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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 8, 1999


          President Clinton Announces New Disaster Assistance
               to alleviate the Impact of Hurricane Mitch

President Clinton continues to advance aggressive U.S. efforts to help Central American nations recover from Hurricane Mitch. To date, the United States has provided more than $300 million to address immediate relief and rehabilitation needs in Central America.

During the President's visit to Nicaragua today, the Administration announced new initiatives to improve health care, build temporary shelters and support schools. The Administration also announced new efforts to lend technical expertise in meeting health and environmental needs, and supporting microenterprise; to support regional demining; and to mitigate the impact of future disasters through watershed management.

These new initiatives will be funded primarily by $120 million already allocated to USAID in the Administration's 1999 budget. Thus, we plan to implement these initiatives even in advance of congressional action on the President's emergency supplemental request for $956 million in additional assistance. The initiatives are aimed at assisting the Central American nations recover from the hurricane and continue their transformation towards peace, democracy, human right and free markets.


The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing $10.6 million to enhance the quality of primary health care in Nicaragua, particularly in rural areas, hard-hit by Hurricane Mitch. This assistance includes:


USAID will channel $1.5 million through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to provide temporary shelter for 4,000 people displaced by Mitch, including up to 900 people in Posoltega. Work is scheduled to begin this month on the temporary shelters, which will be built on or near sites selected for permanent housing.


USAID will provide $12.5 to the Academy for Educational Development to increase the number of Nicaraguan children completing primary school and enhance the quality of the education system. The program, which will be implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education, will also include a new initiative to promote bilingual education in the Atlantic region. More than 800,000 school-aged children will benefit from this program, especially those in rural areas.

Disaster Mitigation

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), funded by USAID, will conduct in-depth assessments in major watershed areas this month, and will recommend emergency watershed and disaster mitigation actions needed, for implementation by the government of Nicaragua. This follows a January USDA assessment of the Casita Volcano area and is part of an overall USAID program to help the Government of Nicaragua rebuild in ways that mitigate the impact of future disasters.

Crisis Corps

The Peace Corps will deploy additional Crisis Corps volunteers to Central America to lend their expertise to organizations addressing water, sanitation, health, environment and small business development needs. The President dispatched Crisis Corps volunteers, part of a Peace Corps program for former Peace Corps volunteers, to Central America at Mrs. Gore's recommendation following her November visit to the region. The volunteers have been supporting housing reconstruction, working with farmers to replant crops, and providing education about disease control and sanitation. Throughout Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala, nearly 450 Peace Corps volunteers are working in agriculture, health, small business development and environmental awareness.


The U.S. Department of State will provide $1.8 million to enhance demining efforts in the region. This includes funding to train dogs and handlers, purchase equipment and provide medical evacuation. Flood waters from Hurricane Mitch shifted mines in the region, preventing Honduras from reaching its goal of mine eradication by the year 2000 and hindering ongoing demining activities in Nicaragua, the most heavily mined country in Central America. This new contribution provides additional support to the Organization of American States/InterAmerican Defense Board, which supports expanded demining operations in the region. The U.S. has provided $6.5 million since 1993 to supports its operations.