Its hard to say, but easy to catch. And deadly. Last week there were
seven cases. Now 14. As disease spreads, so does death.
As the Hurricane Mitch waters flooded the small sewage filled rivers,
the populous rat population fled to higher ground, into the cities.
They ate off animal carcases and human cadavers. They devoured
raw sewage spewing out of broken pipes. They bred and grew.
Whilst the humans hungered, the rats had a feast. The ones I saw in
our evacuated Crisis center were the size of young cats.
Leptospirosis is spread through a water supply that has been
infected by rats urine. It produces violent vomiting, diarrhea and, all too quickly, death.
The street children who have been delving through the infected
waters trying to find anything to eat or sell, are prime targets. Their
hands and bare feet already inflicted with small cuts, and the
infections on their feet, provide perfect gateways for this
unpronouncable and deathly virus.
This past week Casa Alianza staff have been vaccinating all the
street children in sight against hepatitus A and other preventible
diseases. The more than a dozen children with diarrhea have been
isolated and checked for infections. But the lack of water continues
to hinder personal cleanliness....
We continue to truck in expensive water for the temporary Crisis
Center, spending close to a hundred dollars a day. We have
purchased two large storage tanks to aument the momentary
supplies of water through the city|s system. The price of the
imperative bottled water has shot up from 14 lempiras a bottle pre-
Mitch to more than 20 now. Someone is making a killing. Those
without water and getting killed. Four people have already died of the leptos whatever.
As the days pass, the intensity of the emergency diminishes, as
human nature kicks in and we get used to living in a crisis. Bloated bodies are still being discovered as mounds of mud are shunted
from one side to another. A little boy fell from a damaged bridge with no handrail into the stench many meters below. He died. Another
little victim in the continuing tragedy of Mitch.
In our temporary Crisis Center, food rations have gone back to
normal and there is a sense of calm as the children are divided into
groups for activities, mindfully oblivious of the sea of human tragedy
all around them. Such irony that only now the general population of
Honduras - newly homeless, hungry and hurt - are begining to feel
what the street children suffer each day on the streets....
We negotiate for help. A few rations from CARE, some limited help
from the government, and a possible grant from the Inter American
Development Bank. Like treacle, the trickle down theory moves
slowly in a poverty plagued population desperate to move ahead.
Fifty years of progress wiped out in 3 days. With the new
government this year, we had all wished for a new Tegucigalpa. We
would now be more than happy with the old one we had last month.
There are still few smiles on the multitude of faces aimlessly
wandering around what are left of the capital|s streets. They are not
interrupted by the seas of TV cameramen anymore, who are now
probably peeking at Pinochet or staring at Sadam. But life, what is
left of it, must go on.
The TV news last night reported that the large shops in San Pedro
Sula and Tegucigalpa had put up the Christmas lights, and that
things were starting to get back to normal". And as the flood water
recedes and uncovers the bridges, the street children can once
again get back to their normality, and sleep under them once
Poor Honduras. Poor children....
From a tired soul, still trying to cling on to hope. With love,
Casa Alianza, a BOES.ORG Partner, received the prestigious Olof Palme Award 1997