She has no more work now because her former customers have either lost their own jobs or are avoiding contact with others out of fear of being infected with COVID‑19. “It’s very difficult”, says Ms Castro. “We’ve only had one meal a day for the last few days. I can’t give my children more than some coffee in the morning and a little rice in the afternoon.”
Ms Castro is no exception: in a region where around 70% of the population works in the informal sector, the lockdowns have had a dramatic impact on people’s income. Many have already lost their livelihoods, while food prices have risen far above the five‑year average in some instances. The UN World Food Programme estimates that the number of those affected by acute food insecurity in Latin America may increase to 16 million people.
The effects of the pandemic have hit people in Central America particularly hard in some cases as several crises overlap in this region: even before the outbreak of the COVID‑19 pandemic, 5.2 million people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras were reliant on humanitarian assistance. The reasons for this are extreme weather events as well as gang crime – even though these may not initially sound like the typical causes of a humanitarian crisis.
In El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico, for example, the weather phenomenon El Niño leads on average every four years to droughts and floods, which often decimate crops and destroy infrastructure. Several million people were therefore affected by food insecurity in 2015/2016. In some states, the rampant violence has aggravated the humanitarian situation: in El Salvador, the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants reached 61.8 in 2017 – one of the highest rates in the world. The world seldom takes note of the dramatic nature of this displacement and forced migration crisis: in order to flee violent crime, a total of 890,000 people from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have left their homes.
German humanitarian assistance for Central America
The Federal Foreign Office has been providing humanitarian assistance in Central America for many years. In 2020, the Federal Foreign Office is making available 340,000 euro for various projects in the sphere of disaster risk reduction, thus facilitating the preparation of the local population for extreme weather events.
On top of this, the Federal Foreign Office has provided the World Food Programme with 3.6 million euro since 2018 to improve food security in Honduras and Guatemala. It was possible to mobilise a further 13 million euro for food security in Central America from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) – whose biggest contributor is Germany.
However, money alone is not enough: a comprehensive approach is needed in order to resolve crises on a durable basis. That is why the Federal Foreign Office is cooperating with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which is carrying out a project in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador aimed at strengthening the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of judges. Funding to the tune of 2.2 million euro has been channelled into the project. The aim is to combat corruption in the justice system, thus also tackling the impunity of those who have committed acts of violence.
Germany is seeking to provide those suffering hardship with the attention and assistance they need. This includes ensuring that women like Deisy Xiomara Castro who have lost their livelihood due to the pandemic once again have prospects for the future.