Making Waves: Delivering WASH to Communities in Central America in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota

Making Waves: Delivering WASH to Communities in Central America in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Eta and Iota

One month after Hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America, millions of people are still in need of basic services and supplies. In Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua alone, the hurricanes and subsequent flooding affected over 6 million people, displacing at least 590,000. 

When Hurricane Iota struck Honduras as a category 5 storm, it brought additional rainfall and damage to communities already devastated by Hurricane Eta just two weeks prior. Residents did not have the chance to recover or rebuild between storms, exacerbating the damage sustained. Response and recovery efforts within the ongoing context of the COVID-19 pandemic are experiencing additional challenges and concerns in an already fragile environment. 

Our nonprofit partners are addressing these challenges and providing critical support to communities throughout the region with a particular focus on increasing access to clean water. In the aftermath of the hurricanes, impacted populations are also burdened with ongoing COVID-19 prevention as cases rapidly increase. Without adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure the risk of COVID-19 infections, along with water- and vector-borne diseases (like AWD and malaria) increases. 

Many communities in Honduras remain isolated, even one month out from the hurricanes’ landfall, meaning that humanitarian responders are still finding it difficult to reach upwards of 100,000 people in need of assistance. Similar numbers are reported in Guatemala where ongoing rainfall has caused additional flooding and damage in communities devastated by Eta and Iota. 

However, with support from Airlink partners United Airlines and Volaris, volunteers with CADENA, Project HOPE, and Waves for Water recently traveled to countries affected by the hurricanes to provide critical support to communities in crisis, increasing the availability of WASH-related services and resources to those impacted.

More than 20,000 People Drinking Clean Water

Ten volunteers with Mexican NGO CADENA traveled to Guatemala and Honduras to distribute water filters and solar lamps, and provide medical surge capacity for individuals in need of healthcare services. Across the two deployments, CADENA conducted 478 medical consultations and psychological interventions, and provided nearly 23,000 individuals with access to clean water. The water filters installed can filter up to 800 liters of water a day, filtering 99.9% of bacteria for a lifespan of at least 5 years. 

From Development to Emergency Response

A volunteer with Waves for Water joined the organization’s emergency response team implementing their pilot project in Guatemala providing clean water to communities with disrupted access due to Eta, Iota, and ongoing flooding. Waves for Water will collaborate with local leaders and community members to implement a long term plan installing water filters and introducing a rainfall catchment system. To date, Waves 4 Water reports 9,455 people benefited from this response, building on long-standing clean water programs in the region.

Promoting Hygiene and Clean Water Access

In partnership with local NGOs, Project HOPE continues to coordinate their response in Honduras, with support from Airlink for passenger travel. Project HOPE’s response includes the critical focus on providing and promoting WASH services, which is necessary in preventing COVID-19 transmission in vulnerable populations and individuals in congregant shelter settings. Their WASH program specifically is designed to reach 3,500 familes with potable water; community hygiene promoters are now distributing chlorine, buckets, and training materials to improve access to clean water.

In an exceedingly difficult time for nonprofits and airlines alike, Airlink is grateful for the support provided through airline partnerships that ultimately make it easier for us to mobilize our nonprofit partners’  disaster responders. With their support, our NGOs are able to provide critical aid quickly to communities still recovering from disasters and emergencies.

Picture of Bethany Holland

Bethany Holland

Bethany Holland is the Humanitarian Programs Manager at Airlink. Her role includes managing and expanding Airlink's NGO partnerships, building Airlink's capacity in disaster-prone regions around the world, and coordinating the mobilization of passengers and cargo in support of humanitarian emergencies around the world.

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