In the press
UN Volunteers respond in wake of Guatemalan natural disaster
12 October 2005
Bonn, Germany: Thirty-five United Nations Volunteers (UNV), together with Guatemalan and United Nations counterparts, are helping coordinate relief and recovery efforts following the devastation caused by tropical storm Stan.
The UN Volunteers, who were working in the departments that are now considered the most affected, are accompanying local representatives of the National Council for Disaster Reduction (CONRED) where they channel information from the communities to local government and aid agencies. They are also helping to strengthen inter-institutional coordination between the various national and international organizations involved in the disaster response.
The UNV Programme Officer in Guatemala, Mr. Aidan Leavy, said UN Volunteers were among the first to respond in the aftermath of the storm that ripped through Central America last week. “Some of the UN Volunteers were isolated at the beginning, but now they are in a more secure environment and are helping communities get back on their feet after the devastation,” he said.
In Panajachel, a seaside community on Atitlan Lake, a Colombian UN Volunteer, Maria Cecilia Lopez, was in constant communication with the national offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNV to report the damage. Ms. Lopez informed authorities about a landslide that swept away an entire village in Solola Department.
In total, 251 municipalities in 15 departments are affected by the storm. UN Volunteers are stationed in seven departments where they work alongside local emergency commissions to conduct damage assessments and needs analysis.
Mr. Leavy said with most of the affected communities now accessible by foot or air, UN Volunteers are helping distribute non-food items such as shelters, construction materials and cooking utensils. Nearly 300 shelters have been established with temporary services coming on-line. Together with the World Food Programme (WFP), they are also supporting efforts to get food to the affected villages. He expects UN Volunteers to continue providing technical support to CONRED and local authorities to ensure those living in shelters can gradually return home.
Immediately following the tropical storm, the UN Disaster Management Team was put in place and continues to monitor the situation. UN interagency teams, including representatives from WFP, UNICEF, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO)/Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), have carried out field assessment missions in conjunction with the government. Mr. Leavy added that the UN system in Guatemala has received very strong support from UNV stating, “UN Volunteers are now focal points for the UN system in six departments where we are present”.
Floods and mudslides caused by tropical storm Stan have destroyed entire villages and claimed many hundreds of lives, principally in regions populated by Mayan indigenous tribes that suffer from extreme poverty. Early figures put the financial toll in the hundreds of millions, inflicting severe damage to the country’s major industries in livestock and crop production in coffee, sugar and bananas.
After 36 years of violent civil war, the UNV programme in Guatemala contributes to the consolidation of democracy and peace building efforts. UN Volunteers, both Guatemalan and international, promote citizen participation in local decision making processes, especially among indigenous people and women. They help strengthen capacities with local governments and civil society organizations in municipal development through the promotion of volunteerism. The work of UN Volunteers aims to inspire local leaders and strengthen their capacity to achieve greater human development through volunteer effort.
|Home | Contact us | FAQs | Search | Sitemap | UNDP Information Disclosure Policy|
|UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)|