New York, NY, September 5, 2022 — Thousands of Central Americans are experiencing a humanitarian crisis including food insecurity, violence and displacement. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that covering people’s most basic needs remains a challenge and calls for the international community to allocate funding to deliver a comprehensive response.
The IRC analyzed data collected from an emergency cash relief program implemented in the first half of 2022, which reached over 3,000 people in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Based on the information shared by the participants, the IRC found that for them, the main challenges were:
- Being unable to pay for basic needs such as food. Before receiving the emergency cash support, 97% reported they did not have the resources to fully pay for essential goods, utilities or services to ensure long term survival and minimum living standards. Basic needs include, but are not limited to adequate food, clean water, health care or education.
- Being forced to adopt negative coping strategies. The lack of sufficient income meant that, to meet their immediate food security needs, 50% of people adopted coping strategies that reduced their future productivity. A relevant percentage of the surveyed people (40%) reported resorting to “crisis” coping strategies, which means being forced to sell any productive assets they might have, while 10% reported “emergency” actions, which are difficult to reverse, like selling their land.
- Suffering hunger and inadequate nutrient intake. On average, 44% of families reported eating two or less meals a day before receiving the economic support. Based on the Food Consumption Score, it was determined that 1 in 4 families experienced poor food consumption, meaning that the inhabitants of the household were unable to eat at least staples (like maize, rice or plantains) and vegetables on a daily basis.
- Lacking safe or decent housing. Despite the emergency support, 29% of families reported that they lived in places where they could not feel safe and at peace. In fact, 40% expressed they did not have an adequate space, considering factors like warmth, fresh air and protection against extreme weather conditions.
Meg Galas, Director for Northern Central America at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said:
“People in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras continue to face challenges like poor economic conditions that make it difficult to meet their most basic needs. In humanitarian crises like these, certain groups are at higher risk and encounter more obstacles to living safely, including women, children, indigenous people and the LGBTQ+ community. For example, 1 in 4 surveyed families who required emergency cash support identified themselves as part of an indigenous group.
“When talking about humanitarian emergencies and Central American countries, we must remember that the crisis had its origins thousands of miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. There are hundreds of thousands of people in these countries who urgently require aid for food and shelter. In collaboration with all sectors—and with support from the international community—we must all design and implement an expanded response that helps people survive, recover and rebuild their lives at home.”
The data was obtained after analyzing information provided by people before and after participating in an emergency cash relief program implemented by the IRC and funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA). Through this program, the IRC provided support so that families living in contexts of crisis in northern Central America could cover immediate needs such as food, shelter or medicine.
The IRC’s response in northern Central America
Today, the IRC serves individuals and families at increased risk of violence and displacement, including internally displaced individuals, returnees, women, girls, youth, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are survivors of gender-based violence. The IRC’s programming in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras includes multi-purpose cash transfers to cover basic needs; the creation of safe spaces for women, youth and the LGBTQ+ community; case management and psychosocial support; and CuéntaNos, an information platform.