-Honduras stinks....
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Wednesday, November 11th, '98  
From one of our Partners - Casa Alianza 

By broken bridges, landslides, muddied roads..

The stench along the river is suffocating. The acrid smell of bloated dog carcases and raw sewage cause burning in the back of my throat.
It took almost two hours to get from the airport to the Casa Alianza Crisis center - a journey that used to take 20 minutes, passing by broken bridges, landslides, muddied roads that make the car dance, and the queues of people waiting for water from the occasional cisterns. There is no water in their homes...

A perisistent drizzle makes the whole devasted city sticky. We get to the Chiles bridge and the whole concrete structure - or at least what is left of it - sways. The guard rails were washed off by the torrents of water which have since subsided. People below are scavaging through the mud, collecting drift wood for their open fires outside their tents: their new makeshift homes. Some wash their clothes in water that seems dirtier than the clothes themselves.

Children are everywhere. Most without clothes and almost none with shoes. Their protruding bellies, covered with mud and grime, are probably empty. Their smiles are missing as they sort through whatever they can find in the clay like mud along the edge of the river that used to be a street. There are 85,000 children under the age of five in emergency shelters here tonight. Almost none of them have a teddy bear...

Trauma is affecting many children here. On Saturday night, a former Casa Alianza resident, Jose Augusto Aguilar, discovered that his whole family had been washed away earlier that day. Their squatter's shack, seemingly clinging to the mountainside by what was formerly a trickling stream, washed away by monster rainfalls from a hurricane called Mitch. Jose just lost it...

He bought a bottle of insecticide used to kill termites that affect corn and beans, and he drank it. He wanted to be with his family. After several excruciating hours of foaming at the mouth and cringing in pain, his journey was complete. Casa Alianza's Legal Aid Office eventually rescued Jose's cadaver from the overcrowded morgue and laid him to rest in our ever fuller Casa Alianza graveyard....

On Monday the Casa Alianza Crisis center children were moved from the university rooms to a primary school that has been lent to us by the Honduran authorities. Classes have been postponed until February. Our staff made makeshift showers and toilets for the more than 60 children who are swelling the numbers of our crisis care. They needn't have bothered as this afternoon our water supply was cut off...

None of our four group homes have a water supply either. The children are taking towel baths with a small jug of water that we are purchasing at elevated prices as the intermediaries cream bigger profits on the back of this tragedy. The gasoline supply has improved over the last couple of days as the main road to San Pedro Sula, Honduras' second largest city, has been reopened.

We are still able to buy rice, beans, some vegetables and other dry goods - for a price. Over the past 12 days since the tragedy, prices have risen more than 50%. The government says there are enough supplies to last for 30 days or so. I am not sure what happens then.

We are trying to search for food aid from that which is begining to flow into the country. We have used two month's food budget for the Crisis Center in the past two weeks due to higher prices and more mouthes to feed. We are going to need help.

A Lieutenant from the Honduran military was arrested today for stealing a truck load of food aid....

The city of Tegucigalpa is still saying our Crisis center is in a high risk zone due to the fact that the river has undermined the land. We have brought in civil engineers to check and they are somewhat more positive, but reserve judgement. We have hired more people and have been able to scrape out the more than two feet of mud that were deposited in the building.

The older kids in our four group homes (the fifth is still evacuated) have been volunteering in soup kitchens and shelters. It is pay back time for them. There are 25 families where former Casa Alianza kids have been reintegrated who have lost everything except their dignity. We are giving them rice, beans, corn and sugar each week for as long as we can to tide them over.

The waters are beginning to receed, almost as fast as the Hurricane Mitch news disappears from the pages of your newspapers. The foreign journalists are heading home, leaving us to face the daunting task of reconstruction from a storm that dumped a full year's rainfall in just 3 days. Our children are hungry and shocked but, despite all of this, they are grateful to be alive.

Please stay with us in these difficult times ahead. I will send you more news later this week. If you have already helped us out, thank you so much. If you have not yet moved into action, please send us what you can. If you cannot help financially, please pray for the children and our staff. But please, do something...

With hope,

Casa Alianza
SJO 1039
PO Box 025216
Miami FL 33102-5216 USA
Casa Alianza, a BOES.ORG Partner, received the prestigious Olof Palme Award 1997

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