Storm compounds effects of pandemic

Members of the community of González in El Salvador help with cleanup after Tropical Storm Amanda severely damaged the home of sponsored child Katherine and her family. The community is two hours southwest of the capital city, San Salvador.

Floods displace families in El Salvador and Guatemala

Families supported by Unbound in El Salvador and Guatemala were among tens of thousands of people displaced over the weekend as Tropical Storm Amanda drenched much of Central America, causing floods and landslides and complicating efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading.

So far, there have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries among children, youth or elders sponsored through Unbound in either country. However, damages to homes and adverse economic effects on families already hurting because of the coronavirus pandemic will likely be high.

In El Salvador, staff members of Unbound’s program in Santa Ana were working to assess the situation of families in hard-hit areas across the country. Unbound works with more than 12,000 sponsored individuals and their families in El Salvador.

“At this moment, the rains are still very intense and staff members can´t visit the communities and families affected,” Yessenia Alfaro, Unbound’s coordinator in El Salvador, said on Sunday. Once travel is possible, staff members will visit affected communities to assess the impact on families and provide support.

Families use messaging app in disaster

While it remained unsafe to travel, staff and families stayed connected via WhatsApp messages sent through Unbound mothers groups.

“Mother leaders are offering updated information,” Alfaro said.

On coastal La Pirraya Island, southeast of the capital city of San Salvador, 23 families with children sponsored through Unbound hunkered down as strong winds and heavy rains tore the roofs from their homes and soaked their belongings.

Xiomora, mother of sponsored child Jonathan in La Pirraya, said in an audio message that families had no place to take shelter because the entire area had flooded. Most families’ homes are made of wood and palm leaves, though some homes have cinder block walls.

“On Isla La Pirraya the situation is complex,” Xiomora said. “Evacuating the families can only be done by boat and the travel is about 30 minutes from Puerto Parada (the port of Parada) to the island,” she said. “However, at this moment it is not possible because the winds are so strong and the waves are big and dangerous for a boat.”

Mothers also reported:

  • More than 100 families from communities in an area called Bajo Lempa, located along the Lempa River that crosses most of the country, were preparing to evacuate as the storm intensified.
  • Landslides were a concern in the town of Ataco, northwest of San Salvador, where 40 families served by Unbound live in an area known for its coffee plantations.

In Guatemala, the sister of a sponsored child was rescued after flooding triggered a landslide in one community in Guatemala City, Unbound’s regional reporter Oscar Tuch said. The family reportedly lost part of their home and most of their belongings. Mothers from the Unbound mothers group in the area were providing initial support and assistance to the family.

Over the weekend, Guatemala’s disaster agency called for evacuations in areas vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Nearly 1,500 shelters were opened for evacuees, according to new reports. Unbound works with more than 67,000 families in Guatemala.

Tropical Storm Amanda was the first named storm of the 2020 East Pacific hurricane season, according to NASA. With thousands of people in shelters, homeless or living in damaged homes in its aftermath, the storm has compounded the health risks and economic toll of the pandemic.

Families of children, youth or elders sponsored through Unbound receive monthly support in the form of electronic cash transfers. The support has been a lifeline for families who have lost their means of earning a living in the pandemic.

Those affected by Amanda will need additional assistance in the recovery phase. Unbound helps families recover from natural disasters through Disaster Response donations. The fund also provides support for families most severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What you can do

  • Make sure your contact information is up to date. In times of natural disaster, Unbound notifies sponsors personally if we learn that their sponsored friends have been injured or otherwise seriously impacted, so keeping your information updated is important.
  • Pray. The Unbound community holds all those affected and those assisting with relief efforts in our thoughts and prayers.
  • Donate to Disaster Response. Unbound’s Disaster Response fund provides assistance to families in the aftermath of events like earthquakes, severe storms, fires and health emergencies.

How you can help in the pandemic

Your gift to the Disaster Response fund helps families most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Cash transfers are made to the individual bank accounts where families receive their Unbound benefits. This gives families the most flexibility to address urgent needs while doing their part to stay healthy and keep their communities safe.