1998 NCC News Archives

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A DUST BOWL IN HONDURAS: CWS/ACT BEGIN RELIEF WORK AFTER MITCH

How to Help:

CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, Attn. Hurricane Mitch, #LAHD82, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

Who We Are:

CWS works in more than 80 countries, including the U.S., in disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance. It is a ministry of the National Council of Churches, the nation’s preeminent ecumenical organization, which includes 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions with a combined membership of nearly 52 million.

CHOLUTECA, HONDURAS, 29 November, 1998 -- To visit Choluteca, Honduras, a month after Hurricane Mitch is to see something of a scale that, as one person put it, cannot easily fit into a photograph, a reporter’s notebook, or one person`s consciousness. The damage is that massive.

Perhaps it is best explained by describing the Choluteca River, in southern Honduras. Following massive floods that changed the river’s course, a month’s worth of dried mud, silt, chemical contaminants, human waste and remains are choking the air. Stirred by high winds, these elements are creating what some are calling Central America’s first desert -- an area not unlike the Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

From miles away, the dust obscures the mountains that overlook the Choluteca Valley; near the river, the dust sticks to the skin and grits in the teeth. The dust is, of course, exacerbating health problems for residents who are already weary and sick following a month that has brought shock and fatigue.

Health problems in Choluteca are one focus of the response by ACT-Christian Commission for Development (CCD). Hence ACT-CCD is organizing health teams from other ACT members such as Church of the Brethren and Church World Service (CWS). Church World Service is the human development, disaster relief and refugee assistance ministry of the National Council of Churches. Last week, a CWS team joined a Brethren team in working throughout Choluteca, providing medical assistance in rural communities.

Another ACT-CCD focus will be on long-term food security; there is real concern that it will take years for the mud-choked land to recover, and that short-term, emergency food supplies will be stretched thin beginning next spring.

"Next year is going to present real problems," said Dilcia Paz, a CCD regional organizer.

The problem is visible in the village of Llancitos, about 20 kilometers south of the city of Choluteca. As dust hovers overhead, mud covers the fields; residents like Jose Castillo are hacking away at the limbs and roots of fallen trees. Barely stopping to chat, Castillo recounts the toll of the last month -- four days of water up to the chest, weeks of cleanup and sickness.

But Castillo and his family survived, and for that, Castillo is thankful.

"Thank God for life," he says.

Contact: NCC News Department

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