It will take a long time for Guatemala to recover from the massive damage caused by Hurricane Stan that destroyed the livelihoods of ten of thousands of families, international aid agency Oxfam said today.
Carlos Aldana, an aid worker for Oxfam International in Guatemala, explained the scope of the destruction his organization has found during assessment work over the past week:
"In Guatemala, especially in the Western part of the country, it will take a long time to recover from the tremendous blow Hurricane Stan dealt to small family economies. Adding to the suffering caused by the death of relatives, families have also lost their means of getting even the smallest daily income. Peasants lost their crops, the fishing communities lost their boats and nets, livestock farmers lost their cattle and even woodcutters lost their axes and have no trees to cut. It looks like a disaster movie, but it is reality."
Oxfam's humanitarian teams carried out an evaluation of damage in the most affected areas, including San Marcos, Sololá, Suchitepéquez and Quetzaltenango.
"Given what we saw and heard from those who survived the hurricane, the floods and the mudslides, one of our main priorities from now on will have to be reviving family economies", added Aldana.
Carlos Cornejo is a fisherman from Churirin, a community living on the Pacific coast: "We lost our boats, nets and even our GPS, so it is very difficult for us to catch anything", he said. Hundreds of kilometers away, peasants from Nahuala are living the same situation, after losing their tools and almost their entire corn crop just before the harvest.
Antonia Garcia, a weaver from the village of Panajab – totally destroyed by a landslide and declared by the authorities to be a mass grave – managed to save her life and those of her nine children, but lost her livelihood.
"I used to sell my fabrics to a shop for tourists, and I used to get a good price for them. Now I no longer have my textile mill, thread or even a place where I could work. If only I could get some money I’ll be able to rebuild my life and get out of this sad situation," Garcia said.
Lack of clean water is another major threat to the communities affected by Hurricane Stan. Oxfam International is already supplying drinking water to the families that sought refuge in Santiago Atitlan. More than 6,000 people are currently living in forty temporary shelters in the city. Oxfam has also established a water distribution system in a new temporary shelter, in Tzanchaj, that will soon host another 3,000 people who survived the Panajab landslide.
In El Salvador, regions such as La Libertad have lost fifty per-cent of their corn crop. Oxfam is distributing food and essential goods in coordination with local NGOs.