Hurricanes Eta and Iota hit Central America late last year, devastating entire towns and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Those same families are still relying on temporary shelters to provide the most basic means of survival, but resources aren’t always available. Worse, they’re doing this in the midst of a pandemic.
Angie, a 13-year-old girl from Nicaragua, and her family live in one of these shelters — a school repurposed for emergency housing. Like most of the 1,200 shelters across Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, clean water and toilets are scarce. The lack of privacy puts everyone at risk, especially girls and young women.
“When we have our periods, it is difficult to wash ourselves since boys and adults are always spying, and there are no sanitary pads,” Angie says. “I feel watched.”
This insecurity is amplified by the constant influx of people seeking refuge from the destruction caused by both storms. With little room and a lack of resources that ensure girls’ health and safety, Angie and her friends are at a greater risk of sexual violence. In fact, Angie already faced a frightening incident when a strange man attempted to take her away.
“He took my hand and I got scared,” Angie recounts. “I pushed him and I ran away. Then he got angry, and he started swearing at me and told me to go with him, but I didn’t.”
For girls like Angie, their fear is palpable. Living in unsafe environments without clean, private bathrooms or menstrual products puts them in a tremendously vulnerable situation. The burden of this anxiety, on top of the uncertainty about when — or if — they’ll be able to rebuild the homes they lost, is no way to live.
Plan International is working in Central America, as well as other countries around the world facing the aftermath of natural disasters, to provide child protection services in shelters. In Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, food and hygiene kits have been distributed to thousands of people. Girls and women are also receiving menstrual hygiene kits, and families are being trained on how to prevent and report sexual violence.
But there are thousands of more people still living in this vulnerable situation; thousands of girls are still at risk. Your support can help us respond to disasters like this. You can provide the relief that families desperately need after their lives are turned upside down. And for girls, you can help protect them from the dangers they face in unfamiliar places.
You can help bring an end to the devastation. Will you?
Angie’s name has been changed for safeguarding reasons.