We caught colleagues Karina Copen and Enrique Garcia on the phone in El Salvador this morning before they headed out the door for a day in the field.
The flooding and landslides in Central America this past week have been disastrous – the result of rainfall so heavy that it’s outstripped even the catastrophic hurricane Mitch of 1998. In El Salvador, landslides are occurring by the hundreds, and nearly 50,000 people have taken refuge in shelters.
But thanks to a carefully positioned warehouse packed with supplies and a network of trained partners, Oxfam was able to reach thousands of people with aid by the time a national state of emergency was declared. The warehouse is more or less empty now, but that’s a good thing, said Karina. “What people needed was what we had.”
After updating us on the latest events, Karina and Enrique talked about the past, present, and future. Years of work to help communities, partners, and the government prepare for emergencies are paying off in lives saved: the death toll from this massive storm doesn’t compare to Mitch. But the loss of homes and crops could be devastating for those who can least afford it.
“We need to keep addressing hazards,” said Enrique, “but also the issues that put poor people at such risk in emergencies.”
“The good news,” said Karina, as they signed off, “is that the sun’s out.”