ROME – Hunger in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years – from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to 8 million people in 2021 – a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and years of extreme climate events. Of this figure, 1.7 million people are in the ‘Emergency’ category of food insecurity and require urgent food assistance.

“Considering the level of destruction and setbacks faced by those affected, we expect this to be a long and slow recovery,” said Miguel Barreto, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “2020 was a year to forget across the world, and even more so for communities in Central America that were dealt a series of blows.”

With homes and farms destroyed, food stocks running low and job opportunities shrinking, nearly 15 percent of people surveyed by the U.N. World Food Programme in January 2021 said that they were making concrete plans to migrate. In a 2018 post-drought assessment only eight percent of respondents indicated they were planning to migrate.

The record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season dealt a severe blow to millions who were previously relatively untouched by hunger, among them people dependent on the service economy, tourism and informal jobs. Hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck Central America in November 2020 upended the lives of 6.8 million people who lost their homes and livelihoods.

The hurricanes destroyed about 500,000 acres of staple food and cash crops in the four countries and around 25,000 acres of coffee farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua. The hurricanes struck as these communities were already dealing with job losses and a shrinking economy, a fallout of COVID-19.

The U.N. World Food Programme surveys estimate that food security in Central America nosedived as a result of COVID-19. The number of households that did not have enough to eat during COVID-19 nearly doubled in Guatemala compared to pre-pandemic numbers. In Honduras, it increased by more than 50 percent. An overwhelming majority of households in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador reported income losses or unemployment during the pandemic.

“Urban and rural communities in Central America have hit rock bottom. The COVID-19-induced economic crisis had already put food on the market shelves out of reach for the most vulnerable people when the twin hurricanes Eta and Iota battered them further,” said Barreto. “Many now have nowhere to live and are staying in temporary shelters, surviving on next to nothing.”

Communities in Central America have borne the brunt of a climate emergency, where consecutive years of drought and erratic weather have disrupted food production – especially staples like maize and beans, which depend heavily on regular rainfall.

The U.N. World Food Programme calls on the international community to support its efforts in Central America to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to invest in long-term development projects and national social protection programs that help vulnerable communities withstand recurrent weather extremes and economic shocks.

The U.N. World Food Programme plans to assist 2.6 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 2021 and requires $47.3 million over the next six months.

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The U.N. World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA; @wfp_media; @wfp_es

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):
Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mob. +1 202 770 5993

ROME – Millions of people in Central America urgently need food assistance in the wake of Hurricane Eta, one of the worst storms in decades, as fears grow of another storm brewing in the coming days.

Heavy rains, high winds, deadly landslides and floods unleashed by Eta after making landfall in Nicaragua earlier this month killed dozens of people, destroyed infrastructure and hurt rural livelihoods along its path in Central America, including in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras.

“Eta arrived at the worst time, making life harder for millions of people already hard hit by years of erratic weather and the socioeconomic crisis COVID-19 caused. We are also concerned that more heavy rain and flooding can destroy the upcoming harvest subsistence farmers depend on to survive,” said Miguel Barreto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Eta was the 28th hurricane in an already record-setting season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that there is a high chance another storm will form in the coming days.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) used internal resources to preposition food, scale up current operations focused on people affected by COVID-19, and mobilize teams to respond to the emergency in the most affected areas in Central America.

The hurricane compounds hunger already deepened by the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, the Dry Corridor of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) saw five years of prolonged drought and failed crops due to erratic weather patterns, which left smallholder farmers, day laborers and their families’ food insecure.

The U.N. World Food Programme predicts the number of people with severe food insecurity in the Dry Corridor could increase from more than 1.6 million in 2019 to close to 3 million in 2020, due to the socioeconomic fallout of COVID-19.

“To prevent the situation from becoming a larger humanitarian crisis, the U.N. World Food Programme calls for increased support from donors,” said Barreto.

An initial assessment indicates that our immediate funding needs to support the most vulnerable people are approximately  $13.2 million. This figure is expected to increase over the next few weeks as the extent of Eta’s impact becomes clearer.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

For more information, contact:

  • Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Shada.Moghraby@wfp.org, Mob. + 1 929 289 9867
  • Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Steve.Taravella@wfp.org, Mob.  +1 202 770 5993

SAN SALVADOR – Damage caused by Tropical Storm Amanda which lashed El Salvador is compounding the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to increase the number of food insecure people in El Salvador, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“This is a dramatic situation for thousands of people who have lost their livelihoods. I call on the international community to support the efforts of the government and the United Nations to urgently reduce the suffering of thousands of Salvadorans,” said Miguel Barreto, U.N. World Food Programme Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It is crucial to support governments that are facing extreme weather events amidst an ongoing pandemic.”

The results of a U.N. World Food Programme rapid food security assessment in El Salvador conducted after the storm that hit the country on May 31, estimate that 336,300 people in urban and rural areas could be pushed into severe food insecurity, meaning that they may not have the means or resources to feed themselves.  On June 6, the U.N, World Food Programme and the City of San Salvador began distributing food to 5,500 people in 73 shelters located in the departments of San Salvador, Sonsonate and La Libertad.

Following the storm’s passage, the U.N. World Food Programme needs $8 million to provide urgent food assistance for two months to 153,500 people in severe food insecurity. This request for funds is in addition to the $19 million required to support the Government of El Salvador in its response to COVID-19.

“These are the worst rains I’ve seen since Hurricane Mitch in 1998,” said U.N. World Food Programme’s Representative in El Salvador, Andrew Stanhope.

He added that “the impact of Tropical Storm Amanda and the pandemic has worsened the food security of the poorest families. Now more than ever we must redouble our efforts to urgently reach those most in need with food assistance.”

The west and center of the country are the main areas affected by the storm, the first in this hurricane season. Authorities have reported heavy flooding, with between 20 to 30 inches of rain accumulated in some departments, and severe damage to infrastructure. The government of El Salvador has declared a state of emergency.

The U.N. World Food Programme is also supporting the Government of El Salvador in its response to COVID-19. Starting in April, the United Nations World Food Programme provided food or cash to 32,000 vulnerable people.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media, @WFPUSA

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

  • Norha Restrepo/ WFP Panama, Mob. +507 66715355
  • Haydee Paguaga/ WFP El Salvador, Mob. +503 79197633

April 25th, 2019, Panama City | The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that prolonged droughts and heavy rain have destroyed more than half of the corn and bean crops of the subsistence farmers along the Central American Dry Corridor, leaving them without food reserves and affecting their food security.

2.2 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have lost their crops due to rainfall and drought; 1.4 million urgently need food assistance. FAO and WFP are requesting $72 million from the international community to provide food assistance to more than 700,000 people in the Dry Corridor.

Central American governments estimated that 2.2 million people have suffered crop losses, mainly due to the drought. Emergency food security assessments carried out in the Dry Corridor by WFP, FAO and the governments during the last quarter of 2018 validated these findings and confirmed that 1.4 million people out of the 2.2 million urgently need food assistance.

For 2019, FAO and WFP are requesting $72 million from the international community to provide food assistance to more than 700,000 people in the Dry Corridor.

These funds will also help to create and restore productive assets, diversify the subsistence farmers’ source of income, establish social protection safety nets and strengthen the farmers’ resilience in the face of future climate-related events.

“Subsistence farmers have started planting this month, many of them do not have food reserves and risk losing their crops again,” warned Miguel Barreto, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “If we don’t support them now, the coming lean season could be extremely hard for them, especially for children who are the most vulnerable, and whose nutritional condition could worsen as a result.”

Central American governments reported that in 2018, a delayed start to the rainy season in the Dry Corridor ruined up to 70 percent of the subsistence farmers’ first harvest, while in contrast too much rainfall damaged up to 50 percent of the second harvest.

In mid-February 2019, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the appearance of El Niño phenomenon and forecast that it would last until October. There is a high probability that El Niño will affect the sowing of staple grains during the first crop cycle, which will worsen the already fragile nutritional and food security of communities along the Dry Corridor.

FAO and WFP recommend subsistence farmers are informed about the current situation to prevent the loss of their crops due to a delayed rainy season. Alternatives for them to consider are replacing the existing water-dependant crops with sorghum and tubers, which need less water, or sowing short-cycle crops with the first rains in the dryer zones.

“We have to improve the resilience of people living in the Dry Corridor. Reinforcing monitoring and early warning systems, and mitigating the impact of droughts and rains through agricultural best practices, increases the families’ resilience and adaptation to strengthen their livelihoods, thus preventing that climatic events compromise their food security and force them to migrate,” said Adoniram Sanches, FAO Regional Coordinator for Mesoamerica and Representative in Panama.

Approximately half of the 1.9 million basic grain small producers in Central America live in the Dry Corridor. These families are subsistence farmers, which means that they harvest and eat the food that they grow, mainly corn and beans. If they lose a crop, they will not have reserves to eat or sell to survive until the next harvest.

Once their food reserves have been depleted, families often resort to emergency coping strategies. According to FAO, WFP and the governments, up to 82 percent of the families have sold their farming tools and animals to purchase food. They even skip meals or eat less nutritious foods.

More than 25 percent of the households surveyed do not have enough income to cover their basic food needs and eight percent of the families reported that they plan to migrate in response to this situation.

According to FAO and WFP, only by revitalizing the Dry Corridor can we create the conditions for communities to improve their way of life without having to leave their homes and undertake dangerous journeys in search of better opportunities.

About the World Food Programme | The United Nations World Food Programme saves lives in emergencies and changes the lives of millions of people through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding populations affected by conflicts and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future. @WFP_ES www.es.wfp.org

About the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | FAO has been working for more than 70 years to end hunger in the world. Its objective is to achieve food security for all and guarantee them regular access to sufficient and good quality food to lead an active and healthy life. With more than 194 member states, FAO works in more than 130 countries. @FAOAmericas www.fao.org/americas

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