Gainesville-Matagalpa sister city project provides hurricane relief
April 1999

Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America with several days of non-stop rain in the last week of October and the first days of November,1998. Alarming reports were quickly heard about the nature of the disaster in Honduras, the hardest hit nation. Perhaps in disbelief, local government officials initially refused to acknowledge that "Mitch" had been equally devastating in Nicaragua. Therefore, news about Nicaragua were less expedient.

Once the damages were assessed, it became evident that Hurricane Mitch had created the worst natural disaster in Nicaragua in the last 100 years, surpassing the damage caused by the 1972 earthquake that destroyed Managua, the capital city. Over 20% of the population (865,000) was directly affected; almost 3400 were counted among the dead or disappeared; economic losses reached 1.5 billion (70% of the Gross National Product expected for 1998); approximately 8,000 kilometers of roads were heavily damaged; and 144,286 homes were destroyed.

In an effort organized by the Gainesville-Matagalpa Sister City Project, several community organizations and schools have been offering direct assistance to those affected by Hurricane Mitch. More than $3000.00 were raised in November and December. This money was distributed to two areas directly affected by "Mitch", Matagalpa (central) and Posoltega (eastern). While the area of Matagalpa was intensely chastised by overflowing rivers, Polsotega was nearly obliterated by a massive volcanic mud slide which was the result of a volcanic crater filled by "Mitch's" relentless rains.

Although no longer under the label of "emergency", the needs continue to be great. With luck, the first post-hurricane crops will be harvested in late August of this year. Until then Nicaraguans need assistance with food, medicine and agricultural tools.

Our donation in Posoltega, provided enough rice, oil, powdered milk, flour and soap for 60 families (approximately 300 people) during the difficult month of January.

In Matagalpa, our contributions were added to a fund administrated by our sister project, Casa Materna. Sixty four families are being supported with food, plastic and aluminum roofing, seeds, agricultural tools, clothes and medicines through August of this year. [During the worst of the crisis, Casa Materna was responsible for the medical care of all pregnant women in refugee camps after Hurricane Mitch.]

On Saturday, April 17th, at 7:30pm, the Sister City Project will host, an evening event to raise funds to follow-through with our committment to assisting Casa Materna's Hurricane Mitch Relief Project. The event will take place at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 4225 NW 34th Street. Dr. Jim Stansbury of the UF's Department of Anthropolgy, who just recently returned from a working trip to the region, will speak. In addition, Nicaraguan guitarist Jorge Padilla will perform traditional and original music. A buffet will feature a variety of desserts.

Donations of $5-$10.00 are requested for Casa Materna's Hurricane Relief project. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance. For more information, please call 336-1816 .

Robin G. Lewy
Rural Women's Health Project
Box 12016
Gainesville, FL 32604

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