Honduras UN appeals for greater aid as floods cause further deaths and

At least 60 Hondurans have now died as a result of Tropical Storm Paloma, and the number of people affected by the flooding has risen this week by about 50,000 to nearly 320,000, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.Paloma first struck the region as a tropical depression in mid-October, causing floods and destruction in neighbouring Guatemala as well. But in recent days Paloma has intensified into a bigger storm and struck different parts of the country with torrential rainfall.Less than 10 per cent of the $17 million flash appeal launched last week by UN agencies and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners has been received so far, and the amount received includes $1.5 million allocated from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).OCHA called on donors to immediately increase their support, warning that urgent assistance is needed to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.Honduras was the nation worst affected when the catastrophic Hurricane Mitch swept across Central America in late 1998, with an estimated 7,000 people killed and some $3.8 billion in damage to infrastructure, agriculture and homes.The country’s capacity to cope with natural disasters remains compromised, particularly since Honduras has been struck by at least 27 separate disasters in the decade since Mitch. This year’s hurricane season in the region has also not yet ended.OCHA reported that shelter, food, safe drinking water and basic sanitation are priorities for Honduran authorities and UN aid agencies. The rehabilitation of houses and agricultural land is also considered critical, while the contamination of wells means public health has become a major concern.Some 100,000 people, including 35,000 children, do not have access to safe drinking water, and 51,000 children are not attending classes because their schools are being used as shelters for the homeless. In Guatemala, an estimated 150,000 people are in need of support as well.The World Food Programme (WFP) has so far delivered more than 370 tons of food aid to about 16,000 vulnerable families, while the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has spent over $700,000 in its initial support to local authorities.The World Health Organization (WHO) has mobilized emergency medical teams and purchased large amounts of medicines to assist the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in its relief efforts.The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is spending $110,000 on emergency activities regarding reproductive health, while OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have also allocated cash grants. 7 November 2008United Nations aid agencies are stepping up their relief efforts and appeals for funding in Honduras, where a persistent tropical storm has intensified in recent days and spread to new areas of the Central American country. read more