Washington, DC, 12 November 1998- The effects of Hurricane Mitch could result in setbacks to health progress in Central America, according to officials at the Pan American Health Organization.
"It is really unfortunate that all our advances of this decade, like increased coverage of drinking water, and sanitation, access of the population to health services, elevated vaccination rates, and notable gains in life expectancy run the risk of a great setback," said Dr. Mirta Roses, PAHO's Assistant Director.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has been working intensively with Central America since long before health became a bridge for peace in the conflict-ridden 1980s. Central America, one of the most vulnerable areas of the continent with high levels of poverty, had made significant progress in health, although its needs will be much greater after the devastating effects of the Hurricane Mitch, she said.
The result of Hurricane Mitch, she said, is that "All the diseases that afflicted people in Central America are going to continue. The interruption of health services, difficulties of transportation and communication hampering access to displaced populations, and desperation from the loss of lives and of family members, having abandoned their houses and their lands, make the situation more urgent."
Today, Central America faces three distinct and separate problems, Dr. Roses said. The first is dealing with populations in areas that are still inaccessible, because "we don't know what situation they're in and how we can reach them with assistance." Nongovernmental organizations, neighboring towns and international agencies have been doing great work mobilizing transport to those populations, she said.
The second problem involves people in shelters, Dr. Roses said. "These people
have very specific needs and we are working with the Health Ministries to
provide water, sanitation, and food to those still in shelters. In Honduras and
Contact: Daniel Epstein
Pan American Health Organization