Since 13 October, several thousand migrants have left Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to form two large caravans and multiple smaller groups travelling by foot towards the United States border. Protection concerns, as well as, urgent food, water and shelter needs, have been reported. Guatemalan and Mexican authorities are attempting to block migrants’ progress or return them to their countries of origin. The caravan has become a politicised issue. The caravan’s intention to continue, combined with the determination of the US to stop migrants, is likely to create negative outcomes and conditions for migrants.
Fuego Volcano, the most active volcano in Guatemala erupted on 3 June generating a column of ash, lava, and pyroclastic flows up to 10km from the crater. The eruption affected over 1.7 million people in Sacatepéquez, Escuintla, and Chimaltenango departments. On 5 June a new violent descent of pyroclastic lava flow led to new evacuations and casualties. A new lahar (volcanic mudflow) formed on 7 June and is descending through the valleys of Santa Teresa, Mineral, and Taniluya. Some 12,407 people have been evacuated and over 4,000 are living in emergency shelters. Urgent shelter, health, food, and WASH needs have been identified.
On 7 September, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Mexico’s southern Pacific Coast, about 8km southwest of Pijijiapan in Chiapas state. A related 7.6 earthquake occurred in Guatemala the same evening. Aftershocks were still being reported in Mexico as of 10 September. In Mexico, 90 people were killed and at least 200 injured. Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Tabasco states were most affected. Damage to shelter has been reported, with people still sleeping outdoors for fear of more collapses. Health and school infrastructures also suffered damage, mostly in Oaxaca state. There are concerns that food shortages will arise as shops remain closed and road damage restricts movement.
In Guatemala, an estimated 4,500 people were affected. No casualties were reported but two people were injured. Most affected departments were Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, San Marcos, Suchitepéquez and Totonicapan. Houses were damaged and health and education provision disrupted.
The Zika virus epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean is most affecting Brazil, with over one million cases estimated. Colombia reports over 18,000 confirmed and 2,000 suspected cases and anticipates over 650,000. El Salvador reports over 6,000 suspected cases. Venezuela reports over 4,500 confirmed cases, however unofficial estimates are thought to be as high as 400,000.
An alert to the first confirmed case of Zika virus in Brazil was issued in May 2015 by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As of 1 February, Zika has been confirmed in 23 countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The spread of the disease is likely to continue as the vector species, the Aedes mosquito, is widely distributed in the region.
On 1 February 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a public health emergency, following a significant increase in the number of reported cases since the start of the year. The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was during the Ebola outbreak. The current Zika outbreak is unlikely to present a crisis of the same scale; the declaration has been issued to fast-track aid and further research, particularly due to a potential link with neurological disorders and congenital birth defects.
500,000 people in the Central American “Dry Corridor”, covering El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, while around 1.3 million are facing moderate food insecurity. An El Niñorelated dry spell has resulted in significant crop losses during the primera season in all four affected countries for the second consecutive year, severely limiting food reserves in affected areas.
Northward population movement to Mexico and the US through South and Central America has steadily increased, with high numbers of migrants and asylum seekers registered across South and Central American countries in 2016. The increase in movement is driven by different phenomena, most prominently, the effects of gang violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Large numbers of migrants from Haiti and Cuba have also been observed, along with a smaller, yet significant number of displaced people from overseas countries such as Syria, Bangladesh, and Somalia.
The Crisis Overview 2016: Humanitarian Trends and Risks for 2017, outlines the countries where needs are greatest, and growing, as we approach the end of 2016.
Based on our weekly Global Emergency Overview (GEO), and four years of data on humanitarian needs across 150 countries, we have identified ten countries where humanitarian needs are likely to be highest in 2017, as well as four that merit attention, as they face a potential spike in needs. We also consider the humanitarian situation in the northern triangle region of Latin America, where the wide-ranging humanitarian impact of pervasive gang violence is chronically underreported.