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After the storm: Assessing post-Agatha needs in Guatemala

Guatemala, June 1, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mercy Corps Guatemala  </span>
    Croplands inundated and ruined by Tropical Storm Agatha. Photo: Mercy Corps Guatemala

Mercy Corps’ team in Guatemala is assessing the damage inflicted by Tropical Storm Agatha over the weekend.

The storm, arriving in the wake of the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano on Friday, left more than 150 dead with another 54 still missing, officially. It has also displaced more than 150,000 people through landslides and mudslides, flooding, destruction of property and washing out of roads and bridges, disallowing many residents from reaching their homes and their families.

The numbers, however, do not tell the whole story. Mercy Corps’ team is working closely with local government and villagers to assess the damage caused by the storm and determine where assistance is most needed and most effective for a long-term recovery. In regions where Mercy Corps works, entire fields of corn, squash and other vegetables are inundated. Many of the cornfields were only days or weeks from harvest. The loss of infrastructure such as roads and bridges severs peoples’ communication with — and ability to reach — their loved ones, as well as vastly hinders commerce in regions where small-holder farmers rely on this fragile transportation network to get produce to market for sale and income for their families.

While the immediate loss of life and property is tragic, the longer-term impact of the storm on peoples’ livelihoods, income and health is a slower tragedy already beginning to unfold that will need immediate and acute, as well as long-term and deliberate, support to those needing to rebuild their lives, and their livelihoods.

We will keep you updated on our efforts in Guatemala.