Hurricane Iota strikes as Central America still reels from Eta

Just two weeks after Hurricane Eta hit Central America, causing devastating flooding and landslides in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, the region faced a new threat in Hurricane Iota. On Monday November 9th, the strongest storm to date slammed the coast of Nicaragua, just 15 miles from where Eta struck, with winds up to 155 miles per hour.

To date, Hurricane Iota has impacted at least 40,000 people in the region and is expected to have lingering rains until the end of the week, leading to significant flash flooding and mudslides. Large and destructive waves are expected to accompany the surge as the storm could raise coastal water levels “as much as 15 to 20 feet above normal tide levels”.

The severity of the societal and economic impacts of these two hurricanes is yet to be seen. One major worry is that the number of COVID-19 cases, which was already wreaking havoc in the region, could dramatically increase as access to protective materials is difficult and compliance with social distancing guidelines are impossible. Another major concern is imminent food and economic crisis that the region will enter into as well as the metal health of all those affected by this traumatic event.


[Update 26.11.2020]

In Guatemala, there are more than 150 people missing, and this number is expected to rise. The most affected people still cannot return to their communities due to high water levels or because they lost their homes. The current political crisis in the country worsens the situation of those affected who are being forgotten. Humanitarian aid in shelters is dependent on international and national aid and biosecurity has taken a back seat as the urgency for supplies keeps increasing. The ineffectiveness of the State in disaster prevention and infrastructure and housing in risk areas increased the number of people affected.

As of November 23rd, in Guatemala there had been:

383,613 individuals have been affected
27,158 individuals have been evacuated
7,268 individuals were in shelters
4,847 homes has been damaged
54 roads had been destroyed
26 bridges has been affected
41,698 hectares of crops have been destroyed, affecting the livelihood of 72,896 families

[Previously 23.11.2020]

In addition to the casualties suffered during and immediately following Hurricane ETA, at least 26 people have died from Iota’s impacts: 16 in Nicaragua, six in Honduras, two in Guatemala and two in Colombia. Women and minors are among those who have died in the storm. As of Friday, approximately 99.5% of properties on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast are without electricity, the country’s National System for Prevention and Attention to Disasters (Sinapred) reported.

As of Monday, there were 55,435 people in 535 shelters across Honduras.


The local Fe y Alegrías in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala have been collaborating in relief efforts since Hurricane Eta hit.

In Guatemala, Fe y Alegría has been collecting food and clothing, as well as made its educational centers available to serve as shelters to support those who are most in need. As of last Wednesday, before Hurricane Iota hit, 83 individuals connected to the Fe y Alegría community had been affected.

There are 4 Fe y Alegria communities in a situation of serious risk and vulnerability and 8 others that have been affected. Edilson Chun, the director of Mulrigrado school said he “had never seen something like this, what is most needed is psychological help, is that you cannot forget the block of water, it was immense, it went into the town … I will never forget that, I cannot go back to where my house was.” illustrating the severity of the situation.

In Honduras, Fe y Alegría has focused the immediate response has focused on basic needs (biosecurity to prevent COVID and provide access to water, food, blankets and clothing) for more than 700 people, a number projected to increase.

The Jesuit Province of Central America released a three-phase plan to continue supporting hurricane relief efforts and the preparation to rebuild. Although it is extremely difficult to quantify the impacts of these hurricanes and the help that will be needed, our partners’ previous experience in dealing with emergency responses allows for a realistic plan to be developed. Each phase is a modest, but effective way that will benefit many families in the areas where the Jesuits collaborate. The plan is estimated to need at least $145,000 USD.

(1) Emergency Phase: With support from Jesuit and non-Jesuit parishes, as well as Fe y Alegría, people were led to secure shelters where they have been offered food, drink, lodging and spiritual and psychological attention. After finishing this first week, it is estimated this type of assistance will be needed for another two weeks.

(2) Prevention Phase: There are many people who have not been displaced from their homes, but need food kits due to the impact of the hurricanes in their communities and surrounding areas. In this phase, it is estimated that support will be needed for at least 2-3 weeks, or until stability has been achieved. Food kits include grains, oil, water, milk, a PPE kit, one flashlight + batteries and more. This phase will be the longest, as working conditions in the region have become unsustainable. Aid will be needed in order to cover the costs for the estimated 2-3 weeks, and the number of people in need during this phase is projected to increase significantly as time goes on.

(3) Recovery and Rebuilding: Each entity with intentions to aid in building back, will have to present a Rebuilding Plan to budget the economic help they will need. While each entity presents its Rebuilding Plans; a top priority will be to provide citizens with zinc sheets. At least 70% of the amount needed in this phase will be used to repair the homes of affected families. Additionally, at least four parishes and chapels in Honduras and five Fe y Alegría schools in Nicaragua have been flooded by Hurricane Iota and are in need of repairs.


As Central America continues to face this increasingly difficult and tragic challenge, in a year that has already seen the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate existing inequalities, know that you can help!

To support hurricane relief efforts, click here.

Hurricane Eta Lands in Central America

Hurricane Eta, a Category 4 storm with winds that peaked at 150 mph, made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua on Tuesday, November 3rd. Since then, the hurricane has weakened to a tropical storm. Local authorities, however, have warned that flooding and mudslides are creating a slow-moving humanitarian disaster. As of Friday morning, at least 57 individuals have died.

The slow and gradual trajectory of Eta, with its heavy rains and the high environmental and social vulnerabilities of the population and infrastructure, are reminiscent of Hurricane Mitch, which devastated the region 22 years ago.

The storm is projected to continue wreaking havoc in the days ahead, as it moves up through Central America and the Caribbean, potentially affecting Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Jamaica, México, Haiti and the Caimán Islands.

Costa Caribe, Nicaragua, escuelas Fe y Alegría[SITUATION ON THE GROUND]

[Update, 11.10.20] In Honduras, Valle de Sula, one of the most affected areas, 1,600 individuals were affected, 37,000 were in shelters and more than 60,000 were evacuated. “At this time, many people from cities in the valley are still on the roofs of their houses waiting to receive food and water for the first time in 3 days or be rescued” says Yolanda Gonzáles Cerdeira, from the area of Human Rights investigation of ERIC-Radio Progreso.

In Guatemala the number of affected individuals rises to 104,000. We are following closely how the situation in the most affected areas (Chiquimula, Zacapa, Alta Verapaz) continues to evolve.

In Nicaragua, 130,000 individuals have been affected, many of whom have partially or completely lost their homes and now face a lack of access to water, sanitation and food security. Around 47,000 individuals are being held in shelters.

[Previously, 11.07.20] We received news from our partners Fe y Alegría in Guatemala as Eta’s slow rains started flooding the region, causing deadly landslides, loss of electricity and the isolation of various vulnerable rural areas. Although the storm was not expected to be felt until Thursday, on Wednesday the country was already experiencing heavy rains. There were no talks of evacuations and no shelters had been set up, the country was not prepared. It is estimated that around 75,000 have been affected by the hurricane and at least 150 individuals have lost their lives.

[Previously, 11.06.20] Nicaragua and Honduras have been the most affected areas of Central America, with a storm surge that has led to severe rains and flooding, as well as heavy winds that have caused landslides, devastated homes and destroyed roads.

In Nicaragua, at least 20,000 people were evacuated prior to the storm hitting and hundreds of shelters were set up. To date, the Nicaraguan government estimates as many as 30,000 citizens in the coastal region have abandoned their homes. UNICEF estimates Eta has affected as many as 1,227,000 people, including 500,000 children and, according to the Empresa Nacional de Transmisión Eléctrica de Nicaragua, at least 12,000 homes have been left without electricity.

In Honduras, more than 2,000 people were evacuated according to the country’s Permanent Contingency Commission and many shelters have reached capacity. The country has been experiencing severe flooding since Monday, as approximately 339 homes have been destroyed and more than 38 rural communities have been left isolated due to the destruction of about five bridges and 14 roads.

El Progreso and el Valle de Sula, where our partner Fe y Alegría has many educational centers, are highly vulnerable low-land areas bordering the Ulúa River, the largest river in the valley. Local authorities have projected that the Ulúas flooding during Hurricane Eta has the potential of being larger than the one during hurricane Mitch.


We have yet to see the outcomes and Eta’s devastation, as the NHC projects that the storm is expected to linger over the region for the coming days, bringing “catastrophic, life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding, along with landslides” over more parts of Central America.


[Update, 11.10.20] Up until today the situation our partners at Fe y Alegría are facing on the ground is as follows:

In Honduras 3 educational centers have been affected, which have also been serving as shelters. The Centro Urraco has flooded with people inside and has been cut off since Friday in the morning, we have not been able to communicate with them. Radio Progreso, has not had the possibility of broadcasting and has internet problems.

In Nicaragua, the areas where Fe y Alegría is present in the country, had no major victims. The storm mainly caused material damages in about 10 educational centers.

In Guatemala 2 educational centers have been affected, those that have not been affected will be used as shelters, all resources that are gathered in these centers will be directly distributed to the community or will be delivered to other institutions for distribution.

We are reminded by our partners that, like in any other natural disaster, “emergency does not end with the rain, since in a country like ours, with so many challenges, a natural disaster of this magnitude has a long lasting impact”.

[Previously, 11.07.20] In Honduras, Fe y Alegría is working to aid the community by delivering food and clothing as well as supporting rescue efforts.


Fe y Alegría Guatemala, has developed a humanitarian emergency response plan to battle Eta’s many repercussions. Educational Centers will turn into provision collection centers, transportation will be setup to deliver emergency relief packages and psycho emotional aid will be provided to all affected. In the midst of this crisis, we cannot forget there is still a global pandemic, to ensure all necessary measures are taken to minimize the spread of the virus, Fe y Alegría developed a COVID-19 safety protocol for all donated provision such as food and clothing.

[Previously, 11.06.20] Our local partner Fe y Alegría has mobilized in both Nicaragua and Honduras, utilizing school buildings as shelters for evacuated communities.

The North Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, a rural area already exposed to extremely vulnerability, was hit with full force. Fe y Alegría Nicaragua has informed us that they still have not been able to reach the most remote communities, and that the situation is truly disastrous.

Starting on Tuesday, the Centros Técnico Loyola, Bandeira and Nazaret de Urraco, all Fe y Alegría Honduras’ educational centers, were set up as shelters to serve the displaced communities. As the situation has advanced, our partners have informed us that the Centro Técnico Loyola may have to be evacuated due to high risk of flooding, leaving roughly 300 people unprotected. Additionally, Fe y Alegría is distributing nylon tents and awnings to all students who live along rural highways.


After conversations with our partners in the region, at Magis Americas we have activated our emergency protocol in order to assess the current situation and undertake necessary humanitarian support.

This is just the beginning of yet another challenge facing the region, in a year that has already seen the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbate existing inequalities.

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Honduras, Insight into a Forgotten Country

One year after the electoral fraud, the caravan of migrants to the United States puts a country punished by international indifference on the map once again, due to inequality, poverty, corruption, violence, impunity and the constant lack of respect for human rights.

Honduras barely occupies a headline in international news. Sadly, it comes to light only each time a misfortune plagues the country. Hurricane Mitch, the 2009 coup d’état, the assassination of indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, last year’s fraudulent elections or the caravan of migrants that this fall set out for the United States.

Electoral fraud

Elections for the presidency of the Republic of Honduras were held on November 26th, 2017. For the first time since the Constitution of 1982 marked it as one of its fixed articles, a president opted for re-election unconstitutionally. The text in question, art. 239 says: “Our Constitution prohibits a citizen who is or has already been president to be elected again to govern, not only that, but it also prohibits promoting presidential re-election and punishes all public officials who do so directly or indirectly. And whoever violates this provision shall immediately cease to hold office and shall be disqualified for 10 years from the exercise of any public function”.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, due to an appeal of unconstitutionality, stood for re-election and far from being disqualified for such an act, is now in the first year of his second term. On the other hand, a vote recount was manipulated when Orlando Hernandez lost the elections within hours of closing. Indications of electoral fraud took the population to the streets for several days. In the government’s repression of this massive protest, 33 people died in Honduras, hundreds were injured and several people were arrested. Many of them are still in prison as political prisoners.

With this legacy, the president, whom the great majority calls “illegitimate,” governs the country. He does so in collaboration with the Honduran elites but with the opposition of the lower classes, which in this country are close to 70%. And the situation in Honduras has only worsened in recent months.

Inequality and the concentration of economic power in a small percentage of the population (17 families) is the origin of all the country’s problems. Based on this reality, the generalized corruption and the institutional organization around impunity leave the majority of Hondurans in a situation of helplessness.

Poverty, inequality, corruption and violence

Of the 9 million Hondurans, 66% (6 million) live in poverty and of these, 45% live in extreme poverty. That means they live on less than a dollar and a half a day. A country where half of the population is unemployed and therefore lives on business outside the law. And worst of all, a country where violence finds shelter and gets into every pore of Honduran society. Youth gangs or maras control these colonies using extortion and violence against anyone who does not obey their rules or who does not pay the tax they demand. They negotiate with drugs, a drug they get from the mafias that also dominate the country and are turning it into a narco-state. The nouveau riche, people linked to drug trafficking, often win the sympathy of the population and authorities with their gifts and generous donations.

In the midst of such a situation, private security has become an almost obligatory necessity for anyone with a business, big or small. Weapons then appear everywhere, delivery trucks, supermarket doors, in pharmacies, in bakeries,….. And that enormous staff of security guards is in the hands of companies owned by the military and ex-military of the Honduran army.

Along with them, local police, national police, military police and the army. These two bodies of the state, the best endowed in all of Latin America. In conclusion, Honduras devotes 52% of its national budget to security. The budget for Education is less than 22%.

The main source of income for a large majority of Hondurans is work in the maquilas, large textile companies that employ 130,000 people in Honduras. The majority are women, young people and single mothers who work under very harsh conditions and with sad salaries.

In the United Nations (Human Development Index) ranking that measures life expectancy, health, access to education and dignity in the standard of living, Honduras ranks 130th in the world, the lowest in all of Latin America. It is only surpassed by Haiti, which ranks 163rd.

Living in Fear

“They have stolen so much from us that they have even stolen our fear,” is a phrase that resonates in a country that, without being at war, supports a homicide rate higher than places in conflict (90 per 100,000 people). And San Pedro Sula, 244 km from Tegucigalpa, came to be described as the most dangerous city on the planet.

In addition to street violence, drug-related deaths, anyone who is critical of the government or the multinationals that are occupying a large part of the country, is threatened with death and, in many cases, murdered. In the last five years, 25 journalists have died for this reason and almost 170 indigenous leaders and human rights activists.

The Honduran government has opted for an extractive-mining policy, with which thousands of hectares are privatized and granted concessions, including some that do not belong to them, thus favoring foreign investment in the name of economic growth, and totally turning their backs on social development and community rights. Many of the Honduran indigenous communities, who have lived on these lands for many years, are being expelled.

An example of this is the Garifuna community: Honduran blacks descendants of African slaves. They live on the Caribbean coast and are being expelled from their lands because of the construction of thermal power plants or because of the abusive purchase of spaces on the coast to create large tourist resorts. Many communities have organized themselves into movements of defenders of the territory and have fought, even in international spheres, to claim their rights. One of the most emblematic cases was that of Berta Cáceres, whose murder, just over two years ago, has brought the Honduran people back to life.  

Another problem facing the country is impunity: it is almost always complex to prove that a murder was premeditated and with very specific intellectual authors. In the end there is always an infallible excuse for the police or local authorities: it was a crime of passion. And the fact is that here the security forces always have some kind of link with organised crime.

Fleeing the country

The growing situation of poverty, inequality, violence and impunity into which Honduras has entered in recent years places its most vulnerable population before a dilemma: to stay in the country and run the risk of being killed, of going hungry… of enduring as long as one can hoping for better moments. Or go north (Mexico or the US) in search of an opportunity and a better life for one’s family. This path has already been taken by many and, in fact, remittances (earnings that migrants send back to their families) are the main source of income in Honduras.

People who decide to flee north in search of a better life do so in small groups or alone. Every month, between 300 and 400 people under the age of 30 took this option in Honduras, according to data handled by the ERIC. On October 13th, a joint departure from San Pedro Sula to the United States was massively called and 4,000 Hondurans gathered. This figure grew, with parallel marches by other Central American citizens, to 7,000.  

Spaces for freedom and hope

At Friends of Fe y Alegría, we are committed to supporting our partner, Fe y Alegría Honduras, which is dedicated to promoting an education that changes lives and gives opportunities for the future.  

We are also dedicated to sharing the insights of Radio Progreso, which has become a space for freedom, for denunciation and constructive analysis of the reality of the country, demonstrating that journalism can and should be risky, courageous, committed and give a voice to those without a voice. 

And in the midst of it all is the Honduran people themselves, who despite living in a rich country that is owned by a few, are an example of hospitality, closeness and joy. Although they live with the bare minimum, with fear and with uncertainty, they have proven to be a fighting people, a community that is capable and a people that does not give up hope.

It is worthwhile that we do not forget them.

* This is an adapted version of a text written by José Luis Barreiro Areses, journalist and member of Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain who participated in Experiencia Sur in Honduras last summer.