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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,

and cholera.

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,


she says.

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.

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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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