By SHELIA BYRD, Associated Press Writer Shelia Byrd,

Associated Press Writer – Wed Jul 22, 3:09 am ET
JACKSON, Miss. – The Salvation Army is struggling with dwindling donations across the country that will make it hard to give long-term assistance after a disaster, and a spokesman for the charity says “we have to hope and pray” this year’s hurricane season is mild.

The organization will continue to provide the basics – food, water and shelter, said Maj. George Hood, the Salvation Army’s national spokesman. But it isn’t likely to offer more costly recovery aid, such as the $10,000 grants that were given to Hurricane Katrina victims to help them repair their homes. The religious charity also has given mortgage, rent and downpayment assistance to disaster victims in the past.

The Salvation Army’s cost-cutting moves include plans to close two offices along the Hurricane-prone Gulf coast: one in Mississippi’s Hancock County Aug. 28 and one in Metairie, La., in December. Both were Katrina recovery centers.

Hood said the moves were made by local divisions of the charity.

“The problem is the economy,” Hood said, adding that the agency will still be able to offer basic services in a crisis. “If and when we have a hurricane, the Salvation Army will be there. We’ll be mobilized.”

Still, even last year, Hood said the organization was unable to offer as much sustained help in the aftermath of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike as in years past.

The charity usually raises $50 million to $75 million for a single hurricane relief effort, but last year, it raised only $13 million for the entire season, Hood said.



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EGYPT ISSUES WARNING ON MAKKAH; 8 Kuwaitis back with swine flu
KUWAIT CITY, July 21,  (Agencies): Eight Kuwaitis have tested postive for swine flu on their return from an Omra pilgrimage to Makkah and have been admitted to hospital, the Kuwaiti health ministry announced on Tuesday. The Kuwaitis, including six women, “underwent laboratory tests, which confirmed their infection by the A(H1N1) virus,” ministry spokesman Yussef al-Nisf.
“They are receiving the necessary treatment at the hospital and they are in stable condition,” he said. The new cases take the number of people in Kuwait confirmed to have contracted swine flu to 44, most of whom have now recovered, the spokesman said. Al-Nisf, quoting the Saudi Health Ministry, said that authorities there have called on the elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and children to postpone performing pilgrimage for this year. It also urged pilgrims to get vaccinated against seasonal flu two weeks prior to their departure as a precautionary measure. The spokesman said the health ministry is following the situation and is dealing with the patients in line with guidelines of the World Health Organization

Egypt has become the latest country to warn vulnerable Muslims against pilgrimage to Makkah, after an Egyptian woman back from Saudi Arabia became the first swine flu death in the Middle East and Africa.
Egypt’s health ministry “has warned the elderly, pregnant women, children and those suffering from chronic illness not to perform the Hajj or Omra pilgrimages,” the official MENA news agency reported late Monday.
As well as the annual hajj, which all Muslims are required to make once in a lifetime if they have the means, the faithful can also make a lesser pilgrimage to the holy places, known as omra, at any time of the year.
Upwards of two million people are expected in Saudi Arabia over the next five months on pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Makkah and Mdina in the west of the kingdom.