Mexico, Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manuel, 17 September 2013. Click on the image to enlarge.
Heavy rains, floods and landslides, precipitated by several cyclones and tropical storms, have caused severe damage in some countries of the Region. In Mexico, the simultaneous arrival of Hurricane Ingrid and Tropical Storm Manual affected more than 1.2 million people in two thirds of the country. The government of Mexico issued emergency declarations for municipalities in the most affected states.
These states have reported loss of life and overflowing of rivers that have prompted preventive evacuations, power failures, and the closure of airports. The collapse of bridges and blocked roads is hindering the distribution of humanitarian assistance.
The response to this event has been coordinated by the federal system with support from state agencies and, for now, there has been no request for international assistance. According to Civil Protection officials, Army, Navy and Federal Police personnel have been supporting the efforts with transportation services for aid and to emergency shelters for those affected. In addition, the National Emergency Committee has been activated, and the Army's Natural Disaster Plan has been set up in 10 Mexican states.
Other countries of the Region have also been affected by hydro meteorological phenomena. In Guatemala, Escuintla and other departments have reported flooding in recent days. National authorities have provided assistance by mobilizing and distributing humanitarian supplies to the affected population, based on damage assessments and evaluation of needs. The Executive Secretariat of the National Coordination for Disaster Reduction has declared an Institutional Orange Alert due to heavy rains in the country.
In Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay and USA, among others, heavy rains have also caused flooding, loss of life, isolated communities, emergency evacuations, and heavy losses in housing and infrastructure.
Reduce damage and risks for health
In the face of these emergencies, the health sector response is directed to providing assistance to the population and implementing surveillance and risk control activities. These should be done according to a proper assessment of damage to the infrastructure and health services, the estimation of existing risks and the analysis of needs.
Among these activities, it is worth mentioning the strengthening of epidemiological surveillance, vector control, and those related to the management of food, excreta and waste, particularly in shelters. During flooding, it is crucial to have safe water available, so water quality surveillance has been implemented, as well as promotion and training for its management.
The Department of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) offers a series of practical guides and useful and relevant materials for emergency care related to hurricanes and floods.
Guides related to disaster response
- Damage assessment and needs analysis in the health sector in disaster situations (in Spanish)
- Guide for monitoring and controlling the water quality in emergency and disaster situations (in Spanish)
- Water, sanitation and hygiene in emergencies and disasters (in Spanish)
- WHO/WEDC Technical Notes on WASH in Emergencies
Material related to emergency preparedness
- Preparedness in health, water and sanitation for the local disaster response (Spanish)
- The challenge in disaster reduction for the water and sanitation sector