Eta storm rapidly intensified on November 1st, 2020, from tropical depression to hurricane rapidly increasing its intensity reaching level 4 in the Caribbean Sea. Before landing, Eta rain bands affected Honduras with heavy rainfalls generating extensive floods and landslides during the first days of November. Few days later, Iota started to organize as storm on November 13, entering Honduras as a tropical storm on November 17. Together, hurricanes Eta and Iota caused significant impacts in various parts of Honduras, particularly in the Sula Valley and Gracias a Dios, in the northern part of the country.
Key environmental concerns in the aftermath of Eta and Iota included: i) the contamination of water sources; ii) the management of large volumes of waste of various types; and iii) infrastructure damage, including water and sanitation systems, wells, latrines, agricultural production, roads, and homes.
To support the government-led response – coordinated by The Permanent Commission for Contingencies (COPECO) and in collaboration with the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) – to Hurricanes Eta and Iota, two United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams were deployed to Honduras from November 11 to December 11. Embedding environmental expertise, the UNDAC teams were dispatched to strengthen the coordination and information management, and supporting the planning that started to take place by the international cooperation.
The main objectives of the overall mission included: i) conduct needs assessment through the analysis of existing information and field missions in the affected areas in coordination with the Humanitarian Network of Honduras; ii) conduct rapid environmental assessments in coordination with the competent entities; iii) information management, providing technical solutions to strengthen existing systems and propose information products that are useful for response operations; iv) support cross-sector coordination and product development during the development of the CERF and Flash Appeal; and v) support coordination between levels of government, humanitarian actors and affected communities to face the emergency with a rights and sustainability approach.
The mission outcomes showed that the UNDAC team provided added value by identifying and addressed key environmental concerns that quickly arose in the aftermath of the hurricanes. These primarily included dam-related water resources management, potential spills of hazardous substances from impacted sites of concerns with related human health and environmental impacts, and overall disaster waste management with associated access constraints. Additionally, environment was mainstreamed across all lines of action, including in the Flash Appeal and the humanitarian needs assessment, to promote a more sustainable and resilient response.