University of Pittsburgh
November 19, 1998


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 20 -- As Hurricane Mitch recedes from the headlines, the hardest hit countries, Honduras and Nicaragua, struggle to recover from the massive devastation left in its path.

How bad was the impact of Hurricane Mitch? What was the extent of the damage? What can be done to help these nations and their people recover? What organizations and agencies are taking the lead in this humanitarian effort, and how can individuals get involved?

These and other questions will be raised at the University of Pittsburgh beginning at 3 p.m., Monday, Nov. 23, when faculty and students from Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), the Center for Latin American Studies and departments of political science and anthropology meet to discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. It will be held in the GSPIA Lounge, Forbes Quadrangle Building, 230 S. Bouquet Street on the University of Pittsburgh campus.

The participants will include:

• Louise Comfort, GSPIA associate professor, who will moderate the discussion and speak briefly about the cumulative effects of disaster on the capacity of vulnerable nations for economic and social development;

• Jose Arqueta, Honduran citizen and Ph.D. candidate in political science, who will summarize the impact of the hurricane on Honduras, and the requirements for reconstruction;

• Silvia Torres, a Nicaraguan native and Ph.D. candidate in anthropology, who will discuss the impact of the hurricane on Nicaragua and the needs of the people in the affected area;

• Joe Narkevic, a master's candidate in GSPIA, who will summarize his work in both countries on the design and implementation of recently-installed water systems which were destroyed by the storm;

• Mitchell Seligson, political science professor, who will characterize the political background of Nicaragua and the conditions in which reconstruction will occur;

• Bill DeWalt, professor and director of the Center for Latin American Studies, who will describe the cultural response of the people to disaster, and

• Paul Nelson, GSPIA assistant professor, who will outline the role of non-government organizations (NGOs) in disaster relief.

Also on hand providing information will be the Red Cross, Building New Hope and the Mennonite Relief Organization, all of whom are actively engaged in relief work in the affected area.