MCC funds emergency food aid in drought-stricken Central America

Mennonite Central Committee
Friday, 14 September 2001

AKRON, Pa. -- As drought threatens 1.5 million people in Central America, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is responding with emergency food aid in Honduras and Nicaragua. Some 700,000 people have lost at least half of their crops across the region.

In Honduras, where the situation is most severe, MCC is organizing aid including 318 metric tons of corn, 36 metric tons of beans and nine metric tons of rice, all locally grown, for a total value of $180,000 Cdn./$117,000 U.S. MCC is covering the cost of the beans, while approval for funding for the remainder of the aid is pending with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

These supplies are being distributed by the Brethren in Christ church in Honduras with assistance from MCC personnel.

Marlin Good, MCC Honduras country co-representative, visited the southern state of Choluteca to observe the food distribution.

"The milpas (cornfields) of two brothers we visited were 100 percent failure," he said. "The families had pretty much been subsisting on mangoes."

Now that the mango season is nearly over, all the family has to eat is the donated food, Good said. This family is typical of others in the region, where 92 percent of the first harvest of the year was lost. Malnutrition -- a problem even in better times -- is growing, and desperate farmers are selling the seeds they would normally save for the next planting.

MCC Honduras is exploring additional emergency assistance in other areas of the country, as well as longer-range work to stabilize the food supply in the drought-prone Choluteca area.

In Nicaragua, MCC is funding food packets for rural families in 42 communities. Valued at $58,460 Cdn./$38,000 U.S., the packets will include rice, beans, corn, milk powder and oil and will feed 2,300 families for two to three weeks.

MCC is partnering with the Anabaptist Emergency Commission, or CAE, to organize the project. The CAE includes two representatives from each of the three Nicaraguan Anabaptist groups. They will work with local pastors and community leaders in the Boacu and Chinandega/Leon areas to distribute the food.

The rainy season typically begins in May, explained Mark Epp, MCC Nicaragua country co-representative. The first harvest occurs in August, with a second in November.

"Many farmers either have lost their entire first harvest, or harvested very little," Epp reported. "Many homes currently have little or no food on hand."

Some families are moving to the city or to Costa Rica in search of employment, while others who still have seed are planning to plant again with hopes of a November harvest.

MCC is accepting contributions for drought relief. Make checks out to MCC and note "Central America drought relief, 5940-2000."

For more information, or to contact Mennonite Central Committee, see their website at: www.mcc.org

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