UNHCR assessing urgent humanitarian needs of Guatemalans affected by volcano
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Nine days on from the first eruption of Guatemala’s Volcan de Fuego, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is concerned for the more than 1.7 million people now estimated to be affected by this humanitarian tragedy.
According to official data as of yesterday, 12,784 people have been evacuated, 110 people killed, 57 people injured and nearly 200 people are still missing. It’s estimated that 5,074 people are being housed in temporary shelters, including churches, schools, cultural and sports centres and town halls in southern departments of the country (Escuintla, Sacatepéquez, Santa Rosa, Guatemala and Suchitepéquez).
As soon as volcanic activity subsided and access was permitted, UNHCR mobilized teams to help with assessing the situation and determining needs, by visiting the collective shelters and communities accommodating people who have been evacuated.
Assessments are still on-going with a view to getting urgent support to people forced to abandon their homes, property, and whose livelihoods are affected. Some preliminary needs have already been identified. UNHCR is leading the UN’s protection efforts and is coordinating UN agencies and the humanitarian community to improve protection and security in communal areas and sanitation facilities. This includes ensuring access to shelters for people with disabilities, supporting pregnant and lactating women, providing psycho-social support and hygiene kits and creating safe spaces for children and women.
Rescue efforts were still continuing as of yesterday despite ongoing volcanic activity that is bringing continued lava flow, toxic gases, hot ash and rocks. The Volcan de Fuego remains active and UNHCR is concerned that forecast rains could increase the risk of mudslides and landslides.
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