Thursday, November 5, 1998 Published at 03:18 GMT
Famine fears after floods
Some 500,000 are homeless in Honduras
Hurricane Mitch has set back development in Central America by 20 years, the United Nations World Food Programme has warned.
They also fear outbreaks of cholera, malaria and dengue fever caused by pools of stagnant water littered with rotting bodies.
Officials say floods caused by Mitch have wiped out about 70% of staple crops in Honduras and Nicaragua.
The World Food Programme has warned up to half a million people may need food and shelter.
Similar emergency deliveries are underway to 15,000 people in El Salvador and 37,000 people in Guatemala.
WFP liaison officer Rosa Antolin said food crops and livestock had been totally wiped out in some regions.
"The destruction is huge... In just one day the region has been set back 20 years," she added.
Nicaragua: 'We need $15m emergency aid'
Aid workers across the world are on their way to Central America to join the international rescue operation.
Europe has approved nearly $8m in humanitarian aid, adding to some $3.7m already given by the United States.
Taiwan, which regards the region as one of its few diplomatic allies, has donated $2.7m.
But the Nicaraguan ambassador to the UN said his country alone needed some $15m in emergency aid.
The UN and the Pope have made appeals over the last few days.
But with the region's road network in tatters, it is feared supplies might not reach some hard-hit communities in time.
Next year's harvest threatened
The floods have not just damaged December's crop but also new seedlings planted for next year.
The BBC Central America correspondent Peter Greste says many farming families will have to take drastic action to survive.
Some will go into debt to buy new crops, many more will probably migrate to the cities causing greater long term problems.
The priority for the agencies is to help farmers survive where they are in the short term until they can reap the next harvest.
President turns over aid distribution to church
Meanwhile, Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman, under fire from the Sandinistas, has turned over aid distribution to the Roman Catholic Church to avoid turning the tragedy into a political issue.
Mr Aleman said the disaster was a greater tragedy than the country's 1972 earthquake which killed at least 10,000 people.
Mitch was the fourth most powerful Atlantic hurricane this century when it roared out of the Caribbean last week.
Its death toll could still grow sharply as 13,000 people are still missing following the storm, which swept away hundreds of thousands of homes.