col. Mendieta added. The second phase, “Comprehensive Humanitarian Aid Course II,” will be taught in July. The course will expand on applied knowledge and experience in topics such as aquatic rescue, first aid, needs analysis, and damage evaluation. Honduras currently serves as president of the CFAC Superior Council, and through these types of activities is fulfilling its mission to increase the operational capability of all the nations in the region.