Honduras Increases Capacities for Natural Disasters
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo November 21, 2016U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) donated two modern facilities to Honduras for storing equipment and supplies. The donation will help increase the Permanent Contingency Commission’s (COPECO, per its Spanish acronym) capacity to respond to natural disasters. The donations are part of SOUTHCOM's Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP), which supports a series of projects intended to reinforce the preparation and mitigation capacities of Latin American countries for natural disasters. Projects include infrastructure, equipment, and the training of operational personnel. “We are under a line of action in preparation for disasters. We intend to enhance the response capacities of Honduras to be able to respond to the basic necessities of the population, whether through emergency operation centers or disaster response warehouses, shelters, automatic response information systems, and a better flow of communication,” said Wendy Bustillos, coordinator of SOUTHCOM's HAP in Honduras, to Diálogo. Keeping promises SOUTHCOM contributed $ 750,000 for the construction of a warehouse in the coastal city of La Ceiba, in northern Honduras. The facility will be used to store equipment and supplies that will expand the natural disaster response capacity of COPECO and other governmental agencies. “In this way, SOUTHCOM is reiterating to our country its support for disaster preparedness, support that it has been giving us for years,” said Abraham Mejía Griffin, deputy commissioner of COPECO in the Atlantic coast region, to Diálogo. “Along with training, prevention, and national collaboration, the warehouse, which will be inaugurated on November 29th, will be a key to continuing our advancement in the prevention of risks in Honduras.” Community center SOUTHCOM also constructed and financed a community center to benefit the Chorti Commonwealth, an intercity structure created for the integral development of the Copanchorti Basin within the department of Copán. The center, inaugurated during a ceremony on October 20th, will support the preparation for disaster relief in vulnerable communities in the west of Honduras. Major Roberto Solórzano of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Hilde Cartagena, regional deputy commissioner of COPECO in Santa Rosa de Copán; and Adonias Morales, president of the Chorti Commonwealth, attended the event. The center has more In addition to functioning as a storage facility and an alternate emergency operations center, the 1,200-square-meter building will be used for medical brigades as well as cultural and community events. The center consists of a conference room and a warehouse with a storage capacity of 10 metric tons of supplies such as medicine, tents, and blankets. It also has sanitation facilities, an electrical power generator, a water tank, an office, and ample parking. The property can shelter approximately 300 people. The Chorti Commonwealth manages the center. “We are responsible for continuing to expand, not only to stay with the infrastructure that SOUTHCOM donated to us. We are going to make improvements in the area,” said Maynor Mejía, general manager of the community center. “These buildings are great logistical support for the Armed Forces, the Fire Department, the Paramedics Foundation, the Honduran Red Cross, and all the governmental institutions that are always ready to provide humanitarian aid,” Deputy Commissioner Cartagena said. The people are priority According to Mejía, “the community center was built by the Honduran corporation Eterna S.A. de C.V. The work was supervised by SOUTHCOM’s Army Corps of Engineers.” “With this type of donation, we are not only giving support, but we are also training the communities and providing all the healthcare and prevention services,” added Deputy Commissioner Cartagena. “SOUTHCOM’s efforts help the country’s authorities bring the civilian population better service with a great quality of people.” Honduras is one of the 20 most vulnerable countries in the world in terms of floods and hurricanes. In the last century, almost five million people were affected by natural disasters, according to On Secure Land, Natural Disasters, and Land Tenure, a report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2016. “It is our duty to be prepared to address any emergency that surpasses the capacities of a municipality to handle,” warned Deputy Commissioner Cartagena. Ongoing support Since 2012, SOUTHCOM has supported Honduras with more than four infrastructure projects in the cities of Tegucigalpa, Puerto Lempira, San Pedro Sula, and Danli. Each warehouse costs approximately $ 500,000 to $ 700,000. The warehouses comply with standards and security measures required by the American Concrete Institute. “The regions we have supported are strategic in the sense that they have the most coverage at the national level, so that a synergy exists as well as this communication between regions during emergencies or disasters,” said Bustillos. Under its HAP, SOUTHCOM also donated a motorboat to COPECO to provide free medical care in the department of Gracias a Dios, one of the most difficult zones to access, even for locals. The boat has been operated by the Honduran Navy since October, 2015. “The United States has always supported Honduras. It has given us food, medications, vehicles, and the proper equipment to strengthen the country's response capacity,” said Deputy commissioner Mejía. “It is quite a positive boost.” As part of its continual support initiative for strengthening COPECO’s response capacity, SOUTHCOM is analyzing the construction of an emergency operations center and a warehouse in the department of Valle. “If it is approved, we will have the chance to finalize the project between 2018 and 2020. With this, we would practically have the totality of strategic points covered in the country,” concluded Bustillos.