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Emergencies headlines: Latin America and the Caribbean

Here you can find previous headlines from Latin America and the Caribbean. These headlines give updates from our work, and areas of concern, of the whole Oxfam confederation. For further information on any of Oxfam's emergency response programmes around the world please contact the Humanitarian HelpDesk in the first instance.

16 November, 2018

Colombia: Economic meltdown in Venezuela is motivating millions of its citizens to leave seeking a livelihood elsewhere. Among the millions pouring into neighbouring Colombia, many remain on the move walking towards Ecuador and Peru but large numbers are hoping to stay on in Colombia. Official figures say there are about one million Venezuelans in Colombia right now, although the length and remoteness of the border means the actual numbers could be much bigger, vulnerable to theft of assets, being co-opted to work on coca plantations, or physical violence/rape. Emergency help for people on the move is coming from individuals who live along the routes, offering access to showers, food, and beds to people passing through, and Oxfam has begun helping some of these individuals with bedding, kitchen equipment, and foodstuffs. But larger scale support, such as better equipped transit centres and cash distributions, would better address the scale of need, as well as a campaign against rising xenophobia. So far we have an aim to help 17,000 people.

Guatemala - Mexico: On October 13, 2018, several hundred migrants (fleeing violence, poverty, food insecurity, and other hardships) departed together from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on a trek north toward the United States. Word of the caravan spread throughout the region, and numbers quickly swelled into the thousands. Oxfam is providing assistance with partners on the Guatemala-Mexico border around the town of Tecún Umán, with hygiene kits, hot meals, rehydration drinks, awnings to protect families from the sun, showers, chemical latrines, sleeping mats, kitchen equipment, and drinking water. We have also distributed information and contacts to help people report violence and human trafficking. Oxfam has called on the Mexican authorities to defend migrant rights and grant 'prima facie' recognition to the caravan (allowing refugee status to be recognized without requiring people to present their cases individually). Oxfam has reiterated its call to the governments of Guatemala, Mexico and the United States to respect the principles of non-refoulement; to provide protection to those who cannot return to their country of origin because of threats to their lives and safety; and to guarantee that children are not separated from their families.

24 October, 2018

Colombia: The numbers of people arriving from Venezuela continue to grow - currently there could be anywhere between 900,000 and 1.6 million in Colombia, and hundreds of thousands more in Peru, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries. Where once the arrivals were overwhelmingly men, numbers of women and children are now increasing which implies that life inside Venezuela is becoming too intolerable for families to stay behind while the main breadwinner migrates alone. Of three current entry points into Colombia Oxfam is working at two of them - Guajira in the far North, and Cucuta north of Bogota. Guajira is a rural area with a largely indigenous population where livelihoods were already precarious before the arrival of thousands of new people; Cucuta is a border town which many migrants are slowly moving through. In both these places we are providing water and hygiene facilities, and giving portable kits of essentials to people on the move. We will also be developing an awareness-raising campaign to counter xenophobic attitudes to the Venezuelans which could be on the rise.

Central America: In the last couple of weeks the media has been reporting large numbers of people - mainly Hondurans - on the move through Guatemala on their way to Mexico and the USA. This is not a totally sudden phenomenon - roughly half a million Central Americans migrate northwards every year, escaping a combination of woes brought on by gang violence but also by recurrent drought and its consequences; no food, no money, and no work. This particularly large group may have something to do with safety in numbers - people migrating alone face being forced to pay huge sums by traffickers to 'help' them on their journey. Oxfam is supporting people on the move, with water and sanitation facilities at crossing points, and providing food for under 5s. The current situation is volatile - the crowd could continue into Mexico or become trapped if one of the countries closes its border.

10 October, 2018

Haiti: Last weekend a series of 16 earthquakes and 87 aftershocks were felt in the north of Haiti. The impact has been limited and very localised, but about 7,800 families have been affected, from injury or loss of homes. Oxfam has made its contingency stocks available to the Civil Protection services and the team is on standby to take part in any government-led assessments. We are looking into how our existing livelihood and resilience programs can contribute to mitigate the impact of the earthquake in the long-term.

6 June, 2018

Guatemala: Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, erupted dramatically last weekend projecting lava and ash-clouds over a 40km radius. Oxfam has a presence in the area and works with local organisations there, but early attempts at assessing needs were turned back because of continuing explosions from the volcano. Rainfall is mixing with the lava and ash making conditions even more difficult. CONRED (the national body responsible for disaster reduction) estimates that about 12,000 people fled their homes and are either staying with others or sheltering in various centres. Oxfam and partner staff did manage to visit some of the evacuation centres and distribute basic items from contingency stocks (water filters, and items to help with hygiene and cooking). Urgent needs are for clean water, sanitation facilities, access to emergency cash for food and other necessities, and possibly more shelters, but in the longer term people are likely to need help recovering their livelihoods and assets.

27 September, 2017

Mexico: We've sent assessment teams to Oaxaca in southern Mexico to gauge needs in the wake of the severe earthquakes that hit the country this month. The main damage is to buildings; people's livelihoods have been less badly affected, and most of the needs are immediate ones for shelter, clean water, access to facilities etc. We will be assisting, with practical help but mostly lobbying work to ensure people know what is available to them and ensuring that support is given to those who need it most.

The Caribbean: We are not responding on the islands which were so severely hit by successive hurricanes recently. We have no existing presence on these islands and it would be an expensive and lengthy process to set up there; additionally our own capacity is extremely stretched at the moment.

13 September, 2017

Regional - hurricane Irma: Two of the Caribbean countries we work in, Haiti and Dominican Republic, luckily escaped the worst of last week's hurricane. In each case our existing field teams are mounting small responses to do what is needed to improve public health and prevent disease outbreaks. In Cuba the hurricane caused considerable damage to roads, homes, electricity supplies etc, and we have teams out assessing needs now.

6 September, 2017

Regional - hurricane Irma: As hurricane Irma batters the Caribbean, we have teams on standby to help communities in Haiti where we have existing programmes and capacity. The storm is on course to skirt the northern tip of the country which may mean communities escape the worst of it; however, large-scale deforestation across the North makes the landscape particularly vulnerable to even moderate rainfall. And 6-metre waves can also cause significant damage. We have stocks of relief items ready, and additional staff have gone to Haiti to support existing teams.

Mexico: A powerful earthquake has hit the Pacific coast of southern Mexico-Guatemala. We have partners in the area and our staff are in touch with them to see what they might need.

07 April, 2017

Colombia: Floods and landslides hit the city of Mocoa in southern Colombia, which is situated at the point where three rivers converge.  Several hundred people were killed and about three-quarters of the 45,000 inhabitants were affected, particularly those living on the river banks (families already displaced by the country's conflict).  The floods and mud damaged electricity and water networks leaving the town without power or drinking water for a few days. Oxfam has two local partners working in the area which began responding the day after the disaster, and we are supporting them to provide basic necessities in shelters for homeless people. Oxfam staff will work to reconnect water networks and supply sanitation facilities, targeting mainly rural areas which have been cut off from access to markets and communities not receiving assistance from the Government.

31 March, 2016

Peru: The heaviest rains for over 20 years are severely affecting much of the country, with a state of emergency declared in several. The quality of drinking water is severely affected as water systems collapse in the floods and ongoing rains. Waterborne diseases like Dengue fever and Chikungunya are on the rise and already claiming lives in the worst affected region of Lambayeque. Oxfam is responding in Lambayeque with critical water and sanitation support to 10,000 people through longstanding local partners - PREDES and CEPRODA Minga. For more information, follow the response on Twitter @Oxfamenperu and on

02 December, 2016

Haiti: Staff returning from the response to Hurricane Matthew in South-west Haiti described the 'tremendous devastation' caused by the slowness with which this powerful storm moved across the land. Damage caused to harvests will affect the entire country because this is Haiti's grain-producing area.  And the destruction of forests will cause 'an ecological nightmare'. Oxfam staff carried out a food aid programme as an immediate response, flying in supplies by helicopter while access by other means was impossible. Now we are looking at the state of the local markets (the main ones being markets for goats, maize, fish, timber, and credit) to determine how best we can support the recovery of this vital region.​

5 November, 2016

Haiti: A month after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, the situation is still bleak. Access to some of the worst affected areas is still not easy, but we're managing to reach some of the most remote areas by helicopter and boat.

Dominican Republic and Cuba: While Haiti bore the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, Dominican Republic and Cuba were also badly affected.  We're going to launch a six month response in Dominican Republic, focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene, and in Cuba we've been supporting the government response by providing materials for the worst hit areas of Baracoa and Guantanamo.

28 October, 2016

Haiti: Heavy rains have been making conditions worse in the South-west where road access was already a problem. These latest rains have brought most of our humanitarian response to a halt, while significantly increasing the risk of cholera. The Oxfam team has reached thousands of people by providing emergency water and sanitation facilities and distributing basic hygiene items to communities hit by Hurricane Matthew. We've been using boats to reach the most isolated areas.

14 October, 2016

Hurricane Matthew: We're scaling up our response to last week's Hurricane, which was one of the strongest ever recorded in the region, and devastated many parts of the country. The death toll continues to rise and the prospect of a large cholera outbreak still looms over the island. Responding to that threat will form a critical part of our response; among our activities so far, we have distributed water, hygiene kits, water purification tablets, and water-testing items, while we're also clearing out canals to prevent further flooding. The storm has wreaked huge damage on Haiti's harvests, destroying nearly 100% of crops in the worst hit areas of the south-west, while even those areas that didn't fall under the eye of the hurricane are facing the loss of 60-90% of their harvests. In some areas, more than half of people's livestock were killed during the storm too. The implications for local trade are clearly huge, and the loss to people's income and access to food is deeply worrying. We are currently giving out food and will also soon be providing the resources needed to help people rebuild their livelihoods.

07 October, 2016

Hurricane Matthew: Oxfam teams have reached the worst hit parts of Haiti in the south-west tip of the island. Hundreds of people have lost their lives, thousands of homes have been flattened, and fields of crops have been uprooted across the island. Flood surges also bring with them fears of water contamination and an increase in cholera cases. Oxfam has carried out assessments and started distributing aid in the towns of Saint Louis du Sud, Maniche, Les Cayes and Cavaillon, which are among the most affected by the hurricane. We're distributing hygiene kits and water purification tablets to prevent diseases such as cholera or diarrhoea, as well as construction material. Oxfam will also repair or install water tanks.

Haiti has suffered the most intense devastation, but we are also planning on responding in the Dominican Republic and Cuba, which were also battered by Hurricane Matthew. In the Dominican Republic we're looking into the possibility of helping small farmers and casual workers whose livelihoods have been hit. In Cuba, huge waves and heavy flooding saw hundreds of homes in the eastern part of the country damaged or destroyed. We're looking into the possibility of providing semi-permanent shelter, as well as working with the government to make sure water supplies are up and running.

05 August, 2016

Ecuador: Cases of Zika virus have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health - over 1,300 so far in several provinces, including Esmeraldas where we work. Oxfam is including additional health promotion activities in communities, recommending protection measures against the spread of mosquitoes such as keeping tight lids on water tanks, minimising instances of water puddles, and making proper use of mosquito nets. We have installed a further water tank in the coastal town of Pedernales (Manabi province) to support 300 families.

29 July, 2016

Ecuador: Oxfam continues to support communities affected by the earthquake on April 16. Our response to date has focused mainly on providing clean water and promoting good hygiene. We are still working on the rehabilitation of water treatment plants and systems, and maintaining water distribution points. We are also working on hygiene promotion with volunteers from across Pedernales who will promote good practise in their communities.

25 May, 2016

Regional - Zika virus: Since the outbreak of the zika virus in the Americas first became headline news, Oxfam staff have been monitoring the evolution of its effects to ensure we are taking action in our programmes where necessary. Staff are engaged with government and other authorities responsible for collecting epidemiological data so we can keep on top of trends. Where we are supporting public health improvements we are taking special measures to avoid any incidences of pools of standing water or leaving stored water uncovered, which could encourage mosquito breeding. And we are prepared to undertake mass communication in local languages regarding the use of insecticides and wearing appropriate clothing. Globally we are taking advantage of opportunities to link the Zika outbreak with international advocacy initiatives regarding access to treatment, and investment in research and development.

20 May, 2016

Ecuador: We have helped 18,500 people so far with emergency water supplies and basic hygiene items in the wake of the earthquake. Our plan is to reach 30,000 in total, in the two worst-hit areas of Esmeraldas and Manabi.  The country continues to experience quite severe aftershocks which are keeping people from returning home.

4 May, 2016

Ecuador:  We have so far reached 18,500 people in Manabi with water supplies, working through local authorities to restore damaged systems and put in additional emergency ones. Teams are also assessing needs in Esmereldas and will be planning activities there.

22 April, 2016

Ecuador: Oxfam has been sending in people and equipment to support emergency aid needs after last week's devastating earthquake, boosting the capacity of Oxfam Italy, which runs a small programme with coffee and cocoa producers. There has been significant destruction in the north-west coastal regions, and many of the roadways are too damaged to allow access. Since the first earthquake on April 18th there have been about 500 aftershocks - many of them strong.  The first Oxfam assessment team in the Manabi area has reported the greatest needs to be shelter and clean water, but lack of sanitary facilities for survivors could threaten people's health, and the closure of many markets could lead to localised food shortages. The team is planning at least a 3-6 month emergency response supporting water supplies and public health, and at least 12 affiliates have launched appeals for funding.