The World Food Program (WFP) announced yesterday that over 2.3m Central Americans, the majority of which are small subsistence farmers and day labourers, will need food aid due to a prolonged drought currently plaguing the region.
The drought has had catastrophic effects for farmers in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, many of whom survive on a subsistence living derived from corn and bean crops.
“This is a humanitarian crisis that is already in motion, people are suffering from hunger,” the spokesperson for the WFP in Latin America and the Caribbean, Alejandro López, told Reuters. “The situation for these people is normally critical, and if they lose their crops it will become extremely serious.”
Over the last two years, a prolonged dry spell and below average rain-fall prevented many subsistence farmers from planting and caused severe crop losses in the so-called ‘Dry Corridor’ of Central America, stretching from Guatemala to Nicaragua.
Accordingly, more than 65% of households in the Dry Corridor had no food stocks left at the start of the planting season this year in April, according to a WFP report released in September.
To further complicate the situation, the extremely strong El Niño event currently in effect has led to even less rain-fall and hotter temperatures in the region. The current El Niño is one of the strongest on record.
In Guatemala, the Food and Nutrition Ministry has reported that 256,000 families are currently without their crops, and that overall losses for the agricultural sector are around US$85m.
The situation is equally grave for Nicaragua and Honduras, which are among the poorest countries in all the Americas.
The WFP estimates that assistance measures will cost upwards of US$75m, however the WFP regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto, noted that the organisation’s resources are quickly deteriorating.
“We estimate that increasing numbers of people will need sustained assistance through the 2016 Primera season—which starts ever year in April and ends with the harvest in August and September,” Barreto explained. “To continue to help them recover, WFP would need US$75m at a time when our resources to respond are virtually depleted.”
The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger worldwide. Each year, it assists some 80m people in around 80 countries around the world.