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Update: Emergency response to hurricanes in Guatemala

Thanks to your support, AFSC has provided food, clothing, and other necessities to hundreds of people in Guatemala to help them recover and rebuild.

Providing food, and other necessities in the San Pascual community of Alta Verapaz.
Providing food, and other necessities in the San Pascual community of Alta Verapaz.  Photo: Benjamín Chaj / AFSC

Last month, Hurricane Eta devastated Guatemala, causing thousands of people to lose their homes and crops to catastrophic flooding. We reached out to the AFSC community for help, and generous supporters like you responded with compassion, raising more than $35,000 to provide humanitarian relief. 

Just two weeks later, a second storm, Hurricane Iota, made landfall in the same area – and our efforts gained even greater urgency.

As the regional director for AFSC in Latin America and the Caribbean, I want to thank everyone who made it possible for us to help hundreds of people in Northeast and East Guatemala through this crisis with food, water, safety kits, clothing, and other necessities. 

This has been a brutal season for storms for communities already struggling with the dangers posed by armed groups in the area as well as COVID-19. For years, AFSC has worked in communities in Guatemala, supporting local efforts to build peace and uphold the rights of people migrating to safety. AFSC’s partnerships with local grassroots positioned us to mobilize quickly to provide emergency aid. Our global community of supporters made sure we had the resources we needed to respond. 

Because they were among the most affected and because few other grassroots and international groups are working there, our emergency response has focused on the regions of Alta Verapaz and Quiché. 

Community members deliver build materials. Photo: Benjamín Chaj 

In Alta Verapaz, we have assisted 200 Q´eqchi Indigenous families—half of whom live in extreme poverty—in the communities of San Pascual, El faisan, la Cumbre, San José El Tesoro, and San Juan. We provided them with food staples, including corn, black beans, and rice; warm clothing; hygiene kits; and materials to help rebuild their homes. We also distributed food and hygiene items to two temporary shelters serving 200 more people—helping them to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and shelter as safely as possible. 

In Quiché, we have supported 200 Ixil Indigenous families in the communities of Palop, Xeukalvitz, and Trapichitos. Working in close partnership with a community group, the Ixil Youth Network Chemol Txumb’al, we are in the process of distributing food, water containers, and other essential supplies.

Over the next two months, we will assist more Guatemalans in meeting their immediate needs—and we are also committed to working well beyond that to help community members rebuild their homes, farms, and livelihoods. Without this kind of assistance, many would be forced to migrate. But as the country recovers, we hope our efforts will help make it possible and sustainable for community members who wish to do so to remain in their communities. 

Generous supporters like you make it possible for AFSC and our partners to provide humanitarian aid in the short term while standing with communities for the long haul. Thank you for helping us work together toward a more just, peaceful future where everyone has the resources they need to thrive.  

About the Author

Luis Paiz Bekker is a physician trained in Tropical Medicine, public health, social epidemiology, and systems-thinking. Luis has extensive experience working in the fields of Public Health and Human Rights in humanitarian aid and development in Latin America, Africa, and Eastern Europe, with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), CARE International and Oxfam International.

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