Don't forget the Hurricane Felix victims, say aid agencies

By staff writers
September 12, 2007

Local organisations supported by international church and development bodies in Nicaragua and Honduras are stepping up relief efforts after the devastating hurricane, which has left more than 200 people dead or missing, and tens of thousands homeless.

They are urging people not to forget the long- and short-term victims of the region's 'hidden disaster', the profile of which is being dwarfed by other world events in the media.

Hurricane Felix hit north-eastern Nicaragua on Tuesday 4 September 2007 as a maximum strength category five storm, with wind speeds of up to 160 miles per hour.

The Atlantic coastal communities of Sandy Bar Bay and Bilwi, also known as Puerto Cabezas, were the worst hit. The hurricane damaged or destroyed almost all the houses here, affecting more than 150,000 people.

Christian Aid, the UK-based churches' agency, is responding through ACT (Action by Churches Together), an international network of church-based agencies that come together to co-ordinate humanitarian response work.

The relief and development NGO has £20,000 to support local organisations’ immediate relief activities, distributing food parcels, clean water, medicines, soap, cooking kits, blankets and shelter materials to homeless families.

"We are working closely with other ACT members to co-ordinate our response and avoid duplication," explained Neptaly Medina, Christian Aid’s emergencies officer for Central America.

After pummelling Nicaragua, Felix swept on through Honduras. The storm weakened over land, but heavy rains still caused flooding and landslides, destroying homes, roads, bridges, drains and crops.

In the northern Honduran province of Cortés, the River Ulúa rose by almost eight metres and broke its banks.

Christian Aid’s local partners had been monitoring the river closely. They helped identify shelters, organise emergency evacuations and build flood barriers.

Now these local organisations are distributing food, water, plastic sheeting and mattresses to families who had to flee their homes.

CASM (the Mennonite Social Action Committee) has been running disaster preparedness workshops with communities near the River Ulúa for over a year, helping them to set up early warning systems, local risk maps and evacuation plans.

As Felix blew in, CASM provided fuel, rope, waterproof jackets and boots to help with emergency evacuations.

Partners in Honduras began immediate relief efforts by drawing on their reserve funds. Christian Aid says it will be sending more money to support their continued relief and rehabilitation work over the coming weeks and months.

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