What We Should Learn About Central America’s Hurricane Recovery

Hurricane Season BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of NBC News.

The coronavirus pandemic has not been the only devastating thing to hit the world in 2020. In particular, in the Caribbean region, hurricanes and tropical storms have been disastrous for communities.

During November 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Lota swept through Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. Wind, rain, and flooding caused immense destruction in countries already severely affected by poverty and poor political decisions.

Along with the floods, billions of dollars have been lost in infrastructure and countless lives.

In Honduras, for example, the San Pedro de Sulla Valley was one of the most affected regions. As the area of greatest economic production, local business leaders estimate that losses amounted to 40 percent of the gross domestic product due to hurricane damage.

While the world had its hands full with a historic pandemic, 2020 also marked the busiest hurricane season ever recorded and the fifth year in a row where a category five storm appeared off the Central American coasts.

Scientists have warned that the increase in these meteorological phenomena is due to the rise in Caribbean waters’ temperature. Unfortunately, the same specialists expect these rates to increase in the coming years and, with them, the region’s devastation.

If there is anything the international community can do, it is to support fundraising for reconstruction and community preparedness.

The Central American Bank of Economic Integration announced that they are donating $2 billion in loans and the InterAmerican Development Ban donating $1.2 billion, with the USAID donating $48 million. 

However, emergency response activities are not enough and should continue with response relief after initial help. Instead of providing when a disaster happens, a better approach would be to build back better proposals.

According to Shelly Culbertson, a senior researcher at the nonprofit RAND Corporation, and Ismael Arciniegas Rueda, senior economist at the same organization, “A successful strategy would not only create infrastructure, but also improve public services, health, and the economy, so they are more resilient to future natural disasters.”

In an article for National Interest, the specialists draw a blueprint for disaster recovery in five steps:

  1. Reestablish community-sustaining infrastructure and government services
  2. Increase resilience to future disasters through the harnessing of natural solutions
  3. Improve equity in Access to resources and economic opportunities
  4. Improve overall environmental conditions
  5. Modernize and decarbonize the region’s economy

For specialists, the United States’ political transition is the ideal time to emphasize, months in advance, the measures that must be taken before the new hurricane season forces an already battered region to endure more disasters.

Although President-elect Joe Biden has announced a plan for Puerto Rico, for example, the new government’s actions will have to be interdisciplinary and understand, once and for all, that there is no such thing as an isolated phenomenon, and that, between natural disasters and a pandemic, the migratory movements and the devastation of the region are of interest to everyone in the continent.