Emergency alert

Mercy Corps team members are on the ground now responding in Guatemala after a powerful volcanic eruption killed dozens and left more injured or missing.

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  • Photo: Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres

The context

Our response to the Fuego Volcano

The global organisation Mercy Corps is responding to the recent eruptions of the Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala. So far we have distributed 1,500 gallons of purified water from one of the organisation’s water purification plants to people who fled their homes in the lava’s path.

“A volcanic eruption is pretty much like an avalanche, so people tend to run away as fast as they can,” says Marcelo Viscarra, Mercy Corps country director in Guatemala. “Mothers are losing their children, and families are being separated. I saw a number of kids in the shelters who didn’t know where their parents are.”

According to the latest official reports, the volcanic eruption killed at least 110 people and seriously injured 57. Almost 200 people are still missing. Some 17 shelters housing 3,557 people have been established for those fleeing the volcano, and they are well equipped with mattresses, blankets, water, food and warm clothing.

More than 3,100 have been evacuated already, and the eruption is affecting some 1.7 million people.

Mercy Corps is coordinating our response in Guatemala with local authorities, including the national office of disaster reduction, Coordinadora Nacional Para la Reducción de Desastres. Two water purification plants have been set up and the organisation is beginning the process of supporting cash transfers to affected communities to boost local economies and spur recovery.

Guatemala has officially requested international support and is prioritizing the following items: equipment for shelters, cold food rations, cleaning and hygiene supplies, analgesics and antibiotics, water filters, mobile toilets, telecommunications, medical and surgical equipment, mobile hospitals and medical assistance.

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Life in Guatemala

About 54 percent of the general population lives in poverty, compared to 80 percent of the rural population, where the majority of the indigenous population lives. Fertile land — the most important means of production in this agricultural economy — is concentrated in the hands of a few.

Land reform since the end of Guatemala’s 36-year civil war in 1996 has advanced in fits and starts. Chronic insecurity and high crime rates in the country, especially in urban areas in and around Guatemala City, further limit economic potential. Guatemala also struggles with government corruption, crippled infrastructure, and high rates of malnutrition.

Our work

  • Conflict & Governance: Strengthening local violence prevention initiatives and linking to national initiatives for a holistic and integrated approach to decreasing violence and crime rates.
  • Agriculture & Food: Providing nutrition education to mothers with young children, and helping small farmers diversify and trace crops, improve quality and increase revenues.
  • Health: Providing health and hygiene education to build healthier communities.