Red Cross assists in Mexico flood relief operations

Battered by a series of tropical storms and saturated with the heaviest rainfall in years, Mexico was deluged by floodwaters in September and is still struggling to clean up after months of wicked weather.
With eight states in Mexico severely affected by flooding, and storm damage stretching along each of Mexico's coastlines, relief efforts by the Mexican Red Cross have been in full swing since the first storms struck in August.

American Red Cross International Services immediately joined the Mexican Red Cross in the response operation, providing monetary assistance and dispatching members of the International Disaster Response Unit (IDRU) to help with relief efforts.

"The damage is so widespread," said Christine Strater, with the American Red Cross IDRU, who recently returned from conducting assessments in Mexico. "There is a lot of need since many people have lost all of their belongings."

In the central state of Guanajuato, more than 15,000 people in 17 municipalities were affected by severe flooding. Shelters were opened to house more than 10,000 people, as 3,000 homes suffered extensive damage. Two communities in the region remain completely cut off by water, accessible only by tractor and watercraft, but the Mexican Red Cross has been shuttling food and water to both communities.

Damage assessment is ongoing in the water-logged southern state of Chiapas, with additional relief operations extending northward into Jalisco, Nayarit, Veracruz and other hard hit states.

"The Mexican Red Cross is actually one of the only organizations actively conducting disaster relief distributions in the central states," said Strater. "We were able to work together to determine the greatest areas of need because there are some places that have received very little disaster relief due to minimal media coverage."

Mexican Red Cross officials expressed an urgent need for basic relief items such as food packages, personal hygiene items, clean-up kits and children's kits that include notebooks, pencils and other school supplies, to meet the short-term needs of those affected by the storms and flooding. Yet, as waters began to recede, additional needs surfaced.

"Some people are returning to their houses now, but many are staying with relatives," Strater said. "Those who are returning home are finding that all of their belongings have been destroyed by the contaminated flood waters."

As a result, the American Red Cross is supporting the Mexican Red Cross in providing relief items assembled into a "family kit." More than 25,000 people in the three central states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Nayarit will benefit from the kits designed to help disaster victims cope with the damage done to their belongings and improve existing health conditions.

The family kits, containing household cleaning supplies, cooking utensils, personal and school items and more, are certain to help flood and storm victims begin to transition back into normal life.

However, emergency needs still exist across Mexico, especially in areas impacted by Tropical Storm Larry when it blew ashore last week. But the American Red Cross continues to work alongside Mexican Red Cross staff and volunteers to meet the needs of disaster victims.

"When the first storms hit, we were initially able to give $10,400 that the Mexican Red Cross used to buy food packages, but now we're doing even more," said Strater. "An IDRU delegate that will remain in Mexico for at least two more weeks, traveling to Chiapas to work with the Mexican Red Cross to perform damage assessments and coordinate additional relief efforts."

What You Can Do to Help

You can help support the American Red Cross as it partners with the Mexican Red Cross to bring disaster relief to flood and storm victims across Mexico. Donations to the International Response Fund can be mailed to your local Red Cross Chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013 or by visiting Online Donation page.


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