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The U.N. Response to Hurricane Keith
Situation Update: October 11, 2000

National Situation

  • Hurricane Keith is proving to be one of Belize's worst natural disasters of this century. The situation of extensive flooding caused by the rains of Hurricane Keith has not improved, and in some areas has worsened. New rains caused by a stationary cold front over Belize have replaced water that has been draining into the sea. Rivers in the Cayo and Belize District that were subsiding are rising again and the flooded areas in the Orange Walk and Corozal districts are expanding. More villages have been cut off and some completely evacuated. Transportation is restricted except by boat in some areas due to extensive flooding of access roads. The Western highway has floodwaters in one section but the Northern highway is flooded in several areas and still accessible only by large trucks. Estimates for the length of time that the floodwaters will affect the three districts keep increasing due to saturated lands, the new rains, and an approaching tropical wave off the Nicaraguan coast.
  • The state of emergency continues nation-wide. The dusk to dawn curfew continues only for the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker.
  • The Ministry of Human Development now estimates that 6,600 households totaling 26,000 people, or over 10% of the population, have directly affected by Hurricane Keith and the flooding that it has caused. Hundreds of people in rural areas have been evacuated to shelters in higher areas. Temporary schools have had to be set up.
  • As the floodwaters destroy more crops, break up more roads, contaminate aquaculture units, kill more cattle, weaken buildings, sicken more people and disrupt livelihoods, the estimates of total damage and therefore of needs, have increased. NEMO now estimates total damages to be over US$261.5 million and increasing. The calculation of this figure is explained in the most recent and now available "preliminary report" of the Damage and Assessment Committee of NEMO. In addition to this global assessment of damages and needs, there are also now informative sector reports of health, agriculture, and environmental assessment of damages and needs. These are also now available.
  • Most assessments warn of the major danger for epidemics related to the floodwaters. Reports of waterborne and sanitation related diseases such as skin infections, diarrhea and food poisoning continue to increase. The preventative health campaign by government, and NGOs has expanded.
  • The emergency priorities identified by NEMO remain building materials, electric generators, food, clean water and medicines. The Government of Belize continues an international appeal for assistance based on these priorities.
  • In kind, cash and human resources support continues to expand. The Foreign Assistance Committee has updated its list of donors (with kinds and values of donations) to October 11, 2000 and this is also available. So far the list includes UNDP, UNICEF, PAHO/WHO, OAS, WFP, OCHA, IDB, USAID, US Office of Disaster Assistance, CDB, the Red Cross (various branches) Belizeans abroad; and the governments of France, Cuba, Italy, the United Kingdom, Mexico, El Salvador, the Republic of China, Norway, Denmark Australia, Canada.
  • The Belize government has concluded that it must seek soft, long term loans to be able to quickly and comprehensively address the damages and needs. Discussions are now underway with the World Bank, the IDB and the CDB for this purpose.
  • Internally, the response of Belizean citizens, organizations and businesses continue to be impressive. However, no system exists to track and value this national assistance.

U.N. Agencies Response

  • The UN Emergency Disaster Management Team continues to coordinate the UN response from the UN House in the capital, Belmopan.
  • Developments (to October 11, 2000) in the UN response include:
    • SUMA (Supplies Management system) system organized by PAHO/WHO is set up at the airport but experiencing some problems in coordination and getting all incoming supplies to pass through the system.
    • PAHO/WHO and Health Committee of NEMO have finalized the health assessment. The sector wide (PAHO) rapid needs assessment is presently being finalized.
    • PAHO/WHO to disburse US$50,000 from CIDA, and US$150,000 from OFDA for health related activities. More funds are accessible by PAHO.
    • Roofing material (US$30,000) purchased with OCHA funds (disbursed through UNDP) have been distributed by NEMO.
    • UNDP has accessed US$30,000 from the Government of Norway through OCHA for disbursement to three local NGOs for supporting immediate relief efforts (food and basic supplies) in local communities in the flood-affected areas.
    • UNDP has identified US$100,000 (50% in kind) for supporting coordination and logistics efforts of the government, the UN agencies and NGOs.
    • UNICEF finalizing $US150,000 project (funds already identified) for relief assistance with a focus on areas not being presently covered by others.
    • 100,000 oral re-hydration packets mage available by UNICEF. 10,000 distributed to the Orange Walk hospital and 90,000 through the national health system.
    • World Food Programme's (WFP) response to Government request for food aid still pending.
    • FAO technical assistance for agricultural recovery being planned. Pictures of the damages are available electronically from UNDP-Belize or El Salvador and UNICEF on request.

Prepared by UNDP, Belize, with input from UNICEF and PAHO/WHO.