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One year after Hurricane Stan: a silent emergency

On 5th October 2005, Hurricane Stan raged across Guatemala leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Its consequences have since become one of the many silent emergencies around the world, writes Elizabeth Sagastume.

On 5th October 2005, Hurricane Stan raged across Guatemala leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. Its consequences have since become one of the many silent emergencies around the world, writes WFP's Elizabeth Sagastume.

One year ago, Jaime Velasquez Bautista managed to save his eldest daughter but lost his wife in the midst of the fury unleashed by Hurricane Stan.

In just a few hours, Jaime’s home, savings, land and a lifetime of hard work in the highlands of Guatemala were wiped out.

Copyright: 2006 WFP/Elizabeth Sagastume
Jaime in front of his temporary home

Jaime is just one of the many people whose lives were ripped apart by Stan in the department of San Marcos – 280 kilometres west of Guatemala City - one of the hardest-hit areas.

In Jaime’s hometown, Dolores Providencia, 72 people died and more than 600 were left homeless.

Hard on every level

“Losing a loved one and part or all of what you have worked for is very sad. It has been very hard to overcome the economic, physical and emotional problems,” says Jaime when WFP visited him in the family shelters where he is living along with his five children, with whom he shares the same bed.

It has been hard raising my children

Jaime Velasquez Bautista

WFP has visited Jaime and his children on several occasions since October 2005.

It has provided food assistance to his family and more than 285,000 vulnerable people in 1,500 communities across the effected area since the start of the emergency.

WFP rations

A family of five members receives a monthly ration of 87 kilogrammes of food (60kg of maize, 15kg of corn soy blend, 9kg of beans, 3kg of vegetable oil) intended to provide the 2,120 kilocalorie minimum nutritional requirement for one person.

One year after Stan, the damage it inflicted is still visible but its consequences have become one of the many silent emergencies around the world.

WFP needs US$4 million to continue providing food assistance until February 2007 to help survivors get back on their feet.

Toughing it out

Jaime and his neighbours have agreed that now they must get on with their lives.

Twelve months afterwards, and despite all government efforts, Jaime and his children are still in a precarious situation but they make the most of it.

Copyright: 2006 WFP/Elizabeth Sagastume
Jaime where his home used to stand

“We are living in a shelter and even if it is very small, people like me are grateful to have somewhere to live,” he says.

“It has been hard raising my children alone but I have tried to keep them in school,” says Jaime.

In the meantime he has managed to find different jobs, earning some money through carpentry and plumbing. He has also borrowed a car so he can deliver messages and provide a taxi service.

But none of these jobs offer financial security nor provide enough money to keep his family.

Jaime is used to working the land, but to do so now requires him to leave his family for a month at a time as people in the highlands have little access to land.

Instead he prefers to stay with his children, but this means they must all live in a temporary shelter and depend on food aid.

Hope dying

People are still waiting for land on which they can build new houses.

“We have been told to wait and be patient but people like me, who have lost everything, are starting to lose hope,” says Jaime while perched on top of a rock in the place where his house once stood before the disaster struck.

Even though one year has passed, Jaime believes he can find a solution for his family because he and his community have vowed to keep fighting, working and collaborating to accomplish what they want.

“We continue to make the best of everyday and we hope that we can soon try to rebuild a new life together with our children,” he says.

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