Child eating food supplied by the World Food Programme's food relief efforts. - - General: General. A tragedy of immense proportions afflicted the four Central American countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. The irreparable loss of life and damage to infrastructure, agricultural production, and industrial and commercial entities has meant that over twenty years of development and investment has been virtually wiped out. Over three million persons have been directly affected as a consequence of Hurricane Mitch that ripped through the region during the month of October 1998. Honduras and Nicaragua, two of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, in particular, were seriously damaged where the hurricane and accompanying floods and mudslides have affected their entire territories.
This disastrous situation, coming on the heels of a prolonged drought cycle caused by the El Nià'o meteorological phenomenon, has taxed considerably the capacity of the local governments and communities to cope with emerging needs for basic necessities among the population. Hurricane Mitch reached a category 5 level (the highest level). Wind velocity reached 180 mph producing torrential rains, causing catastrophic floods and landslides, and leaving a path of destruction and death throughout the region.
Estimated are that 70% of agricultural production in Honduras was destroyed, amounting to about USD 800 million. Twenty percent of the expected coffee production was lost, as well as large amounts of bean crops, bananas, oil palms and citrus. In particular, the production and export of bananas, a main hard currency earner for Honduras totally disappeared. This had serious consequences for the financial position of the country and brought about the sudden loss of jobs of over 18 000 workers. Moreover, 60% of all infrastructure was destroyed or severely damaged, at least 100 000 houses were damaged and water distribution systems in most cities were also damaged.