WFPUNHCRUNDPYear of Volunteers


ulrichspacerThese children at an emergency shelter in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa will never forget their week of terror when Hurricane Mitch swept through their country in October 1998, destroying villages and towns, and wiping out whole communities.

Nor will their parents forget Ulrich Fechter, a United Nations volunteer from Germany, whose initiative, skills and infinite patience helped them cope with the devastation and begin to rebuild their shattered lives.

In the four countries hardest hit by Hurricane Mitch — Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala — 11,000 people lost their lives. Another 10,000 have not been found and thousands more were left homeless. The damage to property and infrastructure has been estimated at some $5 billion.

Immediately after Hurricane Mitch began to subside, the World Food Programme (WFP) was on the ground distributing food. Because the UN agency had supplies in warehouses in the worst-affected zones, it was able to deliver food aid to desperate people within 48 hours, including some 600,000 people in Honduras alone.

More UN volunteers were also brought into Honduras where they spent three months helping to register displaced people and monitoring the distribution of food, water and other basic goods. Ulrich and other volunteers created a task force that identified people in need of urgent assistance. They helped shocked men and women fill in forms and arranged for micro-credit where necessary.

Whenever there are emergencies — because of natural disasters or civil strife — the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV) is called on to send professional men and women to work alongside UN staff and private relief agencies on the ground.

Administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) UNV includes volunteers come from more than 140 countries — with nearly two-thirds coming from the developing world. With an average age of 39, they have strong academic and work experience in more than 100 professional fields.

about how UN agencies help people during emergencies. Go to the links next to Ulrich