Latin America Storms - Fact Sheet #1, (FY) 2021

Speeches Shim

November 19, 2020

Hurricane Eta brings heavy rainfall to Central America, generating severe floods and landslides; two weeks later, Hurricane Iota exacerbates Eta’s impacts.

Government authorities in Central America evacuate thousands of people to collective shelters and begin response operations with international support.

USAID/BHA provides funding for response programs and activates a DART and RMT while DoD conducts search and rescue operations and provides logistics support.

Situation At A Glance


Reported Deaths in Latin America due to Eta and Iota

4.9 million

Estimated People Affected by Eta in Central America


Estimated Cumulative Total of People in Emergency Shelters Across Latin America

69.2 million

Funding Requested for Honduras Response



For the Latin America Storms Response in FY 2021

USAID/BHA $464,828
DoD $2,061,618
TOTAL $2,526,446


Hurricanes Eta and Iota Cause Major Wind Damage, Floods, and Landsl ides Across Latin America

With maximum wind speeds of 140 miles per hour, Hurricane Eta—a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale—made landfall over Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region on November 3 and then continued to track inland over northern Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala while gradually weakening before reaching the Caribbean Sea on November 5. Due to the large size and slow movement of the storm, heavy rainfall impacted the entire Central America region for several days. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and national meteorological and hydrological services in Central America estimate that the Eta storm system produced 10–36 inches of rainfall in Guatemala and Honduras, 8–24 inches in Costa Rica, and 4–24 inches in Belize and Nicaragua, resulting in river overflows, widespread flooding, and damaging landslides. While the most significant impacts occurred in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the heavy rainfall also affected populations in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, southern Mexico, and Panama.

Hurricane Eta had adversely affected at least 4.9 million people across seven countries as of November 15, according to the UN. The storm has damaged and destroyed houses, health facilities, schools and other public infrastructure across the region and rendered several roads and bridges impassable, resulting in the isolation of communities in need.

Hurricane Iota—the 30th and strongest storm to date of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active season on record—passed over Colombia’s Providencia, San Andrés, and Santa Catalina islands on November 16 as a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale before reaching Nicaragua’s northeastern coast and other areas already heavily affected by Eta. The National Hurricane Center projects that Iota may produce 10–20 inches of rainfall—with isolated totals of 30 inches possible—in many areas of Central America through November 19.

Eta and Iota’s Impacts Expected to Exacerbate Existing Humanitarian Needs

In Nicaragua, Eta had destroyed or damaged 6,900 houses, 16 health facilities, 45 schools, and nearly 560 miles of roads and bridges as of November 9, according to preliminary assessments by the Government of Nicaragua (GoN). The GoN reports the need for $2.9 million to support urgent food and shelter assistance for affected populations, as well as at least $32 million to restore and rehabilitate houses and infrastructure. Populations in Nicaragua already faced constrained livelihoods opportunities prior to Eta’s arrival due to the country’s ongoing economic crisis and socioeconomic impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Eta affected nearly all of Honduras’ departments, heavily damaging agriculture, livestock, and rural livelihoods, the UN reports. The storm has exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities, particularly food insecurity; up to 1 million people were already estimated to be experiencing Crisis—IPC 3—or higher levels of acute food insecurity in Honduras through 2020.1 The UN, in coordination with the Government of Honduras (GoH) National Emergency Commission (COPECO) and humanitarian agencies, released a flash appeal on November 19 requesting $69.2 million to support relief activities in Honduras, where 2.3 million people are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. USAID/BHA staff, in coordination with humanitarian partners, are monitoring the additional impacts of Iota on areas already affected by Eta.

Relief Organizations Express Concern Regarding Humanitarian Needs, Risk of COVID-19 Spread at Col lective Shelters

In anticipation of and in response to the impacts of Eta and Iota, national governments, in coordination with national Red Cross societies and other humanitarian agencies, have evacuated at least 266,000 people to collective shelters across affected countries in Latin America, the UN reports. While some households had begun returning to their homes after the heavy rainfall subsided, thousands of households are unable to return due to destruction of houses, as well as floods and landslides that have rendered roads impassable. Many shelters are not equipped with sufficient resources to house displaced populations for an extended period; crowded conditions in the shelters also hinder populations’ ability to adhere to physical distancing measures, increasing the risk of spread of COVID-19. Health organizations report the need for hygiene kits, medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), and safe drinking water to support populations at shelters, according to the UN.

USAID/BHA Activates DART and RMT, Provides Funding to Response

On November 17, USAID/BHA established a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to coordinate the U.S. Government (USG) response to the effects of Eta and Iota in Latin America and a Washington, D.C.-based Response Management Team (RMT) to support the DART. Several DART members are located in storm-affected countries in Central America, including in the USAID/BHA Regional Office in San José, Costa Rica, and are coordinating with mission disaster relief officers, U.S. embassy staff, and U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) personnel to continue response activities initiated immediately following landfall of Hurricane Eta and conduct further assessments. Between November 5 and 8, the USG declared disasters in in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua due to the effects of the Eta storm system. On November 17, the USG declared a disaster in Colombia’s Providencia, San Andrés, and Santa Catalina islands due to the effects of Hurricane Iota. In response, USAID/BHA has provided $442,000 to humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to populations in need; approximately $17 million in additional USAID/BHA funding—including up to $8.5 million in Honduras, $7 million in Guatemala, and $1.5 million in Nicaragua—will further bolster relief activities in affected countries.


DoD rapidly responded to humanitarian needs generated by Eta, including through search and rescue operations. USSOUTHCOM’s Joint Task Force-Bravo rescued 187 people from isolated areas in Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama between November 6 and 13. DoD also provided air transport and logistics support to the Government of Guatemala National Coordination for Disaster Management (CONRED) and COPECO for the delivery of emergency assistance, transporting nearly 47 metric tons (MT) of emergency food assistance, hygiene items, and PPE. Through the Regional Disaster Assistance Program, USAID/BHA has provided $103,100 for the local procurement of emergency relief items for affected populations in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. USAID/BHA has also activated 19 disaster risk management specialists and surge capacity consultants across Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama to conduct damage and needs assessments and coordinate response efforts.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting national Red Cross societies across Central America to respond to immediate humanitarian needs resulting from Hurricane Eta. As of November 10, IFRC had deployed a truck and two planes transporting 98 MT of relief commodities, including household items and PPE, to Honduras and Nicaragua. In Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is distributing emergency supplies—including kitchen sets, mattresses, and hygiene items—to affected populations. IFRC, UN agencies, and humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are coordinating on the regional and national levels to assist populations in collective shelters.


With USAID/BHA funding, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is supporting 200 displaced households in Alta Verapaz with food assistance, as well as household items and hygiene kits. USAID/BHA partner Save the Children has also pivoted existing programming to provide emergency food assistance and cash transfers to nearly 620 households in collective shelters.

As of November 6, the UN had activated two additional clusters—coordinating bodies for sector-specific humanitarian activities, comprising UN agencies, NGOs, and other stakeholders—to coordinate shelter and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities in Guatemala. Relief agencies had delivered 135,000 liters of safe drinking water to affected people as of November 9, the UN reports.


With USAID/BHA funding, ADRA and World Vision are procuring blankets, hygiene items, and kitchen sets to distribute to individuals residing in collective shelters. In addition, USAID/BHA partner Global Communities, which has been implementing COVID-19 prevention and response activities in Honduras since July, is implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures— including infection prevention and control training, risk communication and hygiene promotion activities, and the distribution of hygiene and disinfectant kits—in 59 shelters across Cortés Department. USAID/BHA partner GOAL is also shifting existing programming to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts in parts of Guatemala and Honduras, reaching approximately 2,000 people with handwashing stations at shelters and hygiene promotion messaging.

The GoH has deployed more than 50,000 first response staff and volunteers to conduct search and rescue operations and provide immediate relief assistance to affected populations. Response teams are utilizing eight helicopters and 52 boats to access isolated communities.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) is coordinating with COPECO to deliver pre-positioned emergency food assistance to the most-affected communities on the coast of Honduras. As of November 12, IOM had delivered hygiene kits and more than 39,000 personal protection items to populations in Honduras to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is providing mental health and psychosocial support services to approximately 2,000 people in collective shelters.


USAID/BHA is supporting UNICEF to provide emergency WASH services to approximately 13,500 people—including nearly 6,100 children—in heavily affected areas of the North Caribbean Autonomous Region and Jinotega and Nueva Segovia departments.

The GoN mobilized military personnel, fire brigades, and Nicaraguan Red Cross teams to evacuate populations, provide medical care, deliver emergency assistance, and remove debris from blocked transportation routes following Hurricane Eta’s landfall. The GoN National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation, and Response (SINAPRED) had also delivered 88 MT of emergency food assistance to communities along the northern Caribbean coast and roof repair materials to at least 4,000 households as of November 10. In Prinzapolka Municipality, the Nicaraguan Red Cross provided food assistance, hygiene kits, and a water treatment plant and deployed a team to provide psychosocial support to affected populations.

On November 10, WFP delivered 90 MT of beans and 30 MT of oil to households in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region with internal resources and support from other donors. The Japan International Cooperation Agency is providing relief supplies, including tents, mattresses, and water purifiers, to support response activities.

The most effective way people can assist relief efforts is by making cash contributions to humanitarian organizations that are conducting relief operations. A list of humanitarian organizations that are accepting cash donations for disaster responses around the world can be found at

USAID encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed (often in the affected region); reduce the burden on scarce resources (such as transportation routes, staff time, and warehouse space); can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietarily, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

More information can be found at:

  • USAID Center for International Disaster Information:
  • Information on relief activities of the humanitarian community can be found at