The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it plans to launch a $17-million emergency appeal for 100,000 hurricane victims in Nicaragua, as rescue crews reported that they were stunned by the intensity of the destruction wrought along the impoverished country’s northern coast. “The victims of this catastrophe are among the poorest and most vulnerable people, not just in Nicaragua but in the whole Latin American region,” WFP Country Director William Hart said of the last week’s landfall of Hurricane Felix. “As our staff arrive with supplies, it is clear they have been left with literally nothing. Everything is destroyed and their lives are in pieces. What we are discovering as we visit these remote areas is a desperate swathe of humanity that has been invisible to the outside world, and which now more than ever needs the help of outsiders,” he said. Initial reports indicate that of the almost 10,000 homes affected by the violent Category 5 hurricane, 80 per cent were completely destroyed. Almost 5,200 wells were contaminated and 6,000 latrines destroyed. Diarrhoea among children is increasing and heavy rainfall is creating unsanitary conditions that have raised fears of worsening health conditions. “The numbers of people seriously affected continues to grow while at the same time, as more information comes in from this remote region, we realize just how violent and destructive Hurricane Felix really was,” Mr. Hart said. “Not only have entire villages up and down the coast been pummelled and flattened into the ground, but extensive damage has also been reported among those living as much as 100 kilometres back from the coastline.” Hurricane Felix also ripped out large quantities of coconut, banana and mango trees, depriving inhabitants of basic foods. The upcoming harvest of rice and other vital crops has been lost, and due to salt water damage to fields it is expected that December’s harvest may be lost or severely reduced. Under the six-month WFP emergency operation, which is part of a consolidated appeal of UN agencies being announced today, WFP will provide a general distribution of emergency rations for the first three months, followed by food support for rehabilitation activities. These activities are likely to be extended for an additional period once a more detailed assessment of the region’s needs is completed. Meanwhile, WFP emergency feeding operations continue. Over the weekend, two ships carrying a combined total of 151 metric tons of food (enough for 15,000 people for 20 days) arrived in the battered coastal port of Bilwi (formerly Puerto Cabezas) after a two-day journey along the Escondido River. Bilwi has been cut off from overland transport after a key bridge was destroyed by Felix. About 14 tons of the food (enough to feed 1,550 for 18 days) was then transported by two United States Air Force helicopters to the town of Raiti, one of more than 100 Miskito Indian communities along the coast. Without the helicopters, which have established an air bridge in the area, the journey would have taken over a week. Yesterday the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it was seeking over $2 million in relief aid over the next six months for the hurricane victims. 13 September 2007The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it plans to launch a $17-million emergency appeal for 100,000 hurricane victims in Nicaragua, as rescue crews reported that they were stunned by the intensity of the destruction wrought along the impoverished country’s northern coast.