1.1 Guatemala Humanitarian Background

Disasters, Conflicts and Migration

Per the 2020 World Risk Report, Guatemala ranks 10th in the world in terms of exposure to disasters and 28th in vulnerability according to INFORM's 2021 Risk Index, The last 20 years, Guatemala ranks 16th on the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index.

Guatemala has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world and the highest in Latin America and Caribbean, with Indigenous and rural populations disproportionately affected. Chronic childhood malnutrition (and stunting) affects 47 percent of all children under the age of five, 58 percent of indigenous children, and 66 percent of children in the lowest income quintile.



Comments / Details



In the called “dry corridor” (Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Quiché, El Progreso, Chiquimula, Jalapa, Zacapa, Jutiapa, Totonicapán). Drought is recurring, especially in northern departments of Zacapa, Jutiapa and Jalapa, where water resources are scarce and soil quality is poor. In July 2014 a long “Canícula” ( almost 30 days) caused  strong reduction of maize and beans production , affecting 300,000 poor families from 16  departments of them, located along the Dry Corridor (Jutiapa, Chiquimula, Santa Rosa, Quiche, El Progreso, Huehuetenango ,Baja Verapaz and  Zacapa. In 2012 a severe drought struck  El Progreso, Zacapa, Guatemala, Sololá, Huehuetenango, Quiche, Baja Verapaz, Totonicapán, Jalapa, Santa Rosa, Chimaltenango, Alta Verapaz and Escuintla affecting 53,200 families      ( WFP-EFSA 2012). Severe drought’s history includes: 2012 (266,485 affected people) , 2009 (2,500,000 affected people),  2005 (2,500,000 people affected); 2001, (113,596 affected) and 1987 (73,000 affected)



On July 2014 an earthquake of 5.3 on the Richter scale affected the Western part of the country. During November 2012, an earthquake of  7.2 on the Richter scale struck 5 departments (San Marcos, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, Totonicapán).  9,225 houses, corresponding to approx. 46,125 persons were severely damaged. Last major earthquake were in 1991 (23,890 affected), in 1976 (23,000 deaths / 4,993,000 people were affected). Other large earthquakes happened in 1917 (2,650 deaths) and 1902 (2,000 deaths).



Seasonal epidemic of dengue, malaria and H1N1.

Covid cases 1.11 M (+127) Deaths 19,567 (+15) Note: As of early 2022, just 29 percent of Guatemalan population was fully vaccinated. The slow progress of vaccination efforts increases the country’s susceptibility to further COVID-19 outbreaks as of data on September 2022

Extreme Temperatures


Frost (heladas) in the highland of the Sierra Madre and Sierra de los Cuchumatanes.



In November 2020 hurricanes Eta and Iota caused floods and destruction across Guatemala and other countries in Central America, affecting 3.5 million children, in the middle of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Yearly events - Hurricane prone country both on Atlantic and Pacific side. Large flood’s history includes; 2011 (528,753 affected people) 2010 (6,075 affected people, 2009 (10,800 people affected), 2008 (180,000 affected people); 2005 (1,513 deaths), 2002, (23,890 affected), 1949 (40,000 deaths); 1982 (348 deaths).

Insect Infestation




In 2020, Guatemala witnessed a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, with extreme rainfall, catastrophic winds and deadly landslides devastating the country.           

Along with floods, mudslides and cave-in are recurrent events during the rainy season (ex. Zacapa / Huehuetenango, 12 deaths in June 2008, / Alta Verapaz, 38 deaths in Jan. 2009, Chimaltenango 60 death in May 2010). During the 2010 rainy season at least 50,696 people were affected at different levels. It is estimated that since 1900, a total of 300 people died due to the slides (land/mudslides/rock-falls) and 6,270 persons were affected.

Volcanic Eruptions


Volcanic activity at Guatemala's Fuego volcano intensified on July 2, 2022, with abundant degassing and new lava flow reaching at least 1 km (0.6 miles). The activity further intensified on July 4, resulting in pyroclastic flows that reached about 6 km (3.7 miles) from the crater toward the Ceniza drainage.

Three volcanoes are in activity (Pacaya, Santiaguito, and Fuego). In 1902, volcano Santa Maria’s eruption resulted to 6,000 deaths. In 1929, Santiaguito volcano’s eruption killed approx. 2,500 persons  Significant volcanic activity continues  in the Sierra Madre range; Santa Maria ( elev. 3,772m), Pacaya ( ele.2,552 m), which in May 2010 causing an ash fall on Guatemala City. This is one of the country´s most active volcanoes with frequent eruptions since 1965; other historically active Alotenango Almolonga, Atlitan, Fuego and Tacan.

Volcán de Fuego (Fuego volcano), 2018. The eruption of the Fuego volcano occurred on the departmental border between Chimaltenango, Escuintla and Sacatepéquez in Guatemala on June 3, 2018. The eruption caused the death of more than 300 people, but the real number is between 10,000 people deceased, approx.

High Waves / Surges




Frequent from January to May. Most fires are linked to bad agricultural practices usually called “quemas”.

High Winds


In the North of the country (Peten).

In 2020, Guatemala witnessed a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season, with extreme rainfall, catastrophic winds and deadly landslides devastating the country.

Between 3 and 17 November 2020, tropical storms Eta and Iota pummelled most of the Guatemalan territory with heavy rains that caused flooding and dozens of catastrophic landslides and mudflows. According to the National Disaster Reduction Coordination (CONRED), 16 of the country's 22 departments were affected by both storms, mostly Alta Verapaz, Izabal, Quiché, Huehuetenango, Petén, Zacapa and Chiquimula. These departments are home to some five million people.

Other Comments

Guatemala's vulnerability to natural- and climate-related disasters coupled with high poverty and gaps in the access to basic services poses a host of challenges that COVID-19 and hurricanes Eta and Iota have worsened since 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic ended three decades of economic growth in Guatemala. Still, the country experienced one of the smallest GDP contractions in 2020 in LAC (-1.5 percent compared to a regional average of -6.7 percent). The Government’s fiscal stimulus to respond to the pandemic (equivalent to 3.3 percent of GDP) was swift in 2020 and focused on protecting the poor and vulnerable.

Man-Made Issues

Civil Strife


The Guatemalan Civil War, the longest civil war in Continental American history, ran from 1960 to 1996. It had a profound impact on Guatemala. 40,000 to 50,000 people disappeared during the war, approximately 200,000 were killed and 1 million displaced.

Civil strife is a potential threat increased by a widening gap between the rich and poor. Over the previous years there have been strikes, particularly in the agricultural and health sector which often led to tensions with government authorities.

International Conflict


Internally Displaced Persons


Total number of IDPs as of 31 December 2021 243,000  This figure refers to people internally displaced by the 36-year-long  civil war in Guatemala, which ended in 1996, as well as to IDPs  displaced in 2021. The first caseload is based on data from a 2000  report by the Central American Development Foundation (FUNCEDE), Fundación Arias para la Paz y el Progreso Humano, and UN HABITAT. The report disaggregates the 1997 figures from the UN Population Fund on the number of people displaced when the conflict in Guatemala finished. This figure is based on the assessments conducted after the signing of the Accord for a Firm and Lasting Peace in 1996. The second caseload is based on data from the NGO Cristosal, on the number of IDPs of 2021 who received the organisation's assistance. However This figure is considered an underestimate, given the lack of systematic monitoring of violence displacements in the country, as well as the sensitivity of displacement associated with violence, which may discourage those displaced by violence to disclose their situation. In addition it  has not been updated since 1997. It is unclear whether these IDPs are still displaced today 16,000.  This figure refers mostly to internal displacements triggered by floods, but also to displacements due to storms, landslides, earthquakes and extreme temperatures. It is based on data provided by the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (CONRED), on the number of people evacuated or the number of homes severely damaged due to disasters.

Refugees Present


Guatemala is characterized as a country of transit, asylum, return and origin of refugees, in a complex context of mixed migratory flows, in which displacement takes multiple forms, including human trafficking and smuggling. Since 2014, in order to make visible the dramatic protection crisis in the North of Central America, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR has progressively increased its presence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, acquiring a greater and deeper understanding of the complex particular context of Guatemala.

Landmines / UXO Present


Estimates vary as to the extent of both the antipersonnel landmines and unexploded ordnance that still threaten Guatemala. Before the war ended in 1996, the Guatemalan military claimed that the URNG guerrillas had deployed 35,000 landmines.

Demining operations began in 1998, as a result of a collaborative effort between the Guatemalan government and the OAS, with the participation of the country’s army, volunteer firefighters corps and former members of the National Revolutionary Army of Guatemala (URNG). During its seven years of operation, the program benefited 1,800 communities and educated half a million people about the lethal effects of these weapons, which were scattered throughout the country.

The Guatemalan National Commission for Peace and Demining has overall responsibility for the national project.  Operations in Guatemala are somewhat unusual within the  Organization of American States OAS program, as the primary threat comes from the approximately 8,000 unexploded devices, including mortar and artillery shells, aerial bombs and hand grenades, which are scattered throughout Guatemalan territory.

On December 15 of 2005 the Organization of American States (OAS) and the government of Guatemala marked the end of the program.  The program located and destroyed 4,127 unexploded artifacts.

Other Comments

Guatemala has yet to make any comprehensive effort to treat war wounded. Though the number of casualties from landmines and other war-related artefacts are far lower in Guatemala than, for example, in neighbouring El Salvador, the total number of wounded from Guatemala’s civil war remains unknown. It appears that little or no treatment is currently available in Guatemala for prosthetics fitting, rehabilitation and workplace reincorporation. Partly because the overall need for such programs is considered to be far less in Guatemala than in other Central American nations, the Pan-American Health Organization is not undertaking such efforts in Guatemala.

For a more detailed database on disasters by country, please see the Centre for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters Country Profile.

Seasonal Effects on Logistics Capacities

Seasonal Effects on Transport

Transport Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details

Primary Road Transport

May to October

During the raining season (May - October), main roads can be affected by floods and mud slides and may cause some delays in transport. Most of locations in Guatemala have different access routes that can be used as contingency.

Secondary Road Transport

May to October

Excessive rains will usually damage secondary roads.

Rail Transport

There is no rail transport available in Guatemala

Air Transport

Volcanic eruptions can affect the air transport. Peten Airport in the North and The Oscar Arnulfo Romero in El Salvador,  can serve as alternative international airports

Waterway Transport

 No significant use of waterway transport in the country

During the months November until May, is when Guatemala increases the export activity (coffee and perishables) therefore transport becomes more difficult to find and prices might go higher.   During this period, there will be a pick during in March and April (close to the Holly Week), when transport is hard to find.  Shipping lines should be contacted in advance (10-15 days).

Seasonal Effects on Storage and Handling

Activity Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details


February to May

During the summer season special considerations should be taken into account for  internal combustion of commodities (especially in maize) due to hot and humid conditions at warehouses located at low land regions (i.e.: Los Amates and  Retalhuleu warehouses). To avoid these problems, temperature of commodities should be daily monitored, especially with commodities with high humidity content. (i.e.: maize with more than 14% humidity).


May to October

During the rainy season, the loading and offloading of commodities in trucks can be delays due to rainfall.

During the rainy season, commodities transportation, mainly grains and flour in trucks can be delays due to rainfall. Nevertheless, during emergencies commodities should be transported through covered truck, to avoid damages of cargo.

Capacity and Contacts for In-Country Emergency Response


CONRED (Coordinadora Nacional Para la Reduccion de Desastres) is the government Civil Protection Organization and is the key coordination institution for government emergency preparedness and response activities. CONRED is member of CEPREDENAC (Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de Desastres Naturales en America Central), the regional inter-governmental organization for civil protection.

A National Response Plan, available on the CONRED website[1], establishes the role and responsibilities of government and non-governmental entities in the emergency response. The plan is, based on a three level response concept: national, municipality and regional locations, detailing 19 support functions. Some of these are: search and rescue, firefighting, water and sanitation, shelter management, temporary morgues management, psycho-social support, transport, communication, energy, etc.   The plan also includes all support functions, responsible organizations, objectives and responsibilities.

The National Institute for Seismology, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hydrology (INSIVUMEH) monitors the country seismic activities and hydrometeorology situation through monitoring stations placed in the country. The Ministry of Agriculture/ Vice Ministry of Food Security and Nutrition (MAGA / VISAN) provides information through its network of Departmental coordinators who maintain a registry of harvest losses, and monitors the food availability. The Secretary of Food Security and Nutrition (SESAN) provides information through the information systems for monitoring and evaluation of the food security and nutrition situation. The Ministry of Health’s epidemiological vigilance unit monitors the country’s hygiene and health situation.

Based on the monitoring reports and depending on the intensity of the disaster, CONRED, in consultation with other government actors declares the level of institutional and public alert and, when applicable, submits for approval the State of Calamity Decree to the President of the Republic which triggers the response according to the National Plan.

Upon the activation of a Red level emergency, the Emergency Operation Centre (COE) is activated in CONRED. The COE is the coordination center where all relevant government institutions are represented.

CONRED is based the Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City premises. It has three 600 m² warehouses and a 30 m² cold room used to store emergency aid during emergencies. CONRED handling equipment includes eight 2.5 MT Forklifts, approx. 25 hand pallet trucks, and eight  20 MT capacity trucks.  It fuel reserves consist of two gasoline tanks (22,500 L), three diesel tanks (22,500 L) and one fresh water tank (40,000 L) to cover a 30 day supply for the base. The emergency store includes equipment such as Search and Rescue equipment, blankets, tents, mattress and 20,000 ready to eat rations.  Also there are standing agreements with private companies for the supply of additional food parcels in case of emergencies.

At field level, CONRED has 42 “reaction centers” with first response equipment ready to be used. Equipment includes: blankets, family tents and food.

Upon emergency and activation of the National Plan, all actors involved support the operation through the operational center (COE) and will augment CONRED’s response capacity. As an example, CONRED will benefits from the support from the Ministry of Communication for communication equipment and earth removal equipment such as tractors, excavator and staff for road security. For air transport support, CONRED will receive in the first days the support of the SAR (former Circulo Aereo) which is part of the  Aeroclub of Guatemala Civil Aviation which has 20 helicopters and more than 150 small aircrafts which can be useful to mobilize rescue teams or medicines.  The military air force has limited number of air response to specific requirements for helicopters and aircrafts, but they are able to coordinate alone with CONRED to get more units from other institutions.

Currently the military is supporting the food distribution drought affected population; in this case everything is organized by governors and vice presidency. In other situations, governors, majors can approach the military commander of the specific area for transport requirements (truck, security, fuel and Daily Support Allowance).  The number of trucks depends on the availability and special requirements. US Air force, based in Honduras, through the Fuerza Bravo has been mobilized in various instances and provided helicopters support in times of emergencies.

In the recent years, the Office of the First Lady has been taking an increasing role in the emergency response by defining priorities, attributing the responsibilities to government institutions, hence, becoming an important factor in the response.

For more information on government contact details, please see the following link: 4.1 Government Contact List.


Guatemala due to its geographical, geological and tectonic position is classified as one of the countries worldwide with a high potential for multiple natural hazards being these hydro-meteorological, geological, vulcanological, earthquake, drought, forest fires, among others, and their social situation (inequality), economic (extreme poverty), environmental degradation by over-exploitation and under development, generates high vulnerability conditions, on a large  percentage of the population. Infrastructure and services are exposed to different risks, which may be triggered disasters, which are becoming increasingly recurrent.

In Guatemala, initially when a big disaster hit the Country, is the government that makes the first actions, declaring different types of alerts and mobilizing financial, human and institutional resources through Civil Protection CONRED (National Commission for Disaster Reduction) and civil authorities (governors), Line Ministries and Army.

However, if the government believes that even mobilizing all its resources, is unable to meet the growing need for supporting affected population, then a public calamity declaration is prepared and issued by the highest authority of the Executive and ratified by the Congress. An international flash appeal (through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is given to the humanitarian organizations such as  : USAID; WFP, UNICEF, PAHO, FAO and NGOs and different mechanisms such as the Country Team United Nations, the UNETTE and different Clusters  “Logistics, Nutrition, Food Aid, Communication and others " are activated. Leadership by “expertise" is applied by the international humanitarian community, which works closely with NGOs, civil protection institutions, and local authorities.

The support of the international community begins immediately and lately is directed to early recovery and / or reconstruction. This creates the need for a mechanism to channel humanitarian aid activities.

Internationally there is a legal framework that governs the relationship between countries in terms of aid and humanitarian assistance highlighting the Geneva Convention-Common, Resolution 2816 of the UN Assembly Attendance in cases of natural disasters and other disaster situations - Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Paris Declaration, the International law of Human Rights and Customary law.

For more information on humanitarian agency contact details, please see the following link: 4.2 Humanitarian Agency Contact List

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