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Hurricane Relief: Cash Counts
This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 18, 1998.
Mud, devastation, and immense human suffering are
the images being sent to North America in the aftermath of Hurricane
Mitch, one of the most violent hurricanes of the past 200 years to
hit Central America. In Honduras and Nicaragua the death toll is
and more than 1 million are homeless or struggling for their lives.
Over 12,000 people are still missing. Hundreds of thousands of people,
desperate for food, water, medicine, and shelter, are becoming ever
more susceptible to outbreaks of epidemics such as malaria, diarrhea,
One television newsman, prone to dramatization, announced that in
his 25 years on the job he had never witnessed such devastation, and
that nothing short of a Cold War-syle Berlin airlift could bring
Former president Jimmy Carter, not known for exaggerating about
was there, too, and he said roughly the same thing.
Yet while our first instinct may be to reach for blankets, clothing,
canned goods, and even baseball equipment, to help Mitch’s victims,
the Red Cross recommends cash donations above all. Launching one of
the largest international relief operations in the organization’s
history, the Red Cross is appealing for cash because the
to receive and distribute gifts in kind has been destroyed.
"The most effective means to assist victims of Hurricane Mitch
is to make a financial contribution because it can be applied to the
rapid relief of the affected region," says David Novack of the
American Red Cross of Central New Jersey, located at 707 Alexander
Road. "The Red Cross is able to move cash instantly through wire
transfer to the affected areas. Moreover the purchasing power of the
U.S. dollar allows the Red Cross to maximize the value of each
With the cooperation of local Red Cross branches, the Red Cross in
Central America will provide food, blankets, chlorine, kitchen tools,
and materials for home reconstruction over a period of two months.
Cash contributions can be made to the American Red Cross
International Response Fund, American Red Cross, 707 Alexander Road,
Suite 101, Princeton, NJ 08540-6399 and American Red Cross
Response Fund, 123 How Lane, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. For credit card
contributions, call 1-800-HELP-NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish); or
locally by calling 609-951-8550 or 732-418-0800. Internet
users can make an online credit card contribution at
and choosing the option International Response Fund.
In Princeton, concerned individuals, organizations, and businesses
are also working to help Nicaraguan hurricane victims:
Jill Carpe of the Salty Dog craft shop at 4 Spring Street is helping
spearhead the area efforts of PeaceWorks to send aid into the region.
"Nicaragua may seem like it’s very far away and has nothing to
do with us here in Princeton, but in fact Princeton Township and
Borough both have a sister city relationship with Granada,
Carpe, who has visited the area twice in the past, says Nicaragua’s
death toll may reach 4,000. Working with the Central Jersey-Masaya
Friendship Cities Project and the Princeton-Granada Sister City
PeaceWorks is organizing cargo container aid shipments of
food items, clothing, and medical supplies. Donations of goods or
money are tax-deductible. Carpe is earmarking a portion of her
to the relief effort and urges other businesses to do the same.
As it has for the other 32 aid shipments it has sent to Nicaragua
since 1987, PeaceWorks will send the aid to Masaya Without Frontiers
(MASINFA), a professional organization that is serving as a regional
disaster relief organizer in Nicaragua. This aid will help people
with immediate relief assistance as well as long-term community
The deadline for donations is Friday, November 20. For information
or pickup, call the Salty Dog at 609-252-1815.
The Latino Chamber of Commerce of Mercer County, in conjunction with
organizations that include the Latina Women’s Council of Mercer
the Latino Law Enforcement Society of Mercer County, Hispanic-American
Medical Association, the Mercer County Hispanic Association, and the
Puerto Rican Parade Committee, has also launched a relief drive. This
group is collecting non-perishable food, clothing, and medical
To assist the Latino Chamber effort, contact Harry Luna at
Members of the Robert Wood Johnson Health System and Network has also
announced that its affiliated hospitals, health centers, and
communities will collect food and supplies for a Thanksgiving shipment
to Central America on Tuesday, November 24. Non-perishable food,
medicines, summer clothes, flashlights, batteries, baby items,
and building materials are being collected. For the location of
sites throughout the region, call 800-242-0022.
In Honduras alone, at least 600,000 people were left homeless by the
massive storm and more than 7,000 people are believed to have died.
Much of Honduras has literally been destroyed by Mitch which pounded
the country for several days. Preliminary damage assessments indicate
that Mitch destroyed 70 percent of the country’s bridges, 60 percent
of its water systems, and vast sections of highways and secondary
roads. Those roads and bridges not simply swept away by floodwaters
were buried by massive mudslides. More than 70 percent of the
— with bumper fall crops almost ready to harvest — was
by the storm, a stunning blow to a poor country largely dependent
on its domestic food production for feeding its population and for
export income. Nothing like it has hit since the 1974 Hurricane Fifi
killed 10,000 in Honduras.
In Nicaragua, at least 400,000 people are left homeless, overwhelming
government resources and raising the specter of epidemic. Scattered
cases of cholera already were being reported in some areas, and scorch
teams have been ordered to burn corpses in an effort to prevent the
spread of disease. Hundreds of bodies continue to be pulled from
and mudslides that can be as much as 20 feet deep. The eruption of
Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro volcano only added to the miseries of the
In many areas, the relief operation is being hampered by the
infrastructure. The death toll continues to rise.
A Disaster Action Response Team (DART) from Washington, D.C., has
been recruited to assist relief efforts. More than 8,000 paid and
volunteer staff from national Red Cross Societies in Central America
have been working around-the-clock rescuing those buried by mudslides
and stranded by flooding. Red Cross workers are also distributing
emergency relief and supporting first aid, evacuation, and sheltering
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