Hondurans Give Up On Mitch Aid

Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade is not a patient man. Within days of Hurricane Mitch he went to work rebuilding houses in Honduras.

"We decided we weren't going to wait for the government, we were going to start doing it ourselves," Frade told CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts.

That's the message Frade will deliver to President Clinton when they meet Tuesday.

In the isolated villages of Honduras that the president won't get to see -- relief agencies agree -- any major U.S. relief package likely won't reach the people who need it most.

"It's blasphemous!" exclaims Ferdinand Mahfood, founder of Florida-based Food for the Poor. "Ten percent of the aid that comes to this part of the world gets to the people and 90 percent stays at a government level or a civil servant level."

CBS News found government-run warehouses in Honduras and Nicaragua where aid has been sitting for months. Clothing and canned goods from the U.S. stacked ten feet high. Some of it has gone to waste.

In the meantime, at least 100,000 people in Honduras are still homeless. Vicente Lopez and her four children live in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt School gymnasium with 25 other families and nine chickens.
U.S. food aid stacked in a warehouse. (CBS)
Many residents here say they are not getting any help from their government. It's a complaint heard the most in the rural areas, where 70 percent of all Hondurans live.

Right after the floods, the government promised one group of residents that they would supply heavy equipment to rebuild a bridge connecting two villages. So far, there's no dump truck or cement mixer -- just a wheelbarrow and some shovels that residents have used since November.

The village of Waller in northern Honduras is one such place where the road to recovery comes to a dead end, literally. Four months after Hurricane Mitch, the entire village remains underwater, chest-deep. A 'new' lake is where 600 people use to live.

The only aid delivered has come from churches and Mahfood's relief agency. "Government to government doesn't work," Mahfood says. "It has never worked and it will never work." He adds it won't work this time either. "They were poor when we were born and they will be poor when we die," he says.

It's a cycle of poverty and despair money alone will not end.


Reported By Byron Pitts
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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