On November 16, Hurricane Iota made landfall as a category 5 storm with sustained winds of nearly 155 mph. This comes just two weeks after Hurricane Eta brought heavy rains, severe flooding, and landslides to many of the same areas. An estimated 4.9 million people were affected by Hurricane Eta alone and more than 260,000 people across Latin America have sought the safety of evacuation shelters.
Here are four ways the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is helping communities affected by hurricanes Eta and Iota:
Deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team
Immediately following Hurricane Eta, USAID activated several disaster experts across Central America. On November 17, after Hurricane Iota hit, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the U.S. response efforts. This elite team, comprising nearly 40 disaster experts spanning seven countries, is assessing damage, identifying priority needs, and working with partners to provide life-saving aid.
Providing relief supplies
Within a day of Eta making landfall, USAID began working with ADRA International and World Vision to provide emergency relief supplies in Honduras, including hygiene items, kitchen sets, and blankets. The USAID DART is also prioritizing the provision of critical commodities to help affected communities in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Colombia.
Providing emergency food assistance
Hurricanes Iota and Eta’s continuous heavy rains also triggered major flooding and landslides in Central America before moving onto the United States. USAID is working with Catholic Relief Services and other partners on the ground in Guatemala to provide emergency food assistance to people forced to evacuate their homes and move to temporary shelters. In Nicaragua, we’re working with UNICEF to provide urgent food assistance to the most vulnerable communities affected by the storm.
Working with the U.S. military
The two back-to-back hurricanes and ensuing flooding damaged roads and bridges, cutting off some communities from the aid they need. To get relief supplies to these hard-to-reach areas, USAID has requested the unique capability of Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) of the U.S. Department of Defense’s U.S. Southern Command. To date, JTF-Bravo has flown 24 missions in Honduras and Guatemala, delivering 47 metric tons of food, water, hygiene kits, and other relief supplies to communities hit by the recent storms.
Year round, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance works to reduce the risk and impact of future disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean. We work with local governments and humanitarian organizations in the region to develop emergency and evacuation plans; train national disaster response organizations and first responders; and educate vulnerable communities so they know what to do when the next storm hits.