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Humanitarian Action for Children 2020 - Response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota

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An estimated 9.2 million people (including 3.5 million children) have been affected by heavy rainfall, life-threatening flash flooding and landslides caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Other areas in Mexico and Colombia have been also impacted. Over 160,000 people have been displaced and hosted in shelters, including 64,000 children , and need access to protection, food, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and basic services. In some affected communities, access to basic services was already limited and is now worsened by the effects of the Hurricanes; restoration of basic services in such places is now urgent . Thousands of families have lost their homes and livelihoods, many already been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. At least 3.4 million people need urgent support, including 1.3 million children in the most affected communities in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. These estimations are expected to increase considering that Iota compounded the effects of Eta, expanding the areas of need. With high numbers of people in shelters, there is increased COVID-19 infection and protection risks, especially for girls . Eta and Iota are affecting children and families already devastated by the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic: school closures, loss of jobs, declining migrant remittances, rising violence against children and women, and disruptions in access to water and sanitation and to key health services, including vaccinations for young children. Prior to COVID-19, at least 5.2 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were already facing significant humanitarian needs related to migration flows, violence, internal displacement, food insecurity and poverty . Among affected areas, there are remote indigenous communities where access and language barriers challenge relief efforts. A potential surge in population movements, including internal displacement and cross-border migration, could further compound the situation.

Humanitarian strategy

UNICEF is prioritising its action in the four most affected countries in Central America: Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. UNICEF planned coverage may expand to other countries in the region upon finalization of needs assessments and inter-agency planning documents.

UNICEF response strategy is adapted to the needs in country and focuses on ensuring that children and families in shelters and affected communities have access to basic services including protection, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services – including Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM), health, education and early childhood development, and prevention of gender-based violence (GBV).

With large population groups living in shelters, the risk of COVID-19 is increased. Ensuring availability of safe water and adequate sanitation, risk communication and minimum health services, personal protective equipment (PPE) items, implementation of biosafety protocols, social distancing, and other measures, will be crucial to prevent the spread of the virus and are essential components of UNICEF’s response. In affected communities, where conditions allow, UNICEF will support efforts for the restoration of basic services, including rehabilitation of WASH systems and damaged schools, protection and GBV services, routine vaccination and nutritional care, among other.

UNICEF remains a key humanitarian and development partner in the affected countries, leading and facilitating coordination efforts among clusters and sectoral groups - particularly in WASH, education, nutrition and Child Protection. UNICEF will link its humanitarian action and development programming to strengthen policies and systems and enhance resilience of affected populations.

UNICEF is part of interagency mechanisms and its response plans are aligned with interagency priorities. UNICEF efforts will complement actions of authorities and other partners working in providing food assistance and overall support in shelters. The Honduras Humanitarian Country team issued a joint Flash Appeal, UNICEF requirements are in line with this inter-agency appeal.

UNICEF will work in collaboration and coordination with local and national governments, whose capacities have been surpassed and with its existing partners, developing new partnerships where needed, to deliver urgent support and restore access to basic services for children, women and families in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Belize, that have been left in an extremely vulnerable situation after the impact of Hurricanes Eta and Iota.

Total people in need
3.4 Million

Total children (<18) in need
1.3 Million

Total people to be reached

Total children to be reached

Programme targets


  • 130,000 Children 6-59 months screened for acute malnutrition
  • 35,000 Pregnant and breastfeeding women receiving micronutrient supplementation


  • 126,000 Children under 1 year receiving three doses of DTP-containing vaccine


  • 430,000 people accessing a sufficient quantity of safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene
  • 433,000 people reached with critical water, sanitation and hygiene supplies (including hygiene items) and services

Child protection

  • 67,000 Children and caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support


  • 158,000 children accessing formal and non-formal education, including early learning


  • 57,000 Women, girl and boys accessing gender-based violence risk mitigation, prevention or response actions.
  • 50,000 Women and girls receiving Dignity Kits

Social Protection

  • 18,900 households benefitting from new or additional social transfers from governments with UNICEF technical assistance support

Communication for Development

  • 1,000,000 people reached with messages on access to services