Providing Critical Assistance following Hurricanes in Central America
When Hurricane Eta struck Central America in November 2020 with devastating wind, landslides and a life-threatening storm surge, Global Communities and PCI, a Global Communities Partner, rapidly mobilized for an integrated multi-sector response in the region. Global Communities and PCI have decades of experience in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, as well as highly trained country teams who partnered with communities to address immediate humanitarian needs and longer-term response.
In Honduras, Global Communities partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (USAID/BHA) to address urgent water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and shelter needs of more than 39,000 vulnerable individuals through Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS), a six-month program in the country's Cortés, Copán, Ocotepeque and Santa Bárbara departments.
Shortly after the storm, the country team mobilized for an assessment, which identified the urgent need for WASH support to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as well as shelter and infrastructure repair to mitigate displacement and assistance to farmers and fishermen whose livelihoods were wiped out by the storm. All assessments were conducted through a protection lens, focusing on the needs of the most vulnerable.
Photo by Global Communities Honduras
Hurricane Eta triggered a red alert in Honduras, affecting 8.3 million people across 18 departments and causing mandatory evacuations and significant damage. Flooding was especially heavy in the western departments of Santa Bárbara, Copán and Ocotepeque, bordering the rivers Ulula and Chamelecón. As a result of back-to-back storms, Hondurans saw large-scale infrastructural damage, crop and livestock loss, and displacement of people.
To help Hondurans with severely damaged homes, the HEWS program provided families with a bundle of materials needed to address repairs to their roofs, doors and windows. With the help of a generous in-kind gift of plastic sheeting and containers from USAID/BHA, Global Communities ensured that these materials were put to immediate use in repairing houses and shelters. Trained staff members provided guidance and technical support to families as they navigated repairs, and those without an immediate family member to do the work received a stipend to help pay for labor.
The HEWS program also provided families in shelters with emergency supplies such as sleeping pads and blankets so they could return home. And to address the hurricanes' impact at the community level, HEWS trained community members to form clean-up crews, clearing rubble and pathways to allow for a return to normal activities as soon as possible.
Alongside emergency repairs and support for households and collective centers, another major concern during post-hurricane recovery is proper access to hygiene and sanitation, especially as the risk of COVID-19 transmission looms large. As communities face damaged sewers and a lack of potable water, HEWS helped repair local water systems, ensuring that clean water can start to reach families again. While systems were being repaired, HEWS provided communities and households with ways to purify their water. For example, Water Mission International donated PUR water purification systems for the program to distribute to households where the water turbidity is too high for normal water purification tablets.
Photo by Global Communities Honduras
HEWS also worked to provide select households and collective centers with essential WASH and cleaning items such as body soap, toothbrushes, bleach, cleaning cloths, feminine hygiene products, antiseptic handwash and disinfectant.
Providing families with these essential items helped ensure their ability to maintain personal hygiene and clean their living areas while also mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and water-borne disease, both of which pose major health risks in post-disaster recovery.
HEWS also trained community members to act as hygiene promoters, educating households on how to protect themselves from disease and maintain cleanliness through hygienic practices.
Story by Amy Levey