Nicaragua: Preparing for the Next Emergency
Nicaragua has a long history of natural disasters, including hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and epidemics. Droughts and floods are linked to the impact of climate change, El Niño and La Niña. Nicaragua is on the top-10 list of countries with the highest risk of suffering natural disasters. The result: An affected population, death, destruction and economic losses.
Nicaragua can’t stop the occurrence of natural disasters, but it can take actions to reduce human and economic losses. SINAPRED is the agency that coordinates government institutions and develops plans and strategies to mitigate the impact of disasters. WFP works with SINAPRED to strengthen national and local capacities to be better prepare for future events. SINAPRED Executive Secretary, Guillermo Gonzalez, and WFP Representative, Helmut W. Rauch, dispatch truckloads of food and other relief items for flood-affected families the Caribbean coast.
Political secretaries, mayors, deputy mayors, representatives of the Ministry of Family, Youth and Children, and SINAPRED’s executive secretaries at departmental and municipal level from all over Nicaragua attended these workshops. “Through these workshops the people directly involved in emergency response let us know what are their needs, criteria, experiences and training requirements in terms of Logistics and Telecommunications,” said WFP Representative, Helmut W. Rauch.
Workshop participants pointed out the need to set up warehouses with food and non-food items near vulnerable municipalities. Currently the humanitarian relief is shipped from Managua to the affected municipalities, but a decentralized warehouse system by region and/or departments will shorten time response and allow local authorities to directly assist their populations. In the photo, the head of SINAPRED, Guillermo Gonzalez (c), visits a WFP mobile warehouse with WFP Logistics Chief Officer, Sandra Torres, and WFP Deputy Representative, Marc Regnault de la Mothe.
Victor Herrera (l) from El Tortuguero municipality and Oswaldo Morales, Mayor of Corn Island, come from the hardest to reach communities of the South Atlantic. They can be reached by air or by navigating through rivers, canals and lagoons. “In my municipality we do not have sanitary systems and contamination is very easy,” explained Herrera. Workshop participants said that local emergency committee members need training to prepare a strengthening capacities plan.
Shipping emergency relief to the Caribbean coast is a challenge, said Domingo Truesdale, governor of the South Atlantic Autonomous Region at the start of a workshop in Bluefields with the participation of 12 different municipalities. “We have to wait for assistance to come from distant places because the local market does not have enough food or medicines,” he said. “Transporting aid from Managua to Bluefields is expensive, and we have to think about the other far away municipalities,” said Truesdale.
Arlen Ponce, Head of Planning at the Yalagüina Town Hall, in the department of Madriz, in the North of Nicaragua, lists the advantages of setting up temporary food warehouses in the departments of Estelí, Madriz, and Nueva Segovia. The Yalagüina Municipality is highly vulnerable to floods and landslides. “Having a warehouse nearby the department would spare us a round trip to Managua to bring food to our town,” says Ponce.
In 2011, the Executive Secretariat of SINAPRED and WFP signed an agreement to coordinate assistance to families affected by emergencies in Nicaragua. WFP’s commitment is to provide technical assistance for the storage, transportation and distribution of food and non-food items during emergency situations and, depending on available resources, provide food to affected families. A new agreement will be signed in the coming months.
Delivering food to disaster-hit communities is the most urgent task, but disasters also damage warehouses and can cause the loss of food and non-food items. In 2007 the category-5 Hurricane Felix, which hit the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast, damaged this WFP warehouse. Fortunately the food was recovered and distributed among the affected people who were evacuated to shelters by SINAPRED.
SINAPRED and WFP organized six workshops in six different regions with 150 officials at national, regional and municipal level. The aim was to learn about the needs for humanitarian assistance during emergencies and to improve the telecommunications network from local to national authorities. The workshops are part of WFP’s technical assistance framework to the Government of Nicaragua, which is funded by the Transition Opportunity Fund (TOF) from Luxemburg.