As the region sustains damage from two major hurricanes, a Christian humanitarian organization has deployed to Central America to assist those living in the areas hardest hit by the storms.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the international humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has begun providing disaster relief to the more than 3.6 million people impacted by damage from Hurricanes Eta and Iota. Both storms made landfall in northern Nicaragua as category 4 storms within the past two weeks, unleashing heavy rains, dangerous winds, catastrophic flooding and landslides.
According to the Nicaraguan government, Iota is the strongest storm to ever hit Nicaragua in the country’s history. Members of ADRA have deployed to Nicaragua as well as hard-hit areas of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Belize and Costa Rica.
“We must keep the people of Central America in our prayers as ADRA continues its relief operations in the region,” said Luis Trundle, ADRA Honduras country director. “The impact of Eta and Iota is considered greater than the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. There are whole communities where families have not been able to get out of their houses due to floods and mudslides, and many people remain missing.
“The distribution of humanitarian aid is very challenging. People are sitting on the side of the road desperate for food, water, basic supplies and shelter.”
In Honduras, members of ADRA assembled more than 1,500 hygiene kits containing food, clothing and washing supplies, distributing them to nearly 2,000 families.
According to government reports, the back-to-back hurricanes destroyed more than 153,000 hectares of crops in the country.
In El Salvador, ADRA has worked with Adventist young people from the country’s Pathfinder club to distribute hundreds of meals, blankets, clothes and water to children and adults displaced from their homes as a result of the storms. ADRA has teamed up with church volunteers in Guatemala and Panama to provide displaced families with food, clothes and personal hygiene items.
ADRA has also worked to provide food to residents of hard-hit areas of Nicaragua, Belize and Costa Rica. The humanitarian organization’s hurricane relief efforts have focused primarily on Central America but ADRA has deployed to parts of Colombia to prepare food and hygiene items as well as Mexico, where the charitable group has distributed cash vouchers to those in need of assistance.
While more than 200 people have died from the two hurricanes, natural disasters are not the only challenge facing Central America. The coronavirus pandemic has also taken its toll on the region, with more than 227,000 cases of COVID-19 breaking out in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize and nearly 7,000 people succumbing to the virus. ADRA has taken special care to ensure that its disaster relief operations have followed COVID-19 precautions.
“ADRA is implementing COVID-19 prevention measures across all of its emergency efforts in Central America,” said David Poloche, ADRA’s regional director for the Inter-American Division. “We are working closely with the Adventist Church, as well as local authorities and partners to better leverage our resources to assist victims more effectively. Donations are critical to ADRA’s ability to respond to emergencies caused by catastrophic storms like Eta and Iota.”
As part of its efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in disaster areas, ADRA has “mobilized more than 7,000 hygiene emergency kits with surgical masks, antibacterial gel, and cleaning and hand washing supplies for over 60 shelters.” Additionally, the humanitarian organization has worked to disseminate “coronavirus prevention messages in the region.”