The United Nations World Food Program estimates that up to a million people may be affected by food shortages as a result of a severe drought that has claimed the crops of more than 600,000 farmers in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post calls the drought "a humanitarian and agricultural catastrophe." (The Oregonian, August 24, 2001 -- page A21).
"If we act now, we may save thousands of lives when food is completely gone in a month or so," says Bas Vanderzalm, president of Northwest Medical Teams. "We need to meet the immediate needs, plus help farmers get crops in the ground so there will be food next season."
Without a harvest, farmers have no money to buy seed and fertilizer for the next crop. "This $10,000 from friends in the Portland area will provide food from crops for up to 500 families, or about 3,500 people," Vanderzalm explains. "That's just $3 per person for a year of food. And we hope to do much more in the days ahead."
Northwest Medical Teams will also ship medical supplies to help with serious hunger-related illnesses. "Children are especially vulnerable to respiratory problems this time of year," Vanderzalm says. "When they're weak from hunger, pneumonia is likely." Northwest Medical Teams may send volunteer teams in if medical concerns escalate.
In addition, the organization will work with partner agencies in Honduras to encourage farmers to convert fields from coffee-growing to corn and beans. The global coffee market is so depressed that Honduran growers cannot afford to harvest what meager crop they have.
Northwest Medical Teams will channel contributions to established humanitarian partner agencies in Central America. Gifts should be mailed to Central America Drought Relief Fund, c/o Northwest Medical Teams, P.O. Box 10, Portland, OR 97207. Or call 1-800-959-4325.
Gifts also are being accepted at any USBank office in the area. Simply mention the Northwest Medical Teams Disaster Fund.