Guatemala Volcano: Plan International Calls for Children’s Needs to be Prioritized

June 8, 2018

London – The needs of the children, especially girls, affected by one of the most deadly and devastating volcano eruptions in Guatemalan history should be a top priority for the international community, child rights and humanitarian organization Plan International has said.

To date, at least 99 people have been reportedly killed by the eruption of the Volcán de Fuego on Sunday, June 3 – the country’s biggest in more than 40 years. A second eruption on Tuesday disrupted search and rescue missions for the 192 people who have been reported missing, and the death toll continues to rise.

Plan International has launched a humanitarian response to the emergency, with actions so far including supporting the evacuation to the U.S. of two severely burned girls for urgent medical attention, and provision of urgent items, including sanitary pads, to 500 displaced families who are in shelters.

Analí, 10, and Melanie, 15, were both severely burned when lava from the volcano fell on their homes. Thanks to swift action from Plan International Guatemala and the Guatemalan and U.S. governments, the girls will now receive specialized medical attention at a hospital in Texas.

In total, 1.7 million people, including hundreds of thousands of children, have been affected, and more than 12,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes due to severe damage to properties and the significant risk of further eruptions. More than 4,000 displaced people are now in one of the more than 20 temporary shelters.

John Lundine, Country Director of Plan International Guatemala, said, “Like Analí and Melanie, children, particularly girls, are vulnerable during emergencies and their specific needs must be considered. We mourn the loss of many children who have died and/or had their lives turned upside down during the eruption and subsequent evacuations.

“School and social activities have been disrupted, leading to a loss of children’s sense of security and stability. Children have been orphaned, lost family members and their homes, and become separated from their families.”

Plan International is deploying 12 psychologists to help address the emotional challenges these children face. The organization is also working closely with the government and other humanitarian actors to provide the affected population with immediate support.

In addition, Plan is ensuring that children staying in temporary shelters are adequately protected against the risk of violence and abuse. They will receive emotional support to help them regain a sense of normalcy while they continue to live with the uncertainty of further eruptions.

“In many of these shelters, more than half of the occupants are children. Providing a safe place for children to come together, be protected from any abuse or violence, and interact and play can go a long way to addressing the emotional challenges they face,” said Lundine.

Plan International urgently needs funding to support its immediate response actions and longer-term response strategy, which will include restoring education to children whose schools have been damaged or destroyed, and supporting those children with long-term, specific needs.

To donate, please visit: planusa.org/help-guatemala-1.

About Plan International Guatemala

Plan International has been working in Guatemala for 40 years. The organization’s experience in emergency management has enabled it to effectively meet the needs of communities affected by disaster, with a particular focus on child protection in shelters and re-establishing education for children.

About Plan International USA

Plan International USA is an independent development and humanitarian organization that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Plan believes in the power and potential of every child. Working together with children, young people, supporters, and partners, Plan strives for a just world, tackling the root causes of the challenges facing girls and all vulnerable children. For more information, please visit PlanUSA.org.