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Honduras: Central America Holds Disaster and Emergency Simulations

The National Systems for Risk Management from Central American countries began a series of simulation exercises to respond to emergencies in order to help strengthen their coordination processes and joint operation of humanitarian assistance. These processes include the participation of governments and national and international humanitarian actors.

TEGUCIGALPA - Disasters in Central America have far from reduced, and have progressively increased over the past three decades with an estimated annual growth of 5%. In comparison to the 101 catastrophic events during the decade of 1970-1980, there were 418 events in the period from 1980 to 2000, according to statistics of the Coordination Centre for Natural Disaster Prevention in Central America (CEPREDENAC), an organization that provides technical assistance for the development of the simulations, with the support of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

In 2011, Tropical Depression 12E that hit Central America caused more than a hundred human casualties and thousands homeless due to overflowing rivers, flooding, and landslides. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the total impact of the disaster in Central America reached almost US $2 billion, equivalent to 1.64% of the gross domestic product (GDP) nominal average in the region.

The cycle of simulations, which began in Tegucigalpa, Honduras lasted for three days. It will continue during 2013 in Guatemala (April), Nicaragua (May), El Salvador (June), Costa Rica (July) and Panama (August). These exercises are performed with the support of the international community in the region.

The simulation exercises are based on hypothetical disasters that would generate large-scale damages to human lives and infrastructure, causing the need for humanitarian assistance.
This initiative follows the framework of the Central American Policy of Integrated Risk Management (PCGIR) and the mandates from the SICA Summit of Presidents, and coordinated by CEPREDENAC’s focal points for preparedness and response.  The aim is to implement the manuals on "Mutual Support for a Regional Mechanism in Disasters” from SICA, which test the implementation of the protocols and procedures for decision making in emergency situations in each country, with an emphasis on the management of humanitarian operations and nutrition and food security. The purpose is to expedite humanitarian assistance in times of a national or regional disaster.

In each country the participants of the simulations will be members from the Emergency Operations Centre (COE); the Centre for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA); the Permanent Contingency Commission (COPECO) in Honduras; the National Coordinator of Disaster Reduction (CONRED) in Guatemala; the Directorate General of Civil Protection, Prevention and Mitigation of El Salvador; the National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters (SINAPRED) in Nicaragua; the National Commission for Risk Prevention and Care in Emergencies (CNE) of Costa Rica; and the National System of Civil Protection (SINAPROC) in Panama; which are all formed by state institutions such as ministries, police, military, customs and immigration, airport and port authorities. Participation also includes agencies from the United Nations System from participating countries, the International Federation of the Red Cross, various NGOs, and other humanitarian partners.