On November 16, 2020, Hurricane Iota slammed into Central America’s coast as a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of nearly 155 mph. This came just two weeks after Hurricane Eta brought heavy rains, severe flooding, and landslides to many of the same areas.
An estimated nine million people across Central America were affected as these back-to-back hurricanes flooded vast areas, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, and forced hundreds of thousands of people to seek the safety of evacuation shelters. Here are four ways we helped communities affected by Hurricanes Iota and Eta just in the first four weeks:
1. Deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team
Immediately after Hurricane Eta hit, USAID activated its network of disaster experts across Central America. On November 17, 2020, just one day after Hurricane Iota hit, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the U.S. Government’s response efforts. This elite team — comprising nearly 40 disaster experts spanning seven countries — assessed damage, identified priority needs, and worked with partners to provide life-saving aid.
2. Provided relief supplies
Within a day of Eta making landfall, USAID began working with ADRA International and World Vision to provide emergency relief supplies in hard-hit Honduras, including hygiene items, kitchen sets, and blankets. To help affected communities in Honduras, Guatemala, and other affected countries, the USAID DART also prioritized the provision of enough heavy-duty plastic sheeting to provide emergency shelter for nearly 17,000 people.
3. Provided emergency food assistance
Hurricane Iota and Eta’s continuous heavy rains triggered major flooding and landslides across Central America. Immediately after the storms hit, USAID began working with Catholic Relief Services and other partners on the ground in Guatemala to provide emergency food assistance to people forced to evacuate their homes and move to temporary shelters. In Honduras, we worked with the UN World Food Program, and in Nicaragua, we worked with our partner UNICEF to provide urgent food assistance to the most vulnerable affected communities.
4. Worked with the U.S. Military
The back-to-back hurricanes and ensuing floodwaters damaged roads and bridges, cutting off some communities from immediate aid. To get relief supplies to these hard-to-reach areas, USAID requested the unique capability of the U.S. Department of Defense U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Task Force -Bravo. In the space of just 28 days, Joint Task Force-Bravo flew 364 missions, providing imagery of damaged areas, transporting aid workers, and delivering more than 257 metric tons of food, water, hygiene kits, and other relief supplies. The U.S. military completed its mission in Central America in support of USAID on December 2, 2020.
Year round, USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance works with local governments and humanitarian organizations in Central America and the Caribbean to reduce the risks and impacts of disasters. We develop emergency plans and evacuation plans; train national disaster response organizations and first responders; and educate vulnerable communities so they know what to do when storms hit.
Get more information on USAID’s response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota.