In the span of a few hours or less, tremendous swells of water, unforgiving winds, or a fierce rattling of the earth can leave families completely devastated.
Natural disasters flood and demolish homes, often leaving people with the clothes on their back and not much else. For the poor communities in Mexico that were already experiencing food insecurity, the problem is only amplified when a natural disaster hits. Even those who were making ends meet before the disaster may suddenly find themselves without regular access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious foods.
Natural disasters magnify the need for food security, especially in the regions of Mexico where vulnerable communities already lack sufficient resources.
Reasons for Food Insecurity After a Natural Disaster
When crops or food distribution centers are lost in a natural disaster, there’s a clear impact on the availability of food for the entire surrounding region. But even if a natural disaster doesn’t eliminate fresh sources of food or crops, it can weaken the financial resources, economic means, and access to adequate foods for already-impoverished communities — leaving them with little or no ability to obtain the foods needed to keep themselves healthy.
Low-income families are often heavily impacted by a natural disaster, and likely to take much longer to recover in the aftermath than high-income families. For a family that was already suffering from an ongoing lack of reliable access to nutritious foods, living without power, losing a family member, or residing in a shelter for long periods of time creates a multi-layered crisis. This can significantly reduce their ability to obtain adequate, nutritious foods on a regular basis.
Here are just some of the ways an earthquake, hurricane, or other natural disaster can create and amplify food insecurity for Mexico’s poor families:
- Loss of the breadwinner: For a family in poverty, a disaster that takes the life of the family provider is devastating for more reasons than one. In addition to grieving a lost loved one, there may be no way for surviving family members to access even basic necessities without the income of the deceased relative. This may mean that the family can no longer access fresh vegetables, fruits, or meat — instead relying on fast food and other inexpensive options that are generally high in fat and low in nutritional value.
- Elimination of income: Even if a family doesn’t experience a loss of life, a person’s place of employment or ability to work may be destroyed due to a natural disaster. While family members still have earning potential and can seek new jobs, the immediate loss of income may create food insecurity. During the aftermath and recovery of the region, employment opportunities may be slim. Without adequate income to afford nutritious foods on a regular basis, a family may become food insecure indefinitely, relying on inexpensive (often unhealthy) food options to make ends meet.
- Obliteration of farms and agriculture: When an entire region is destroyed by mother nature, local crops and livestock may be damaged or completely ruined. A full 80% of the impoverished people on our planet live in areas prone to natural disasters. In the time it takes to sort out new means of importing healthy food, the price of fresh food is likely to skyrocket and food insecurity can grow even more devastating.
Natural Disasters Threaten Mexico’s Poorest Communities
In 2017 alone, Mexico saw three unique events that displaced families and had the potential to eliminate their access to food. To understand how many people may be facing food insecurity in the aftermath of natural disasters, it’s important to evaluate how much damage and loss of life occurred.
Earthquakes in Mexico
In September 2017, two earthquakes struck Mexico a few weeks apart. On September 7th, a magnitude-8.1 with an epicenter 60 miles off Mexico’s southwestern coast hit residents in Chiapas and Oaxaca the hardest. Officially, 90 lives were lost and the government reported thousands of homes and hundreds of schools had been damaged. On September 19th, a magnitude-7.1 earthquake hit Mexico City, killing 225 people. At least 44 buildings were totally destroyed, including one school.
Tropical Storm Lidia in Baja California
Baja California was hit by tropical storm Lidia over the course of three days from August 31st to September 2nd. The monstrous storm dumped about 27 inches of rain on the region, taking 7 lives and forcing more than 4,000 people from their homes due to flooding. What’s more, the major tourist resorts in Baja were also damaged — a devastating blow, given how important tourism is to financial security of the region.
The Threat to Food Security
The immediate consequences of a natural disaster are obvious, but the harmful effects ripple out for months (or years) afterwards. For every family that loses a home or a loved one in a natural disaster, many others also face severe damage and may lose their homes or livelihoods during the aftermath and recovery. While the donations of relief organizations keep people fed for a few weeks, the number of people facing long-term food insecurity grows by the day.
How You Can Help
One way you can help families who are lacking regular access to adequate, nutritious foods is by supporting the Southern Baja Food Security Alliance (SBFSA), an organization that cooperates with a network of stakeholders to bring fresh food to residents of Southern Baja. To help provide fresh food, expand community gardens, and give families the resources they need to cook healthy meals, you can donate to support the SBFSA here.