(Updates with U.N. cash grant to El Salvador)
LONDON (AlertNet) - Torrential rain across large parts of Central America has left "countless communities" cut off for the past week without any emergency assistance, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
"We are particularly concerned about the most vulnerable, especially women and children, who suddenly find themselves with nothing to eat," Gemmo Lodesani, WFP's regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The latest U.N. report on the impact of Tropical Depression 12-E across Central America, issued at the start of the week, said flooding and landslides had affected nearly 570,000 people – mainly in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico. That figure has since risen amid worsening damage to roads, bridges and crops.
The death toll topped 90 on Tuesday after Guatemala reported more people swept away by floodwaters and Costa Rica found four drowned, according to news agency AFP. Officials estimate that tens of thousands have been forced to leave their homes.
Across the region, WFP has delivered urgently needed food rations – mainly high-energy biscuits – to more than 70,000 people in cooperation with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. But continuing bad weather and damage to roads and infrastructure have hampered efforts to reach isolated communities, it said.
HIGHEST RAINFALL IN 50 YEARS
In El Salvador – where the government has requested international assistance – rainfall volume is at the highest since records began in 1960, exceeding that brought by the destructive Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
The United Nations on Wednesday approved an emergency cash grant of $50,000 and sent additional staff to the country in an effort to help the government provide relief to those affected.
Nicaragua and Guatemala have also declared a national state of emergency.
Honduras says 12 of its departments are in a crisis situation, with the worst-hit areas in the south where a road to the affected zone has collapsed, hampering delivery of aid.
Catholic aid agency Caritas Internationalis said it is concerned about the longer-term impact of the floods in El Salvador, as a large part of this season's harvest has been wiped out.
"Food security in the next months is a major concern as much of the crops are already lost," Caritas El Salvador's communications director, Ilse Marlene Vallecillos, said in a statement.
(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)