Case Study

Humanitarian impact of other situations of violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America

In recent years, the countries in the Northern Triangle of Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – have seen an increase in the levels of violence perpetrated by armed groups, gangs, organized criminals, drug traffickers and some members of the state. According to United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data for 2012, Honduras ranks as the most violent country in the world, followed by El Salvador, with Guatemala not far behind (UNDP 2013, UNODC 2012). The period between 2009 and 2011 was particularly violent.

Changes in drug smuggling routes are a key reason for the increase in violence. Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ since 2006 has disturbed the power balance among criminal groups in the Northern Triangle and increased the number, range, and use of weapons. Drug trafficking gangs, illegal groups, and clandestine powers have adopted strategies of violence to accrue benefits and guarantee impunity. The high levels of inequality in the region, the coup in Honduras in 2009, the US’s deportation of Northern Triangle citizens who have criminal records, and the repressive mano dura policy response to the increase in violence have all aggravated the situation.

The states are not responding effectively or appropriately to victims’ basic demands for health, education, protection, and justice. The aim of this study is to:

  • Improve understanding of the key humanitarian impacts of violence on the lives of the affected population, using a multi-sectoral approach and considering both direct and indirect effects.
  • Identify and propose specific sectoral indicators to measure these impacts, identifying available sources at national or regional level.
  • Provide an analytical framework that will help humanitarian actors decide the relevance of a humanitarian response based on the situation of the affected population, humanitarian access, and existing response capacities at the national and international level.