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A place to call home

"On the fourth day of rain we woke up and found our house split down the middle."

That's how Kenia Elisabeth Cruz, mother of two, remembers her last moments in a modest wood dwelling that Hurricane Mitch reduced to splintered planks. "Things started tearing apart," recalls her husband, Juan Carlos Cruz, a construction worker. "Walls were falling over and getting swept down the street. We ran out without taking a thing and went to a nearby school. We lost everything we owned."

The four members of the Cruz family are typical of the more than one million people in Central America who were left homeless by Hurricane Mitch. They lived in a precarious home on a steep, unstable slope that had been stripped of the trees needed to prevent mud slides. But three days after the storm, the Cruzes were back on the hill, desperate to collect and guard the wooden planks that were their only remaining possessions. With his father's help, Juan Carlos has already built a one-room hut with the salvaged lumber. But the hut is only a few feet further up the hill than his previous home, and it will undoubtedly be vulnerable in the event of another large hurricane.

In this respect the Cruz family is also typical among hurricane victims. Until they have enough money to meet their basic food, clothing and health needs, they cannot even think of moving or attempting to purchase land and materials to build in a safer location. In order to keep tens of thousands of other families from reestablishing themselves in flood- and landslide-prone areas, the Honduran government must quickly mobilize enormous resources in the form of land, building materials and credit.

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