Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Central American Countries Face Years of Rebuilding

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Central American Countries Face Years of Rebuilding

Article excerpt

As a relief workers struggled to get food and medicine to victims of Hurricane Mitch, some observers predicted it would take years to rebuild sections of Central America.

The hurricane with its accompanying days of torrential rains, left more than 11,000 dead and more than 13,000 missing and feared dead in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

"The prospects ahead are depressing," said Jesuit Fr. Javier Ibizate, an economist at Jesuit-run Central American University in San Salvador.

"The economic infrastructure that has taken 50 years to build up has been lost in a matter of a week," he said Nov. 6. "This means [a need for] huge investments, depending largely on help from outside -- long-term, easy loans."

In Honduras, the worst hit of the countries, Mitch's storms destroyed 60 percent of the country's road, while entire neighborhoods were was away by mudslides.

Doug Ryan, country representative for Catholic Relief Services in Honduras, said disaster staff were "working furiously" to get emergency supplies to people stranded in hilltops or in villages. "But we can't do it fast enough. It's like swimming in a lake of human need," he said.

St. Joseph of Medaille Sr. Margarita Navarro, a native of Cincinnati who has worked in Nicaragua since 1983, said the situation there was being described as "apocalyptic".

"I have never witnessed anything of this kind in all my missionary life," said the 67-year-old nun. "The war in the 80's was horrendous, but this is worse." She said one fear accompanying the flooding was the land mines planted during the war "have floated on to unknown areas and are still active. …

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