Human Trafficking in Honduras
Honduras is a country located in Central America. Guatemala borders it to the west, Nicaragua to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south, which makes Honduras a hub of activity in Central America. These 10 facts about human trafficking in Honduras highlight the critical information about human trafficking in general and what groups are fighting for the rights of human trafficking victims.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Honduras

  1. Human Trafficking: Globally, about 80 percent of human trafficking victims end up in the sex trade and another 19 percent of human trafficking victims find themselves subjected to labor exploitation. In total, approximately 13 million children and 27 million adults across the world find themselves subjected to human trafficking.
  2. Luring: While human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, rampant poverty in other countries influences it. Human traffickers often entice victims with promises of better opportunities to isolate them from those who could help them. This tactic is a common way to lure victims into both sex and labor trafficking.
  3. The Honduran Government’s Efforts: As of 2019, the U.S. government labeled Honduras a tier-two country in reference to how it fights against human trafficking. This classification means that while Honduras does not meet the minimum requirements for the eradication of human trafficking, the Honduran government is making significant strides to investigate and convict sex traffickers. An example of this is that the Honduran government increased funding to the Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT).
  4. Global Communities’ First Phase: Many non-governmental organizations work on the Honduran human trafficking crisis. One such NGO is Global Communities. Global Communities’ two-step program highlights efforts to eliminate human trafficking. The first phase of this program consists of raising awareness among Honduran citizens and increasing the ability of the regional government and NGOs to help victims.
  5. Global Communities’ Second Phase: The second phase of Global Communities’ plan is to provide a more advisory role when it comes to fighting against human trafficking in Honduras. This advisory role involves working as facilitators for CICESCT, which primarily worked to fight against sexual exploitation before 2012. With Global Communities’ help, CICESCT started lobbying the Honduran government for support for long-term campaigns against human trafficking.
  6. Human Trafficking Victim Ages: In Honduras, the average age when victims enter the human trafficking system is between 14 to 16 years old. A potential reason behind this is that family members of people in their hometown bring most young trafficking victims into the industry. Given that children would be much more likely to listen to someone they know as opposed to a stranger, this could explain the average age of entry.
  7. Forced Crime: Honduran trafficking victims not only find themselves used for labor and sex; another common form of trafficking is forced crime. A victim of forced crime trafficking will often find themselves thrust into drug-related crimes such as smuggling. Twenty-four percent of all human trafficking victims in Honduras are forced to commit crimes to the benefit of their captors.
  8. Gender Disparity: There are differences in trafficking rates between Honduran men and women. For example, 42 percent of labor trafficking victims are male, while 55 percent are female.  Only 13 percent of sex trafficking victims are male, while an astronomical 81 percent of sex trafficking victims are female.
  9. USAID Recommendations: As of 2018, USAID gave a list of recommendations that the government could use to improve its fight against human trafficking in Honduras. CICESCT has already enacted some suggestions, such as increased awareness among youth and LGBTQ individuals through programs. The CICESCT is lobbying for other improvements like expanded services for trafficked individuals.
  10. SEDIS: The Honduran Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (SEDIS) works diligently to provide former victims of human trafficking with counseling, economic support and medical attention when necessary. SEDIS also distributed small loans to 21 victims to give them a leg up on starting a small business. These programs are incredibly beneficial to the well-being and recovery of former human trafficking victims.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Honduras show that while Honduras has some catching up to do in the fight against human trafficking, the country is well on its way to eliminating it. Honduras will be able to take on the difficulties of modern-day human trafficking with groups like USAID, Global Communities, SEDIS and CICESCT. As these 10 facts have shown, eliminating human trafficking may be difficult, but it is most certainly a just and attainable goal.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Where is the Northern Triangle?
With a long history of political and economic instability, the Northern Triangle has provided little reason for citizens to stay. Where is the Northern Triangle? This emigration haven lies in Central America and comprises of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Causes of Emigration

In short, the main emigration drivers in the NTCA involve political corruption (due to past wars and ongoing greed), economic instability (due to droughts and poor trade practices), gang violence (related to lack of educational and rehabilitation programs) and family matters (attributed to desired remittance and reunification with distant family).

The NTCA’s past, current and potential (up-for-office) political officials consistently squander the countries’ limited funds for personal advancement at the cost of its people. These authoritarian countries recently switched to democratic rule, but its leaders lack the experience and morale necessary to implement a well-running democracy. Low tax rates and lack of direction prevent subsidization of social, civil, health-related and educational programs and protection agencies vital to the NTCA’s transition to a safe, thriving region.

Since 2014, the U.S.A.’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has collaborated with the NTCA to fund over $315 million of specialized programs improving tax administration, youth workforce and public-private markets across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Efforts from the MCC help the 25 percent of youth who do not work or attend school in these countries. As of 2017, nearly 60 percent of youth who do work do so informally or unregulated by the government.

Crime Management, Informal Work and Gangs

Beyond educational and vocational pitfalls, these countries possess poor crime management. NTCA homicide rates have decreased since 2014, but they remain higher than the global average. The Atlantic Council reports 75 percent of NTCA citizens as doubting their judicial systems’ ability to protect them. This primarily stems from the nearly active gang violence and 95 percent of homicides that go unsolved in these countries. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, six children flee to the U.S. per every 10 homicides in the Northern Triangle. This leads to the separation of families and greater difficulty in establishing long-lasting labor practices in these countries.

Informal work is another causal factor of emigration as people search for better financial opportunities. The U.S. is such a major destination for these emigrants, it is no wonder many U.S. Americans might ask “Where is the Northern Triangle?” In fact, in the first five months of FY2019, authorities apprehended about 26,937 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) and 136,150 families at the U.S.-Mexican border, with nearly 47 percent of UACs and 49 percent of families, 25 percent of UACs and 38 percent of families and 11.5 percent of UACs and 9 percent of families coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. These emigrants inadvertently create financial burdens, safety threats and attention deficits in the U.S.

UACs pose a huge threat to U.S. borders because of their use by gang members. U.S. immigration legislation, like Obama’s catch-and-release policy and the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), allow gangs to get around policies involving UACs. Gangs make about $1,500 per smuggled child in border regions that they control and oftentimes convert UACs into gang members once they settle in U.S. territory. In return, alien-driven crime and the U.S. opioid epidemic continue to implode. Furthermore, transnational government corruption with cartel commerce continues.

According to U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), the State Department gave Congress an incomplete watch-list of criminal Northern Triangle government officials as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 required. Thus, skepticism surrounds U.S. and NTCA political ties in criminal activity. Overall, government corruption and U.S. immigration policy loopholes remain pressing obstacles to boosting the workforce and prosperity of the Northern Triangle.

US Humanitarian Efforts

Fortunately, many U.S. humanitarian efforts positively impact life in the Northern Triangle. Notably, in the Plan Columbia (PC) of 1999, the U.S. gave Columbia $10 billion for economic and anti-narcoterrorist efforts. In return, Columbia acts as a key trader with the U.S. and a facilitator of progression tactics in NTCA. Similarly, the U.S. derived the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) of 2006 that supports Northern Triangle involvement in commerce and exposure to retail chains.

The U.S. also works with the Inter-American Development Bank to fund a billion-dollar improvement strategy written by the NTCA presidents. Within this strategy, called the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the three presidents provide strategic pillars and action plans to put outside funds to effective use. Additionally, the U.S. works with Mexican and Northern Triangle governments through the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act to improve security at the NTCA-Mexico border.

Outside of government action, several international organizations aid in Central American projects that chip away at NTCA poverty and political issues. Action Aid largely focuses on anti-poverty efforts in the NTCA. Care International, CHF International and Center for International Private Enterprise assist the NTCA with crime reduction and community support, youth education and empowerment and educated civilian political involvement, respectively.

Assistance from humanitarian groups and relationships with American countries help NTCA leaders impose more effective government policies and citizen-focused programs. With expertise and financial aid from more developed countries, the new democratic leaders can grow with the young workforce to build a long-lasting, more-trusting culture in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In return, a reduction in emigration, the ongoing gang turmoil and behind-the-scenes narco relations can help lead to a more sustainable Northern Triangle. Increased focus on the source of NTCA emigration and continued assistance might alleviate the inquisitive question, “Where is the Northern Triangle?”

– Caroline Bell
Photo: Flickr

Generous Coffee Co.'s Purpose is Giving Back
Ben Higgins, a former star of “The Bachelor”, gives back through his company Generous Coffee Co. He does this with his friend and business partner Riley Fuller and they operate Generous Coffee Co. as a not-for-profit organization. The purpose that Higgins and Fuller have in mind stems from kindness, efficiency and sustainability. Generous Coffee Co.’s customers know that the company uses its profits to change lives for the better around the world

The Foundation of Generous Coffee Co.

Higgins and Fuller had the idea for Generous Coffee Co. in Honduras at the end of 2016. While having dinner, a friend asked them how Fuller’s nonprofit, Humanity and Hope United, would survive if its fundraising ran out. Fuller founded Humanity and Hope United in 2010 after a family mission trip to Honduras inspired him in 2007.

Honduras is home to 8.5 million people, but 70 percent of them earn less than $1,200 a year. The country has the highest rate of income inequality in Latin America. In rural areas, 50 percent of the population lives beneath poverty levels, which means that one in every five people make less than $1.90 a day, or less than $700 a year. Education plays a large role in continuing or ending the cycle of poverty, and the Honduran education system is doing extremely poorly; only around 30 percent of students continue to high school after sixth grade because their families cannot afford secondary school. Ninety percent of the students who stop in sixth grade have to repeat a grade at some point. Approximately 100,000 students drop out of school every year because they need to start working to help provide for their families.

Humanity of Hope United

The critical conditions for families in Honduras inspired Fuller to found Humanity of Hope United. The organization currently provides relief to multiple villages throughout Honduras by providing people with clean water, making education more accessible and working to improve employment opportunities. Humanity of Hope United has an education sponsorship program where donors sponsor children for $100 a month, which pays for a student’s food, transportation, school uniform and school supplies.

The organization also creates job opportunities with the Grand Farm, a 30-acre farm that grows crops and raises animals in a village called La Coroza. The farm currently has 126 people working on it who make around $10 a day, and about $50 for each cow that they sell on the farm. This is a significant improvement over the average $2 per day that other Honduran farmworkers make. In 2019, Humanity of Hope United reached a milestone when it exceeded its goal of raising $200,000 to purchase The Grand Farm for the people of La Coroza. In fact, the organization has raised $215,000 for the farm. Humanity of Hope’s work started the goals that Higgins and Fuller continued with Generous Coffee Co.’s “purpose, not profit” business model.

Generous Coffee Co.’s Coffee and Reach

At the beginning of the project, Higgins and Fuller invited Drew Scholl to be a partner in Generous Coffee Co. because Scholl had already tried to create a coffee company that worked with developing countries. Together, the three of them established Generous Coffee Co. in November 2017. Generous Coffee Co.’s purpose is to invest 100 percent of its profits into charity organizations to help the countries that make the company’s coffee. The company operates in Honduras, Rwanda, Colombia and Guatemala, and roasts the beans at Utopian Roasters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Higgins’ home town. All of the coffee sold by Generous Coffee Country has single, traceable origins. After roasting and packaging, the company sells its coffee directly online. Generous Coffee Co. has over 50 volunteers that help the company in its efforts to spread generosity and give back to the people who make its coffee.

Every two or three days, the company ships coffee orders to consumers and cafes. In 2018, Generous Coffee Co. launched a clothing line that sells t-shirts that single mothers in Haiti make, providing them with a living wage and retirement insurance. The company also started a program where people can go on trips with the company and opened its inaugural Generous Coffee Shop in Golden, Colorado at the Tributary Market. As Generous Coffee Co.’s purpose of giving back to its sources continues, the company aims to let people invest in the company and to expand globally into Generous International.

Purchases of Generous Coffee makes a positive impact worldwide, and its customers know that by buying from Generous Coffee Co., they are giving back to its sources.

Cyndi Payton
Photo: Wikipedia

Protests in Honduras
People have accused Juan Orlando Hernández, current president of Honduras, of corruption, electoral fraud and drug trafficking since his reelection in 2017. With his sudden change of the Honduran constitution that allowed him to run for two terms instead of just one, the people of Honduras have felt his corruption and repression. The lack of involvement from the government to end organized crime and gang violence and provide aid to those suffering from the poverty that affects 60 percent of the country’s population has caused hundreds of protests across the country.  Although finding asylum in the United States is the reason so many Hondurans are migrating north, others are using their right to protest as their biggest weapon towards finally receiving the justice and aid that they deserve. Here are 10 facts about the protests in Honduras.

10 Facts About the Protests in Honduras

  1. The protests in Honduras first began through trade unions that represented doctors, nurses and teachers. The Hernandez Administration and Congress were working on an initiative to restructure the country’s health care and education systems which would have resulted in mass layoffs and privatization. These first protests led to them dropping the initiative, however. This positive result made many people believe that they could also make their voices heard. Soon protests made up of university students, the poor, ministers and their churches, civil rights defenders, land rights activists, other unions and even some branches of the police began to take place in the streets of Honduras and these have not stopped.
  2. Despite the many different groups of people in the streets, one common demand that all protesters share is the removal of President Hernandez from office. Cid Gallup’s recent survey showed that the president’s approval rating dropped from 61 to 36 percent since 2017. It also found that more than 80 percent of interviewees did not trust the country’s main judicial and political institutions. Many Hondurans believe that President Hernandez has been receiving money from drug cartels to not only fund his campaigns but to let drugs go through Honduras. The people see him as the main source of the corruption found in their country and believe his removal would allow them to begin to rebuild its democratic government once again.
  3. According to the human rights organization, CONADEH, violent protests that were post-election in mid-January 2018 led to the killing of 31 people, the wounding of 232 people and the detainment of 1,805 people. The United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern about the excessive use of force that the Military Police of Public Order, released by President Hernandez, have been using on the crowds of protestors. Many of them are throwing tear gas at the crowds, homes and shopping centers which not only harms the protesters but children and senior citizens in the area. The police have also gone as far as shooting into crowds with live ammunition. This type of repression that the president issued is not only putting the people of Honduras in danger but also their right to protest peacefully.
  4. The Military Police of Public Order is a force of around 5,000 troops who are under the control of the president. It comprises of soldiers who patrol neighborhoods as policemen and are the first to arrive at protests to break them up. Honduran human rights organizations have been calling for the dismantlement of this force since its introduction into the country’s streets due to the lack of training that the soldiers are receiving. According to the Latin America Working Group, training periods for these soldiers only last a couple of months. Unlike the Military Police of Public Order, some members of the police department and the COBRA Special Forces have refused to take action to repress their fellow citizens.
  5. An Amnesty International report in 2018 stated that Hondurans who authorities arrest during protests are oftentimes denied their right to due process and held in inhumane conditions. Authorities have prolonged pre-trial detention for many prisoners in attempts to suppress the formations of more protests. Authorities also seek after the leaders and activists of these protests to discourage and instill fear in fellow protesters. Authorities hold many of these prisoners in terrible conditions for months and even after their release, they still face criminal charges. Although the government is attempting to generate fear through prison time, many Hondurans refuse to be silent and continue to protest in places like the United States’ Embassy in Tegucigalpa.
  6. In an attempt to discredit the protesters, Security Minister Julian Pacheco Tinoco and other government officials have claimed that the people participating in the protests are drug traffickers and gang members. No government institution has followed these allegations taking measures to protect Honduran citizens from the Military Police of Public Order’s repressive actions during protests. The government human rights office, CONADEH, did report on the killings and called on authorities to avoid the use of lethal arms against protesters. It even went as far as asking the Public Ministry to investigate cases of abuse but its calls for justice did not receive any attention from the Public Ministry or the government. No investigations launched on the abusive measures that the Military Police of Public Order partook in.
  7. Despite the violence, deaths and abuse of power from the President’s Military Police, Hondurans continue to protest and limit their silence. From March to June 2019, at least 346 protests have occurred throughout the country. Protests can range from 40 to 50 people to a couple hundred and even thousands. The want for change in their country is greater than the fear the Miltary Police is administering. As the protests grow in numbers and people, the thirst for change also grows within the country’s people.
  8. Social media has become a huge tool for the protests in Honduras. Due to the large and fast reach of the internet, young protesters are able to call on fellow Hondurans and create spontaneous protests at any time of the day. Because people often believe that the government manipulates Honduras’ media due to the harassment of dozens of reporters, social media and personal networks are helping protesters create a community online. They not only set up protests but also use their platforms to share reliable news articles with one another.
  9. These protests have also inspired smaller groups of people such as the LGBTQ+ community. In May 2019, an LGBTQ+ march occurred in Tegucigalpa and 350 members walked through the streets asking to end the violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Since 2009, more than 300 gay and transgender people have been murdered in Honduras. Activists within the group, such as the coordinator of Lesbian Network CATTRACHAS, are also asking the Supreme Court to establish a process by which transgender people can change their name and gender on official documents while also asking for same-sex marriage to be legal. The fact that these people, who usually are victims of violence, are not afraid to protest shows how courageous they are and how determined they are to rebuild their country.
  10. Women are also making their voices heard in their fight for human rights despite the violent turns a protest in Honduras can take. According to the National Observer, there is one woman murdered every 16 hours in Honduras. In the first six months of 2017, there were 99 murders of women in the country. The women of Honduras ask for a country that provides security to them. More and more women are holding rallies and forming marches. Women’s groups in the country are even creating legislation that will protect them in the hope that Congress will pass them. This is yet another way that protests are having an impact on Honduras.

These 10 facts about protests in Honduras show that it is necessary to have a democratic institution to protect and serve the people. President Hernandez is continuously using his power to repress his people in the hopes of silencing them and their protests. But the people of Honduras have not let themselves be discouraged and are gaining the will to continue to fight. Protests are the biggest tool for Honduran citizens to call for change and gain the attention of the government and the rest of the world. As protests in Honduras continue, Hondurans hope to rebuild the democratic government that they deserve.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

 

thenortherntriangle
Many know the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for their high crime rates and their role in the refugee crisis at the southern border of the U.S. The good news about the Northern Triangle, however, is that crime and murder rates are declining, there has been notable poverty reduction and the economy is growing in the region. The future of the Northern Triangle is not as bleak as news coverage often indicates. These 10 facts provide information on the good news about the Northern Triangle.

10 Pieces of Good News About the Northern Triangle

  1. From 2008 to 2013, educational initiatives in Honduras created 800 new preschools. Additionally, access to education in impoverished communities increased from 36 percent to 50 percent. The educational initiatives also provided training for teachers employed at the new schools.
  2. During the past decade, Guatemala’s agricultural diversity has expanded, and it is now a top regional exporter of green beans, fruit and other types of produce. This has created more prosperity for small farmers.
  3. In El Salvador, economic growth has occurred steadily as well. In 2013, its GDP per capita was $3,516 and its exports were $5.5 billion. Four years later, El Salvador’s GDP per capita was $3,895 and its exports were $5.8 billion.
  4. From 2016 to 2017, the Northern Triangle’s homicide rates fell by 23 percent. Salvadoran murder rates fell by 34 percent and Honduran murder rates fell by 28 percent, with a comparable decline in Guatemala.
  5. Thanks in large part to USAID agricultural programs, the Guatemalan economy added 78,000 new jobs from 2013 to 2017. The new jobs created $160 million and specifically benefited the Western Highlands, a region that is a frequent source of migrants.
  6. From 2011 to 2016, USAID provided assistance to Salvadoran businesses. By 2016, there were 22,000 new jobs in the Salvadoran economy. The higher number of employment opportunities led to higher incomes and provided non-violent alternatives to youth at risk of being involved in gang violence.
  7. Poverty increases rates of illegal migration, but thanks to U.S. assistance, rates of illegal migration from the Northern Triangle were lower in 2017 than they had been since 1971. The three-year U.S. led initiative to reduce illegal migration through development aid was effective.
  8. The Honduran government is taking measures to reform the criminal justice system. In 2011, Honduras introduced a new Comprehensive Coexistence and Security Policy. In 2011, Honduras overhauled its police force, ousting large numbers of officers deemed unfit to serve. The country closed many mismanaged Honduran prisons, showing its commitment to respecting human rights.
  9. A commission formed to investigate corruption in the Honduran government launched its investigations in 2017. Although the investigated officials have made it difficult for the commission to conduct its work, it has continued to exist. The Honduran people and anti-corruption forces within the government continue to support the commission, indicating a commitment to respecting democratic norms. As the country’s economic situation improves, its people feel freer to demand a fair society.
  10. Guatemalan anti-corruption forces have seen unprecedented success. With support from the U.N., the Guatemalan anti-corruption commission was able to successfully conduct cases against multiple corrupt former presidents. In 2015, the commission forced President Molina, who previously engaged in fraud, to resign; he later became imprisoned.

These countries are building new schools and growing crops, while crime rates are falling and they are taking steps to fight corruption. These examples all spell good news for the Northern Triangle. It it is easy to be ignorant of the progress taking place when the media characterizes the Northern Triangle as a place defined merely by poverty and violence. It is also vital for people to note that the good news about the Northern Triangle links to U.S. aid, which funds programs that create new jobs and new opportunities in the region. If this aid continues along with a commitment to progress, then the dream of a brighter future in the Northern Triangle can become a reality.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr


May 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the first Mental Health Month in the U.S. While 70 years of mental health awareness activism seems like a long time, the Mental Illness Policy Organization estimates that there are 3.5 million adults with untreated schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in the U.S. on any given day. That figure excludes individuals suffering from other mental illnesses such as acute anxiety and depression. Untreated mental illness is a problem at the forefront of the U.S. health care system and improvement seems imminent for suffering Americans. For countries plagued with poverty and violence like Honduras, accessible and affordable health care is scarce. Lack of health care options in Honduras causes more barriers for those living with mental health conditions, which makes raising mental health awareness in Honduras extremely important.

Mental Health Awareness in Honduras

Mental health awareness in Honduras is an uphill battle. In 2006, the government allocated 6.61 percent of the country’s general budget to health care. Less than 2 percent of that amount supported mental health. As social security often lacks resources to treat mental health illnesses, most cannot afford to pay for medication. Unfortunately for those suffering from mental health-related issues, most never receive proper care.

Being one of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world, Honduras is home to prevalent violence and poverty that specialists point to as key factors in an increase in mental illness in the country. Experts estimate that 10 percent of Hondurans suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

Visit to a Mental Health Facility in Honduras

In 2018, this author had the opportunity to visit a local mental health treatment facility in a small Honduran town called El Porvenir. The facility was the only public mental health resource within five hours, which meant that many families dropped their relatives off with the prospect of going years before seeing them again. One nurse who came in twice a week monitored the treatment center. Between her visits, however, patients, including some who suffered from severe illnesses like schizophrenia, lived in the three-bedroom house unsupervised. For some patients, it was the only option their families could afford.

Doctors Without Borders

Luckily, change is starting to look imminent and mental health awareness in Honduras is increasing. Since 2011, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) prioritizes treatment for victims of violence and sexual assault, as well as for their family members. “We try to work on the emotions, feelings, and thoughts that people experience as a result of what happened to them,” said DWB mental health supervisor Edgard Boquín. “We use cognitive behavioral therapy to help patients take the detrimental elements and replace them with positive coping tools, such as anxiety control, breathing, and relaxation techniques, or by making small life plans which will allow them to cope with their environment again.”

In 2016, DWB expanded activities in the country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and its sister city, Comayagüela. The number of patients suffering from mental illness treated by DWB jumped 117 percent from 2015 to 2016. Community Health Partnership Honduras, a nongovernmental organization, also travels to southwestern Honduras twice a year, which is among the poorest regions in the world. The organization partners Honduran and American volunteer medical workers to increase access to mental health care.

With those missions in mind, mental health awareness in Honduras is spreading from the cities to the rural regions. Consequentially, treatment and support are increasing as well.

Julia King
Photo: Pixabay

climate change in Central America
The effects of climate change are more apparent in some areas than others. Central America is one of these areas with drought, high temperatures and floods contributing to agricultural problems and a rise in migration out of the region and into the U.S. These five facts about climate change in Central America provide a glimpse of how it affects the country and the people who live there.

5 Facts About Climate Change in Central America

  1. Drought: In 2014, climate change in Central America took the shape of a severe drought that plagued the residents of Central America’s dry corridor. In the same year, the U.S. saw an increase in migrants from that region. As the drought persists, high numbers of Central American migrants continue to arrive at the southern border of the U.S., because they cannot sufficiently feed their families. The summer of 2018 included severe drought, and 100,000 Honduran families and two million residents across the Northern Triangle were at risk of malnutrition. The governments of the three Northern Triangle countries entered a state of emergency. The drought was especially destructive to Honduran farmers, many of whom are subsistence farmers living in poverty. Rural Honduran farmers could not easily access the agricultural resources necessary to combat the effects of the drought.
  2. Food Insecurity: In the aftermath of the summer 2018 drought, two million Central Americans were at risk of food insecurity. The region especially suffered from the impact of the 2018 drought as it still had not recovered from droughts that took place from 2014 to 2016. In 2018, Honduras lost 80 percent of its bean and maize crops. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador lost a total of 281,000 hectares of beans and maize.
  3. The Northern Triangle: Most Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. are from the Northern Triangle. The effects of climate change on the region are becoming increasingly severe. Predictions determine that temperatures there will increase by as much as two degrees by 2050, following increases that have already taken place since 1950. Flooding and prolonged periods of drought accompany the current rise in temperature and will become more severe as temperatures rise. USAID studies predict that some areas of Honduras will see a 60 percent increase in flooding and that Guatemala’s rainfall levels will become dangerously low within the next 10 years. The same studies predict that El Salvador’s coastline will shrink by as much as 28 percent within the next 100 years. One can link the current rise in migration to the effects of climate change in Central America.
  4. Summer 2018 Droughts: The intensity of the summer 2018 droughts can partly explain the size of the 2018 wave of Central American migrants sometimes referred to as the migrant caravan. In rural areas, a lack of irrigation systems made the drought especially disastrous. According to officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, crop failure was a fundamental reason for migration from Central America in 2018. Migrants left Central America to escape poverty and gang violence, but they also left to escape the effects of climate change.
  5. Agricultural Reform: USAID initiatives in Central America emphasize agricultural reform. USAID combats the effects of climate change in Central America by providing farmers with what they need to deal with droughts and floods. Thanks to initiatives like Feed the Future, 98.7 thousand Guatemalan agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques in 2017. In the same year, 45,000 Honduran agricultural producers implemented new technology and farming techniques. Feed the Future also provided Honduran farmers with the resources and training needed to allow for increased crop diversity and animal agriculture. Diversity and reduced reliance on crops like corn and beans are vital to maintaining the region’s agricultural economy in the face of climate change.

Climate change in Central America is already causing serious problems and will continue to do so in the future. On a positive note, USAID and others are cooperating with Central American governments to respond to the changes taking place. Countries in the area are already implementing innovative, agriculture-based solutions. The efforts of aid organizations will continue to be vital as the global climate continues to change.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act
On July 15, 2019, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act. The bill, announced by New York Representative Eliot L. Engel and Texas Representative Michael McCaul, seeks to provide greater safety and security for the Northern Triangle countries. The highest volume of immigrants from South America come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is the hope of the United States Congress that increasing aid and promoting a stronger economy and sense of security in these nations will address the root causes of the current migration crisis. This bipartisan legislation outlines several ways the United States may assist the Northern Triangle nations.

Details About The Bill

Firstly, the bill details a five-year program which focuses on economic development, the strengthening of democratic institutions and anti-corruption efforts. Because the insecurity of these countries’ economies is driving so many to seek refuge in foreign nations, enhancing market-based internal solutions for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is a priority of this plan. Furthermore, it will implement institutions and programs that will allow these places to remain resilient in the wake of frequent natural disasters.

In order to support the integrity of the democratic institutions of the Northern Triangle, this bill intends to provide support to ensure free, fair elections and the continuation of an independent media. This measure is to prevent the spread of political propaganda and to make the democratic process accessible to all.

This bill includes many measures to support and fund anti-corruption efforts, which is so important when so many migrants from these countries are leaving to escape the prevalent gang violence. It provides support for such efforts as faith-based organizations for at-risk youth. Many young people have no choice but to engage in violent gang activities in order to protect themselves or their families.

Funding From The United States

The United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act is allotting $577 million dollars in monetary aid to these three countries for the 2020 fiscal year but includes strong conditions as to how the countries must use the funding.

The bill also includes measures to protect the safety of not only those native to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador but also the many American people who have concerns regarding immigration into the United States. The act calls for visa bans and asset freezes for corrupt individuals in an effort to halt some of the corruption in government and drug trafficking which are making these nations unsafe.

This bipartisan legislation will also provide increased support for development efforts in southern Mexico. The hope is that there will be more peaceful relations between Mexico and the Northern Triangle nations to diminish some of the reasons for the mass exodus from these countries.

Lastly, Congress has mandated that the State Department and USAID provide reports regarding the root causes of migration in the Northern Triangle countries after the implementation of the United States’ aid. The bill mentions some of the root causes including drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, corruption, gender-based violence, gang activities and the forcible recruitment of children into gang activities. These reports will allow Congress to determine how aid from the United States and the implementation of social services has altered the social and political climate of the Northern Triangle.

A Promising Victory

With so much ever-heightening concern regarding the immigration crisis, the unanimous, bipartisan passing of the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which the Borgen Project supports, is a victory for the current state of poverty amongst immigrants. If this bill officially becomes law, it is the hope of Congress that the United States’ assistance and aid to the Northern Triangle countries will target the many causes of immigration and allow people to remain in their homes with a sense of security.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr