HIAS Calls Attention to Northern Central America’s Growing Humanitarian Challenges

PANAMA CITY — HIAS, the international humanitarian organization that provides critical services to refugees, asylum seekers, and other forcibly displaced people in more than 20 countries around the world, is welcoming a joint solidarity event led by the governments of the U.S. and Sweden to address increased humanitarian needs persisting across Northern Central America driven by heightened food insecurity, chronic violence, protracted displacement, and the impacts of climate-related events. The initiative, now in its third consecutive year, seeks US$417 million to respond to the humanitarian needs of more than 9 million people affected (around 27% of the total population) in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

“These converging crises deepened in 2023 as the number of refugees and migrants crossing this region reached record numbers amid compounded protection risks and stretched local capacities to manage such volume,” said Erika Alfageme, HIAS’ Deputy Regional Director for Central America. “Furthermore, last year’s Humanitarian Response Plans for the three countries remained critically underfunded, with none achieving more than 22% coverage. Honduras faced the most severe situation, with a mere 15% coverage. This lack of financial support casts a shadow over the ability to effectively address the needs of millions this year,” Alfageme added.

In Honduras, concerns stem primarily from widespread violence, displacement, climate-related disasters, and food insecurity. A significant portion of this vulnerable population includes returnees and people in transit. Last year, at least 450,000 people crossed the country, mainly from South America.

Meanwhile, Guatemala continues to grapple with food insecurity and acute malnutrition in young children. Approximately 5.3 million people need assistance, one million more than in 2023, covering crucial needs such as food, medical services, malnutrition response, safe water, sanitation, shelter, and protection.

El Salvador faces escalating needs due to extreme weather events, heightened food insecurity, and economic challenges, raising continued concerns about institutional stability.

As HIAS works in the region to address these multifaceted challenges — through its programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV), along with risk reduction and mitigation, protection information, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), and emergency response — Alfageme emphasized the imperative for renewed collaborative efforts. “It is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness of these crises and work together to provide more efficient and effective support amid reduced funding. As challenges related to displacement continue to test stakeholder’s capacities, a regional approach is needed,” she said.

In Honduras and Guatemala, HIAS addresses displacement, including returnees, and supports those affected by climate shocks and other humanitarian challenges. With a focus on strengthening GBV and MHPSS responses and adopting a localization approach to support partner organizations, HIAS reached approximately 70,000 individuals in Central America last year.

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