Over 500 people who lost everything in Hurricanes Eta and Iota set out from the San Pedro Sula bus station on Thursday, December 10, 2020. Calling themselves the “Caravana de los damnificados”, they intend to walk, hitch, ride or somehow make their way to Mexico, and then, to the United States. Other groups are organizing themselves to leave Honduras in January.
“Damnificado” in Spanish refers to victims of a disaster such as a storm, flood or fire, but the name is also evocative of the suffering experienced by people who have lost everything. Two record-shattering hurricanes affected 7.3 million people in the region, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Prior to the hurricanes, OCHA estimated that Honduras and Guatemala already had a combined 4.6 million people in need.
Hurricane Eta struck the northeastern corner of the Miskito Coast, just south of where Honduras meets Nicaragua, on November 3rd, 2020 as a Category 4 storm. Eta was followed two weeks later by Hurricane Iota, which measured Category 5, the highest level on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Eta hit the same area, centered a mere 15 miles south.
More than 300 people, many of them women and children, are marooned at the Guatemalan border. Guillermo Díaz, general director of the Guatemala Migration Institute, expressed concern about the number of women and children, saying that minors represent an even greater percentage of walkers than in past caravans.
“Something of interest making this caravan significantly different from past ones is the number of children. The number of children and adolescents is extremely high, forcing us to be more careful about the interests and human rights of participants.”
Referring to protocols in place to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus at the border, Mr Díaz said that while no one has yet to enter Guatemala, the situation is “very complicated”.
Almost everyone in the group, including the small children, appears to be wearing a mask. Most are dressed in plain sweatshirts and jeans and carrying simple backpacks. Guatemala now requires all foreigners over the age of 10 to present a current negative Covid test less than 96 hours prior to arrival at its border and then quarantine for 10 days. Wearing face masks in public is mandatory.
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