Church agencies marshal relief Vaccines and supplies from New Windsor aid hurricane victims

November 13, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

A medical team will take 1,000 doses of anti-tetanus vaccine and medical supplies from New Windsor to storm-ravaged Central America tomorrow.

Tetanus toxoids, water purification kits, and anti-cholera medicines are included in the 70-pound medicine boxes that a New Windsor-based relief agency -- Interchurch Medical Assistance Inc. -- is sending to Honduras and Nicaragua to aid victims of Hurricane Mitch.

In the past two weeks, the agency and another New Windsor relief group -- Emergency Response Service Ministries, the disaster relief arm of Church of the Brethren -- have provided $3 million in aid to Honduras.

The team leaving tomorrow includes a doctor and a nurse from Pennsylvania. They are scheduled to remain in Honduras for 10 days.

Most of Nicaragua was spared by the worst hurricane to strike the Caribbean in more than 200 years, but the capital, Managua, is serving as a clearing house for supplies to the region.

Honduras, the second largest country in Central America, has been devastated. Thousands are still missing and presumed dead. Many communities in the hard-to-reach mountainous regions have not been heard from.

Flooding in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa reached the tops of telephone poles last week even though the city is built on hilly terrain 3,200 feet high.

Mitch is blamed for killing 10,000 throughout Central America and for leaving 3 million homeless. It was the worst storm since "The Great Hurricane of 1780," which killed 22,000.

Yesterday, Church of the Brethren shipped 10,000 pounds of pinto beans and 17,380 pounds of rice to Tegucigalpa, along with 400 cartons of "health kits" and 50 cartons of "layette kits" provided by Church World Service Inc.

The layette kits contain diapers, shirts, washcloths, sweaters, sweat shirts and blankets. They are given to mothers and others caring for infants. The health kits -- soap, combs, nail files, toothbrushes, toothpaste, Band-Aids, and hand towels -- are given to everyone.

"The challenge is to get things out as quickly as possible," said Kathleen Campanella, a Church of the Brethren spokeswoman. "We work church to church to ensure that the people who need them get these things."

The challenge in emergencies is to feed people immediately and provide them with medical care, Campanella said. The next task is to help victims begin recovery. Tools, building supplies and bean seeds are being sent to the Dominican Republic to help victims of Hurricane Georges, which struck in late September, ,, she said.

XTC Some of the medical supplies are provided in "Village Dispensary Kits" that contain 19 basic and nonprescription medical supplies, Campanella said. The medical boxes provided by Interchurch Medical Assistance -- an international organization that coordinates the emergency medical relief efforts of 12 religious groups -- are used in clinics and field hospitals. They contain 17 essential medications and supplies -- some of which are prescription drugs.

Each medical box weighs less than 70 pounds so that it can be carried as luggage on airlines, as will happen tomorrow. Supplies that leave Baltimore-Washington International Airport in the morning will be in Tegucigalpa by afternoon, she said.

The tetanus toxoids, water purification kits and cholera antibiotics packed into medical boxes bound for Honduras were especially requested by emergency teams working there or that will be going there, Campanella said.

"We do the emergency effort and keep contributing till we are not needed any longer," said Don Padgett, pharmaceutical services director at Interchurch Medical Assistance.

His organization is also providing emergency help to victims of Hurricane Georges in the Dominican Republic -- Mitch's 120-mile-an-hour predecessor that killed 240, left hundreds of thousands of others homeless, and did $3 billion damage.

Interchurch Medical Assistance has sent $230,000 worth of medical supplies to the Dominican Republic and $219,000 to neighboring Haiti to help victims of Hurricane Georges.

Sometimes the task seems overwhelming.

"But I know the 1,000 doses of tetanus toxoid could save 1,000 lives," Campanella said. "You just have to have faith to know that you can make a difference."

Pub Date: 11/13/98

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