Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 20, 2021
Thank you so much, Mark. And thank you, OCHA, for hosting this briefing today. Let me also thank Henrietta, David, Antonio, and Kelly for your informative briefings and essential work in these countries and across the world. And I thank all the participants, as well.
El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are, of course, three distinct countries with their own unique histories and cultures, but all three neighbors share common humanitarian challenges today: COVID-19, climate change, mass migration, and the lingering effects of catastrophic hurricanes Eta and Iota.
Before last November’s hurricanes, the UN estimated 9.2 million people across the three countries required humanitarian assistance. Today, the situation is even more dire. Current projections show up to five million people in the region may be acutely food insecure this year. In other words, millions of families simply will not be able to feed themselves. That’s a humanitarian crisis. And when our friends and neighbors are in crisis, we step forward to help.
So, Vice President Harris has committed to leading a response that deploys resources from across the Department of State, including the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and from USAID. Our response involves three critical and interrelated elements: providing immediate humanitarian aid, addressing irregular migration and forced displacement, and focusing on the root causes of the humanitarian crisis.
First, to address the immediate need, earlier this month USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART. The team is focused on ramping up emergency food assistance, livelihood programs, protection for the most vulnerable, and other forms of critical humanitarian aid.
Second, we are addressing irregular migration and forced displacement in Central America. The Department of State is dispatching additional personnel and resources to the region to help with this effort. And we’re working to strengthen cooperative efforts with our regional partners directly to address migration flows. This includes the reinstatement of the U.S. Central American Minors program and expansion of our refugee resettlement. And through the UN and other partners, we’ll continue to support states’ efforts to implement the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework for Central America and for Mexico.
Third, and most importantly, we’ll work to address the root causes of the humanitarian crisis. Displaced and vulnerable people need immediate aid. But even more than that, they want and they need security, economic opportunity, and access to food to feed their families. That’s what’s driving them from their homes. So ultimately, that’s what we need to address.
We therefore look forward to working with the UN and other donor countries to create private sector partnerships, to scale up the work of international financial institutions, and include multilateral development banks to address critical development challenges. That’s our plan. And by advancing efforts in these three areas, we can help meet the serious humanitarian needs that we have heard about today.
But this work requires collective support now. Historically, humanitarian programs in the Western Hemisphere have been vastly underfunded compared to emergencies in other regions. We must simply do more to address the scale and the urgency of the need and to share the burden. That’s why this OCHA-led briefing is so important and so timely for us today. The last comprehensive joint needs assessment for all three countries was undertaken in March 2020 – over a year ago. An updated humanitarian needs overview and humanitarian response plan is a critical next step. It would demonstrate urgency, it would galvanize the international community, and it will ensure our response actions are properly targeted.
As Vice President Harris has pointed out, the people in this region are so often driven by hope. Hope that change is possible. That life can be better. That humanity will win out over cruelty and suffering. Today, we are calling for solidarity. We’re calling for support to bring hope and help to vulnerable people in Guatemala, El Salvador, and in Honduras. And I know that together, we’ll show that such hope, in the UN and the international community, is not misplaced.