AJWS to Assist Flood Victims in Mexico and the Caribbean

New York, NY, November 6, 2007 – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) today announced that it is collecting financial contributions to assist victims of the recent flooding in Mexico and the Caribbean.

The flooding was caused by Tropical Storm Noel, whose rains have killed at least 108 people in the region. The storm strengthened into a hurricane in the Atlantic on Thursday, November 1. At least 66 people are reported dead in the Dominican Republic, many of them swept away in muddy floodwaters. The floods, triggered by days of unrelenting rain from Noel, have caused immense physical damage, including chest-high floodwaters that have collapsed several bridges, swept away thousands of houses and driven more than 64,000 people out of their homes.

Thirty-four people were also confirmed killed in Haiti, and in Cuba and the Bahamas there have been numerous evacuations and severe damage to infrastructure. In Mexico, at least 500,000 people lost their homes in what has been called the worst flooding the southeastern state of Tabasco has seen in more than 50 years. According to the government of Tabasco, 100 percent of the state’s crops and 70 percent of its land has been flooded.

AJWS grantee Santo Tomás Ecological Association has offices in Villahermosa, Tabasco’s capital city. The organization works with groups of small farmers throughout the state, who have been severely impacted by the flooding. Santo Tomás and other civil society organizations in Mexico and the Caribbean are currently evaluating the immediate humanitarian needs of the population to inform their response.

“The current situation in Villahermosa is extremely complicated, with everyone running around yelling, people hysterical, huge lines to buy food and water and enormous traffic jams,” said Elías Sánchez, the general coordinator of Santo Tomás. “Many of the shelters are in chaos, with food shortages and overwhelmed by too many people, without clear records of who is being served by the shelters.”

Support to the affected communities in Mexico and the Caribbean will be particularly critical once people begin returning to their homes to clean and recover their belongings. Flooding is likely to increase the economical and social problems in the affected states and communities.

“Because of relationships we have on the ground with various partner agencies in Mexico and the Caribbean, AJWS will be able to channel funds quickly and in a way that will have an impact on helping people in their time of need and in the future,” said AJWS spokesman Josh Berkman. “People have suffered devastating losses, and, on behalf of the American Jewish community, we are ready to be part of the relief effort.”

AJWS has been widely recognized for its ability to respond effectively to challenges in the developing world. Charity Navigator, the nation’s leading independent evaluator of more than 5,000 non-profit organizations recently awarded AJWS with a four-star rating, its top honor, for the seventh consecutive year. Only one other organization has received seven straight four-star ratings by Charity Navigator, which measures financial performance and efficiency.

The AJWS Rapid Relief Fund enables AJWS to provide assistance in emergencies that receive limited coverage by the media. This fund helps the organization to help project partners with whom it is already working when disaster confronts their communities. People who wish to contribute to the AJWS Rapid Relief Fund’s “Flooding in Mexico and the Caribbean” response should click here.

For all media inquiries, please contact:
David L. Marcus
212.792.2857