Central America & Mexico: A Devastating Year

Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and mudslides; Central America and Mexico have faced a challenging year in the face of multiple natural disasters.

 Chiapas, Mexico - A woman stands in the remnants of her house after a 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck close to the Pacific coast of Mexico. Credit: Reuters

Chiapas, Mexico - A woman stands in the remnants of her house after a 8.1-magnitude earthquake struck close to the Pacific coast of Mexico. Credit: Reuters

Devastating disasters have greatly impacted the efforts of Horizons' partners to help eliminate poverty and injustice in their communities.

Deadly Earthquakes in Mexico

 The epicentre of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico. Credit: BBC

The epicentre of the 8.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico. Credit: BBC

Mexico suffered two monstrous earthquakes in September, the first being recorded at 8.1-magnitude, making it the strongest earthquake Mexico has experienced in over a century.  The earthquake struck off the southern coast of Mexico near the state of Chiapas, killing over 90 people throughout the region, levelling 41,000 homes and leaving thousands of Mexicans sleeping in shelters and the streets. 

 Chiapas, Mexico - A home completely destroyed during the earthquake. Credit: La Jornada Maya

Chiapas, Mexico - A home completely destroyed during the earthquake. Credit: La Jornada Maya

Horizons’ partner DESMI (Economic and Social Development of Indigenous Mexicans) operates within the state of Chiapas, working to support marginalized Indigenous farmers by training them in sustainable sustenance farming to help them eradicate poverty and chronic food insecurity. Many of the communities they work with experienced damage from quake, which destroyed homes, municipal offices and health clinics within their municipalities. DESMI is currently supporting efforts to bring basic needs, like food and water, to those who have had their homes destroyed. With many of these communities living in poverty - nearly all the people living in six municipalities in Chiapas live on less than $2 a day - there are immense challenges to begin efforts to rebuild their lives.

Flooding and Hurricanes in Central America

 

 Nandaime, Nicaragua - Homes throughout the region experienced significant flooding after a particularly heavy rainy season and the passing of Hurricane Nate. Credit: Radio La Nandaimeña, Francela Briceño Mendieta

Nandaime, Nicaragua - Homes throughout the region experienced significant flooding after a particularly heavy rainy season and the passing of Hurricane Nate. Credit: Radio La Nandaimeña, Francela Briceño Mendieta

Central America experienced an extreme rainy season this past year, resulting in intense flooding and mudslides throughout the region. This already precarious situation was worsened by the passing of Hurricane Nate (killing 25 people) and Tropical Storm Selma in the fall.

In the Department (province) of Usulután, El Salvador, communities braced for the impact of the storms after battling with flooding and mudslides all summer. The poor infrastructure in this region exacerbated these issues, with the national hospital in the municipality of Jiquilisco having to be evacuated twice within one month due to flooding. Flooding and mudslides were responsible for ten deaths in the country between September and October and hundreds of families being evacuated from their homes.

 Jiquilisco, El Salvador - The National Hospital in Jiquilisco experienced flooding twice within one month resulting in patients needing to be transferred and extensive clean up operations. Credit: Telenoticias21 GMV

Jiquilisco, El Salvador - The National Hospital in Jiquilisco experienced flooding twice within one month resulting in patients needing to be transferred and extensive clean up operations. Credit: Telenoticias21 GMV

Horizons’ partner, ACUDESBDAL (Intercommunity Association of Communities Working Together for the Economic Development of Lower Lempa) operates in the impoverished and gang-ridden communities of Lower Lempa, which are particularly vulnerable to flooding as they are located right on the Lempa River, the largest river in El Salvador. This year's flooding ruined many of these communities' crops which gravely impacts their ability to have procure enough food for the year.

ACUDESBAL is helping ensure basic needs for these communities while they battle with the aftermath of intense flooding. They are also continuing to provide positive outlets for young people to engage in arts and sports schools as well as leadership workshops. These efforts are giving young people the opportunity to learn and engage in a safe environment and also reinforce more positive interactions with teachers, families and peers.

The Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua also experienced devastating impacts from the recent natural disasters passing through the region. Hurricane Nate caused disastrous flooding throughout the country, killing 18 people and leaving many others homeless and without food or clean water.

 Nandaime, Nicaragua - People watch from sidewalks as the municipality's streets are completely flooded after months of intense rainfall. Credit: Radio La Nandaimeña, Francela Briceño Mendieta

Nandaime, Nicaragua - People watch from sidewalks as the municipality's streets are completely flooded after months of intense rainfall. Credit: Radio La Nandaimeña, Francela Briceño Mendieta

In Nandaime, the offices of Horizons’ partner ACOAR  (the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Association for Socio-Cultural Promotion) and many homes experienced significant damage, with flood waters reaching 1.5 meters. It also hindered participation in their current project since flooding made transit difficult for many people in these communities.

Despite these challenges, ACOAR has continued to facilitate workshops and activities for students from ages 9 to 14 years old to discuss the effects of climate change on Nicaragua and in Nandaime, and how they can help protect the environment in their communities and schools. Their active involvement is extremely important since nearly half the population of Nandaime is under the age of 18, making youth important players in community development.

2017 has proven to be a challenging year for a region that already faces many barriers to basic needs and human rights. Yet, despite these dire circumstances, community members continue to work hard to rebuild their homes and communities after these events. Horizons’ will be in close contact with our partners over these next few months to help support reconstruction efforts.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, follow this link: https://www.horizons.ca/projects/

Hannah Matthews