Christian aid agencies mobilized quickly to assist victims of one of Central America's worst natural disasters, while survivors face the twin threat of starvation and disease. Floods and mudslides associated with Hurricane Mitch destroyed roads and bridges, hampering efforts to reach isolated villagers in Honduras and Nicaragua with food and medicine.
"Seventy percent of the infrastructure in the entire country is gone," says Chet Thomas, director of Proyecto Aldea Global (PAG), a Christian aid agency based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Groups used boats, planes, and four-wheel drive vehicles to reach stranded survivors.
Thomas says the region has no drinking water, and cholera and typhoid outbreaks are imminent. PAG, an affiliate of Mercy Corps International of Portland, Oregon, is purchasing piping to repair community water systems. Thomas expects it will be at least 15 years until the country recovers.
In addition to emergency food rations, PAG and other agencies such as World Relief are helping farmers replant crops. "If no one plants right now, we won't have any corn or beans until next September," Thomas says. "That's too long to wait."
Thomas wants to help survivors rebuild their lives so they will not be trapped by dependency on foreign aid. "We're pushing to get people going, even though they've been knocked down many times. We trust the Lord will give us the strength," he says.
Entire villages disappeared when Hurricane Mitch brought 180-mile-per-hour winds and dumped several feet of rain on Central America in late October, causing massive mudslides. More than 10,000 people are dead, and 1 million survivors are without homes.
When the hurricane hit, some aid agencies had fewer emergency funds available due to commitments to other crises. World Vision, which had used reserve funds for aid in Kosovo and Hurricane Georges relief in the Caribbean, is seeking to raise $5 million in private donations to help in Central America. "We are in dire need of relief supplies," says World Vision's Ralph Merriam.
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