El Salvador + 3 more

Hurricane Mitch Relief: Update December 1999

As a new hurricane season begins, the aftermath of last year's Hurricane Mitch is still with us. However, the generosity of thousands of people have helped Central America rebuild, one step at a time.
The Rebuilding Efforts Continue

To date, Catholic Relief Services has channeled nearly $40 million in funding for emergency, reconstruction, and rehabilitation projects. The agency expects to invest $80 to $90 million in private and public funds in Central America over the next three years (1999-2001) for Hurricane Mitch-related activities.


Over the past two months, CRS Nicaragua has successfully initiated the rehabilitation phase of our Hurricane Mitch emergency strategy. An agency project with both agricultural and support for small local businesses components will assist 17,000 families rehabilitate their farms. We at Catholic Relief Services find this stage the most critical in assisting Hurricane victims reconstruct their lives. It also provides them with the skills and resources necessary to begin building a stronger society.

On November 17th, 1999, the first of 18 bridges scheduled for installation in Nicaragua was inagurated in the town of Mosolí in the northern department of Nueva Segovia. The 80 foot steel Bailey bridge, a donation from the State of Massachussetts and the Archdiocese of Boston, was installed by Catholic Relief Services in conjunction with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Transportation (MTI). The structure represents not only safe passage for the thousands in the communities it links, but also a vital step towards sustainable Hurricane Mitch reconstruction.

Incarnación Rayo Ruiz, 50, is a farmer in the community of Los Esteros, Nicaragua who participated in CRS Nicaragua's Emergency Food for Work project. Incarnación has harvested basic grains and vegetables all his life, but as a result of the Hurricane, he lost everything: his house, latrine, clothes, tools, crops, and his well used for irrigation. Incarnación says, "I would have had to work as a field worker if the Food for Work project did not exist and it would have taken me a very long time to replace and rebuild all that I lost." Thus far, Incarnación has participated in community cleaning activities, the construction of wells and latrines, and the rehabilitation of his parcel of land. He says, "this project gives my community the motivation and the hope to help us come out of this disaster."

The next steps for the following two months involve integrating and coordinating among program areas and linking reconstruction projects with local, national and international advocacy efforts.

CRS/Nicaragua's Accomplishments to Date:

  • Distibuted more than 7,400 emergency packs consisting of plastic, nails, hammock, rope, blankets and utensils to 44,430 beneficiaries.
  • Distributed 650 metric tons of food donated by the UN World Food Program to 30,000 beneficiaries.
  • Distributed nearly $781,000 worth of Catholic Medicine Mission Board medicines to prevent the epidemic outbreaks and meet the immediate needs of victims throughout Nicaragua.
  • Distributed $50,660 worth of bean seeds donated by the European Union to assist farmers in recovering crop losses.
  • Through Catholic Relief Services' Emergency Food for Work project, CRS assisted 15,900 families by distributing peas, corn, beans, oil, and rice.
  • CRS/NI is assisting Nicaragua in reconstructing its severely damaged highway system, placing emphasis on secondary roads. 10 to 14 bridges will be installed and 300,000 beneficiaries are anticipated.


Recent Accomplishments:

October and November 1999 flooding in Guatemala has caused damage to an already unstable situation. Catholic Relief Services has committed over $50,000 to this most recent emergency. These funds will provide more than 7,500 people with water containers, hygiene and cooking items, medicines and plastic sheeting.

These activities complement Catholic Relief Services' and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'s continued Mitch rehabilitation activities already in progress in agriculture, water and sanitation, and health education. These continued and expanded activities will also highlight disaster prevention and will be implemented in partnership with Guatemalan organizations.

Next steps:

  • Continue to implement ongoing agency-funded Mitch rehabilitation activities.
  • Aim to strengthen and support civil society so that it actively participates in national level decision making about Mitch rehabilitation funding, spending, and activities.
  • Accomplishments of the last year:
  • Provided emergency life-saving articles such as potable water containers, personal hygiene items, bedding, materials for temporary shelters, and food rations for approximately 120,000 disaster victims;
  • Rehabilitated water systems and wells for approximately 4,500 families and re-built latrines for 1,200 families in six departments of Guatemala;
  • Provided water containers and disinfectant for at least 9,000 families;
  • Provided medicines to over 140,000 people living in areas hardest hit by Mitch;
  • Began construction of three hanging bridges to provide access to three communities with over 60,000 inhabitants;
  • Provided technical support to improve cultivation, soil conservation, and soil fertilization, and staple food production to over 2,150 farm families;
  • Strengthened the management capacity of seven local Guatemalan partners by supplying resources and training.


As the first anniversary of Hurricane Mitch approaches, progress continues to be made in all areas of the CRS/Honduras strategy.

Current Activities

In infrastructure, several new houses have been completed and communities have made great progress in manufacturing cement blocks and laying foundations. CRS expects that many new houses will be completed in the coming months.

In Agriculture, farmers who have benefited from CRS emergency assistance with seeds, tool and technical support are now getting ready to harvest their corn and beans. CRS/Honduras staff have been evaluating fields and will estimate harvests as well as determine support needs for the second crop season which begins in September and October. At the same time, the Food-for-Work program, after having distributed over 14,000 metric tons of food in the last 8 months, will begin to focus its distribution on smaller and precisely targeted areas that are still in need of food rations.

In the area of Civil Society -building, CRS/Honduras is partnering with Caritas to support a migrant assistance center at the Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa. The center is offering information and humanitarian assistance to migrants returning to Honduras from the United States.

Additional activities include:

  • Distribution of emergency food supplies, seeds, tools and other agricultural inputs to 29,000 people in the Departments of Trujillo, Atlantida, Choluteca, Olancho and Francisco Morazan.
  • Distribution of 19,000 metric tons of corn, rice beans and oil to over 115,000 people in the Departments of Colon, El Paraiso, Yoro, Francisco Morazan, Comayagua, Olancho, and Cortes.
  • Facilitating access to primary health services and information, especially mothers and children under 5, reaching 3660 families.
  • Support for the rebuilding and repair of homes, roads, bridges and water systems for over 12,400 families in the Departments of Colon, Olancho, Francisco Morazan, Choluteca, Valle, El Paraíso, Intibucá, Lempira who have been most gravely affected by the hurricane, while assisting them with essential household supplies to facilitate their self-sufficiency.
  • Over 700 homes have been repaired, warehouses are being rebuilt, and families have helped with the construction of several new houses.
  • One hanging pedestrian bridge has been reconstructed in the Department of El Paraiso, benefiting 250 people, and nine bridges have been completed in the Department of Choluteca. Five bridges are under construction in the Department of Olancho.
  • Through the efforts of the Massachusetts Response Team (comprised of members from the State of Massachusetts, private sector construction and engineering firms, and the Archdiocese of Boston) donations of bridges, heavy construction equipment and technical assistance have begun to arrive in Honduras that will help to rebuild the country's infrastructure. The bridges were shipped from Massachusetts and have arrived in Honduras.

Over the next two to three years, through an agency strategy, CRS/Honduras will continue to rebuild and sustain the livelihoods of those affected by Hurricane Mitch by offering food assistance, promoting food security, reconstructing houses and water systems, and meeting basic health needs. CRS/Honduras will also assist the local Church to provide access to education and health care services, land, improved infrastructure, and equipment to Hondurans in need.

El Salvador

The Testimony of a Catholic Relief Services' Beneficiary:

Yesenia's Story

"My home and belongings were destroyed during Hurricane Mitch. Seven days later, in the midst of the disaster, I gave birth to my daughter Maria Ofelia in a provisional shelter provided in a Catholic Church. My tiny baby daughter was quickly infected with skin diseases that flourished in the wake of the hurricane. The medicines and doctors provided by the Diocese relieved my baby's symptoms until I could get her to the local health center to cure her illness."

Besides receiving medicines purchased by CRS/El Salvador through funds donated by the Catholic Medical Mission Board, Yesenia also participates in the Global Mitch Reconstruction Plan being carried out by Catholic Relief Services in conjunction with the National CARITAS. The program gives housing, agricultural and preventative health benefits through the Diocesan CARITAS.

CRS/El Salvador's Most Recent Accomplishments

  • Communities that experienced severe flooding by Mitch are located in the most vulnerable areas. To address this issue Catholic Relief Services in El Salvador has established an innovative Foundation to receive and administer $3 million of US Government Excess Property construction equipment to maintain and improve infrastructure in communities historically affected by natural disasters.
  • =A7 CRS/El Salvador met with CRS staff from the four Central American countries affected by Mitch (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua). This resulted in a proposal to establish a Civil Society project in each of the countries that will focus on post-Mitch civil society issues, such as advocacy training/assistance, and monitoring/evaluation by civil society groups in Mitch reconstruction activities.
  • Goals for the Coming Months
  • CRS El Salvador's Mitch activities are now focusing on rehabilitation and reconstruction activities done in coordination with the local Caritas. General interventions include the areas of food security, health training, crop diversification, housing construction and repair, reservoir repair and strengthening the management skills of our local partners.
  • Follow up the possibility of developing future partnerships between Salvadoran and US Dioceses to address Mitch issues and activities.
  • Secure additionally needed heavy construction machinery from the US government to be used for the first implementation plan developed by Foundation. The plan includes: repairing and maintaining roads, water drainage systems and other infrastructure; and the construction of emergency shelters in areas encompassing Mitch-affected areas.

CRS/El Salvador's Accomplishments over the Last Year

Emergency - Saving Lives

  • Medicines, emergency supplies and vaccinations were distributed to 14,500 families and 16,000 children.
  • Emergency food and agriculture supplies were distributed to over 8,700 families.
  • Health Training was provided to more than 3,325 families.


  • Sustaining Livelihoods
  • 70 houses constructed or repaired, 200 families receiving health training, 53 hectares of crops planted.
  • 141 damaged farm reservoirs reconstructed and repaired; 350 family wells repaired and cleaned.
  • Set up Foundation for the US Government Excess Property: feasibility study completed, charter and statutes near completion, and heavy equipment valued at $1.5 million already arrived in El Salvador.

Rebuilding Civil Society

  • Participated in technical commissions that resulted in the final version of the Government of El Salvador's Plan at the Stockholm meetings.
  • CRS/El Salvador continued to strengthen Salvadoran civil society by assisting local and national efforts' to include civil society participation in Post-Mitch reconstruction efforts.

Copyright=A91999 CRS