Submitted by Natalie Acosta
10 Jul 2023

The Honduran Red Cross activates its Early Action Plan for Drought Associated with El Niño

More than 2,000 families will benefit from anticipatory action after the Honduran Red Cross activated its Early Action Plan (EAP) for Drought Associated with El Niño. The early actions, which will be carried out over a three-month period, include awareness campaigns, the distribution of drinking water kits, laboratories to assess water quality, and multipurpose cash transfers.

Activating the EAP

On 8 June 2023, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center stated that “El Niño conditions are present and are expected to gradually strengthen through the northern hemisphere winter 2023-24”. In addition, the updated forecast for the coming months (to March 2024) showed a probability of more than 90 per cent that the favourable conditions for El Niño would continue.  

Based on these forecasts, the EAP was activated on 26 June 2023. This released 481,187 Swiss francs (548,437 US dollars / 497,281 euros) from the Anticipatory Pillar of the IFRC's Disaster Response Emergency Fund. Of this amount, 206,508 Swiss francs (235,325 US dollars / 213,400 euros) will support the early actions.

Early actions to support those at risk

The Honduran Red Cross's early actions will target 2,060 households, with 360 receiving cash and voucher assistance, and 1,700 benefitting from household water-treatment kits. Further actions include the deployment of the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) national intervention team to conduct an inventory of safe water sources, and awareness campaigns.

The actions will be concentrated in the Honduran Dry Corridor. This region is being prioritized based on intervention maps, which draw on forecasts of the potential impacts across the country and the risk index.

The expected impacts of El Niño

The El Niño event that is currently under way is expected to have severe impacts worldwide. In Honduras, these will be linked to drought conditions, with potential impacts including crop and livestock losses, increased prices for basic ‘food basket’ products, limited access to safe water, and an increased incidence of diarrhoeal diseases due to people drinking unsafe water and unsanitary conditions.

Historically, Honduras has suffered its most severe droughts during El Niño events. For instance, during the 2014–2015 period, more than 114,000 families in 10 departments were affected, with the drought causing food insecurity and forcing people to migrate to find the means to survive. In 2018, about 65,000 families in 13 departments were severely affected by this phenomenon, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Anticipating the impacts of drought

"Our teams are monitoring the forecasts of possible effects to determine the progress of the EAP’s activation; this will allow us to act appropriately, according to the evidence."

Carlos Colindres National manager for risk management, Honduran Red Cross

The EAP for Drought Associated with El Niño is a humanitarian, scientific and technical tool to guide the timely and effective implementation of anticipatory actions. The Honduran Red Cross developed this with support from the German Red Cross and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre.

Acting ahead of a hazard to safeguard lives and livelihoods is not only an innovative approach to humanitarian assistance, but also complements efforts to accompany and contribute to the resilience of at-risk communities.

Article and all photos by Natalie Acosta, German Red Cross.