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How to help communities affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota

Two powerful hurricanes battered Central America in a matter of weeks, but the scope of the damage has taken longer to capture, as rescuers struggle to reach isolated communities.

Hurricane Iota, which made landfall on the Nicaraguan coast Nov. 16, caused more than 40 confirmed deaths across the region. The coastal city of Puerto Cabezas, also known as Bilwi, bore the brunt of the storm, which packed winds of up to 155 miles per hour. Government officials declared Iota the most powerful storm ever to strike the country.

Just 15 miles north of where Iota came ashore, another Category 4 storm made landfall about two weeks earlier on Nov. 3. Hurricane Eta triggered widespread flash floods and mudslides that killed at least 130 people and displaced thousands across the region.

READ MORE: Iota’s devastation comes into focus in storm-weary Nicaragua

In Guatemala, Eta’s rains triggered a massive landslide that buried dozens in the village of Quejá, in the central region of Alta Verapaz. Rescue efforts were called off after the remote area was deemed uninhabitable and declared a “camposanto,” or a sacred ground for the dead, according to Reuters.

Soldiers remove debris and mud from an area hit by a mudslide, caused by heavy rains brought by Storm Eta, as the search for victims continue in the buried village of Queja, Alta Verapaz, Guatemala on Nov. 7, 2020. Photo by Esteban Bilba/EFE/Pool via REUTERS

Similarly, as Iota crawled further inland this week, its damage extended well beyond northeastern Nicaragua. Extreme flooding was reported in parts of already drenched Honduras, where tens of thousands of people had lost their homes earlier this month due to Hurricane Eta.

Many are taking shelter in San Pedro Sula, where the risk of contracting the coronavirus is complicating the response. The Honduran deputy minister said more than a quarter of 3,500 rapid tests done by local authorities had come out positive in shelters across the city, Reuters reported.

“We have had very difficult moments in recent hours. We are continuing with humanitarian work,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said Wednesday. “It is crucial that people do not return [to their homes.] There are still places at risk.”

READ MORE: Hurricane Eta slams into Nicaragua as Category 4 storm

The storm was also blamed for two deaths in Panama and one in El Salvador. And Iota’s first death was reported on Colombia’s Caribbean island of Providencia, where the storm tore through as a Category 5 before reaching Nicaragua. Colombian President Iván Duque said in a news conference that 98 percent of its infrastructure was affected.

The full damage has yet to be assessed, but the path to recovery will be like no other, with the region now facing dual emergencies: the storms’ aftermath, as well as the health and economic impacts of the pandemic. Humanitarian agencies warn the strain could extend into the middle of next year.

Here are some organizations working to alleviate the crisis throughout the region, and others offering aid to specific communities in need.

  • The International Red Cross is coordinating its humanitarian response with regional authorities to provide aid like food, water and shelter to those affected by the hurricane. Donate here.
  • Food for the Poor, an international development organization, is providing disaster kits containing food, face masks, bandages and other essentials to people in need. It is accepting monetary donations as well as relief items from its Amazon list. Donate here.
  • Save the Children has already dispatched front-line workers to more than 20 communities that were severely impacted by Hurricane Eta, and will extend its reach to support victims of Iota. The organization is working to meet “the basic needs of children and their families,” as well as preventing the spread of COVID-19. Donate here.
  • World Vision is an international nonprofit Christian organization providing relief on the ground and needed supplies, including food, clean water, mattresses and blankets. Donate here.
  • World Central Kitchen’s Relief Team has been on the ground in Honduras and Guatemala providing meals and other aid to those affected by Hurricane Eta, and the organization says it’s ready to help neighboring areas affected by Iota when needed. Donate here.
  • GlobalGiving says donations to its Hurricane Iota Relief Fund will first be used to meet the immediate needs of hurricane victims, and then to “support longer-term recovery efforts run primarily by local, vetted organizations” in affected communities. Donate here.

In Nicaragua

  • This GoFundMe campaign is collecting funds to support hurricane victims in Nicaragua’s Afro-Indigenous region of Moskitia, where coastal villages “already in the throes of the COVID-19 outbreak” were “flattened” by Hurricane Eta. Donate here.
  • ANF’s Hurricane Relief Fund is distributing emergency aid, including first aid kids, food, water filters and agricultural support to Nicaraguans who lost their livelihoods in the aftermath of the hurricanes. Donate here.

In Honduras

  • The Honduras Solidarity Network distributes donations to local, community-based organizations, including Afro-Indigenous and women’s grassroots groups, that are responding to the “humanitarian crises” spurred by the hurricanes. That includes the funding of a community kitchen and food bank, as well as rescue and evacuation efforts. Donate here.
  • The Humanity and Hope United Foundation works specifically in three Hounduran communities, two of which were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Eta. The organization is providing those who lost their homes with food, clothing and medical support, among other necessities. Donate now.

In Guatemala

  • This GoFundMe campaign is collecting funds to support Maya Ixil communities in the municipality of Cotzal in the department El Quiché. Even after the passage of both storms last week, rains and floods continued to plague the community until Monday night. Donate here.
  • Donations collected by this GoFundMe campaign will support the neighboring municipality of Nebaj. Ancestral authorities there are working to distribute aid despite ongoing landslides and overflowing rivers that have made some key routes impassable. Donate here.
  • This GoFundMe campaign is coordinating aid for the nearby municipality of Chajul — another Ixil community trying to recover. Donate here.

Editor’s note: We have updated the story with another GoFundMe campaign. We verified organizations and fundraising campaigns to the best of our ability. If you aren’t sure about the legitimacy of a charitable organization, visit Charity Navigator.

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