The Northern Triangle
Latin America is in a vicious circle of crime, poverty and corruption. High crime rates thwart economic opportunities and crime rates push people into poverty, all cumulating into corrupt leaders who use the pain for their power and self-interest. Nevertheless, nowhere is crime more prevalent than in the Northern Triangle.

The Northern Triangle is region in Central America that includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. It has experienced the worst problems such as poor economic growth, rampant gang violence and political corruption. This three-prong nightmare has fueled an estimated 265,000 people toward the Southern U.S. Border and will continue to grow into the foreseeable future. While some do attempt to find safety in Europe and elsewhere in South America, others take the risk and traverse their way to the U.S-Mexico border, where they risk entering the country illegally. Others surrender to U.S. border patrol and seek asylum. However, it is unlikely that they will receive asylum. On average, only 13% of individuals receive asylum and experience integration into the United States.

Gang Corruption

In 2017, a survey asked the people in El Salvador, “who runs the country?” About 42% of respondents said “Delincuencia/Maras.” For non-Spanish speakers, this translates to gangs, like MS-13.

These answers have visible ramifications that strike at the core of the government. Governments in the Northern Triangle are weak, and the people know this; the gangs know this. People understand the country’s power lies in gangs’ hands, not in the government’s.

For example, in 2012, the Salvadorian government agreed to sign a truce with the criminal organizations to address skyrocketing homicide rates. The profoundly unpopular legislation did lower the homicide rate but the people still had to continue to pay gangs. Tactics like homicide and racketeering are not the only ways these organizations flex their might.

Throughout the Northern Triangle, gangs rely on drug and human trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and theft to export their criminal enterprise well beyond the Northern Triangle. Issues in the Northern Triangle are not just an inter-state problem but also a problem for the entire Western Hemisphere.

Governance Problem

Northern Triangle nations have made some progress when it comes to corruption. But the total damage that such corruption caused is still in the billions: $13 billion to be precise.

In 2006, Guatemala successfully combated corruption when it appealed to the U.N., which established the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). This independent body investigates the infiltration of criminal groups within state institutions. Such an organization resulted in the conviction of hundreds of officials and reduced the homicide rate.

In El Salvador, in 2019, the country created its own independent body called Commission against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador (CITIES), which could yield the same results as CICIG. Over in Honduras, the hopes of establishing such independent oversight do not seem to be gaining the same traction. After the resignation of President Lobo Sosa in 2013, an investigation into the Honduran Institute of Social Security revealed a scandal that cost the people over $200 million. It also implicated President Orlando Hernández, who admitted to unknowingly using some of the money to fund his presidential campaign.

Unlike Guatemala and El Salvador, the Honduras legislature rejected a proposal to create its own CICI. Instead, it created Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH). Although intended to fight corruption, it does not have the same autonomy as CICIG and CITIES. MACCIH is not autonomous and cannot investigate Honduran Public Ministry. Instead, it relies heavily on its relationship with the Attorney General and Congress, which could shield the people committing corruption. This inability to pass support for CICIH instead of settling for MACCIH might be signaling that the $200 million white-collar crime is the beginning of a giant iceberg.

A Path Forward

In Washington DC, support exists for CICIH and CITIES. Congresswoman Norma Torres and others released a statement in 2019 supporting these institutions. Reinstating the CICIG and implementing the same structure in CICIH and CITIES would stop corruption. This would allow the state to use its monopoly on violence to fight crime and allow positive economic growth. In April 2021, the State Department announced $740,740 in available funding for “competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that empower civil society to combat corruption and protect human rights.”

– Diego Romero
Photo: Flickr

Tropical storm EtaIn November 2020, over 250 people from Central American countries were either missing or dead due to tropical storm Eta. Floods and landslides left behind a large number of vulnerable populations. Those who suffered from poverty lost their shelter, food and even loved ones. However, the storm triggered people into action and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came to help Honduras. The latter resulted in “Operación Eta.”

How Does It Work?

The campaign’s main goal is to raise funds to support the families affected by tropical storm Eta. Funding comes from crowdsourcing. Thus, Operación Eta has established a Gofundme profile. Behind the profile, a group of non-profit organizations has come together. In addition, Honduran college students who intended to create a social change in their country instituted NGOs. They started as separate initiatives to counteract poverty, hunger and social inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, tropical storm Eta has united them as one effort to look out for their country.

How the Coalition Starts?

  1. Operación frijol: Frijol means bean, which is the primary source of nutrients for Honduran families. College students founded the project during the first months of the Covid-19 health crisis. “A group of friends from school, who were studying abroad, wanted to help their country. When they found out about the initiative, they donated money. Now we reach 110 volunteers,” Hugo Caballero, member of Operación frijol told the Borgen Project. Donations enabled them to provide basic food baskets for people that suffered the economic consequences of the pandemic. Since tropical storm Eta struck Honduras, Operación frijol transformed its platform into a donation site for the victims. They collected food, water, lanterns, clothes, blankets, masks and personal hygiene products. Moreover, they broadcasted the location of shelters. “There are children, pregnant women and disabled people among the victims,” Caballero said.
  1. Abrazos de Plata: Operación frijol joined forces with several NGOs in order to accomplish a higher impact. One of them was Abrazos de Plata. The organization’s name means Silver hugs. It claims to be a “group of young people whose mission is to support elders living in nursing homes.” Abandoned elders, left to their own devices, trapped the NGO member’s attention. They reacted by supporting them in order to prevent social inequality, poor hygiene and malnutrition. Since the Honduran president declared a state of emergency due to the storm, the project focuses on gathering donations and setting up shelters for those who have lost most of their belongings. They recollected donations and provided supplies. “We are amazed by the effective response of our Honduran brothers, everyone donates what they can,” Rocío Pavón, a medical student volunteer told The Borgen Project.

Tropical storm Eta has wrecked homes. However, this has united the Honduran people and increase their generosity and sense of belonging. The natural hazard has triggered college students into action and made them compromised citizens who embody hope for those who lack it.

Paola Arriaza Avilés

Photo: Pixabay

Child Poverty In Honduras
Honduras, a country home to nine million people, is crippled by poverty, gang violence and a lack of education. Roughly 60% of the population of Honduras lives below the poverty line. The country is also known for having one of the highest crime and violence rates of all time. In terms of child poverty in Honduras, poverty impacts children in multiple ways, including health, safety and education. Nearly 75% of children use outdoor bathroom systems or open fields and 69% of 9-10 year-olds are infected with parasites because of this. Furthermore, 23% of Honduran children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. This article will explore the consequences of child poverty as well as efforts to address it.

Children and Gang Violence

Children face many dangers from exposure to gangs and gang violence in Honduras. Many children are too afraid to go to school because of the prevalence of gang members on the streets. A report from the Norweigan Refugee Council highlights the risks that Honduran children face, including pressure, sexual harassment and abuse.

Gang members have also successfully infiltrated Honduran schools and now promote the distribution of drugs to minors and attempt to recruit them. Families are also faced with pressure from gangs, often in the form of war taxes, which prohibits their ability to buy school supplies and uniforms.

Children and Education

The Honduran government provides free schooling until the sixth grade. However, when children in Honduras graduate from the sixth grade, many of them stop their education to support their families. After receiving a partial education, boys will often go to work in the fields while girls will stay at home to care for their families until marrying around the ages of 12-14 years old.

The lack of education in Honduras increases involvement in gangs, drugs and other dangerous behaviors in order to survive and to support their families. One organization working to alleviate this problem is the Honduras Good Works Secondary Education Scholarship Fund. This fund provides school supplies, transportation and school uniforms to children in Honduras.

Changing the Future for the Children

Children International, an NGO aimed at protecting and aiding children, works to address many of the issues facing Honduran children. Among their current projects is the distribution of annual parasite treatments and workshops about hygiene, the Sport Development and Youth Leadership Training program to alleviate pressures of gang violence and the Youth Health Corps that ensures equal rights for girls and boys. Children International has five centers on the ground in Honduras and focuses on combatting child poverty in Honduras.

Save The Children is another organization working to better the futures of children in Honduras. With the support of generous donations, this organization was able to aid 141,000 children in Honduras just last year, and more specifically have raised 36,000 children from poverty. Save The Children is currently working to promote food security for families in coffee-producing areas, addressing causes of migration and training government officials on the prevention of trafficking.

Moving Forward

Child poverty in Honduras continues to impact millions of children across the country. Fortunately, organizations like Children International and Save The Children are stepping in to help. Moving forward, it is essential that these efforts and others continue to prioritize alleviating child poverty and ensuring better livelihoods for children in Honduras.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Blockchain-Based Land Registry in HondurasProof of land ownership is an essential tool to protect the livelihoods of those who depend on livestock and agriculture to feed their families and earn an income. However, in many developing countries such as Honduras, systems of land registry are unreliable and prone to corrupt manipulation, leaving farmers vulnerable to unlawful land seizures. Blockchain-based land registry aims to address this.

Blockchain-Based Land Registry

Despite this, the rise of blockchain technology has brought about a potential solution to undependable land registry systems. Providing a secure system of digitized land titles does more than protect property rights. It also gives farmers the ability to borrow against their land assets to raise capital, which could be used to invest in their businesses and broaden their economic opportunities. Blockchain-based land registries can be used to protect Hondurans’ land ownership rights.

Land Theft in Honduras

In 2015, the government of Honduras reached out to Factom, a U.S.-based blockchain technology company, to develop a nationwide land registry system. This decision came in light of the growing threat of land title fraud in Honduras, which would often occur at the hands of bureaucrats hacking the existing government land title database to steal land for personal use.

In a country with rampant corruption and unsecured land registry systems, Honduran farmers are at risk of falling into poverty and displacement at the hands of government officials or powerful landowners seeking to broaden their commercial agricultural holdings. A secure system of registry built with blockchain technology would provide a solution to this problem.

Stalled Efforts in Implementation

Although Honduras reached out for assistance in building a secure system, by the end of 2015, efforts to develop it stalled due to the government’s unwillingness to continue the effort. Nonetheless, there is still hope for the eventual continuation of the project, as it has the backing of the World Bank and other international donors.

Blockchain-based land registry systems represent an optimal solution for Honduran farmers because of their unique security. These systems track transactions with a timestamped digital signature and store them in a connected, distributed array of computers scattered around the internet. The digital signature tracks the history of ownership, thereby making the land title unsusceptible to tampering. Furthermore, blockchain technologies can utilize GPS coordinates to describe the exact dimensions of each claimed land parcel and pair it with the digital ID of the owner. The result is a secure system that protects farmers’ rights to land ownership.

The Intersection of Tech and Poverty

Innovations in technology and the spread of internet access are crucial in the fight against global poverty. Blockchain-based land registry solutions enable farmers to protect their livelihoods and invest in expanding and diversifying their agricultural yields. As more farmers better their economic situations and poverty levels decline, the demand for consumer goods rises, which bolsters trade and the wider global economy.

Investing in solutions to global poverty thus entails a two-way path of rewards: developing countries are lifted out of poverty and developed countries establish a connection with a new trading partner. When one country is lifted out of poverty, every country benefits.

– John Andrikos
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes in HondurasIn November 2020, Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota made landfall just two weeks apart in northeastern Nicaragua. The hurricanes spread across Central America. Honduras was one of the countries hit with severe destruction. In the wake of these storms, homelessness in Honduras reached all-time highs and an active humanitarian crisis unfolded as humanitarian organizations and policymakers struggled to contend with flooding, displacement and the spread of COVID-19. The aftermath of hurricanes in Honduras requires urgent humanitarian aid.

Poverty in Honduras

Nearly half of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural parts of the country than it is in urban centers. Whereas half of all Hondurans who live in the countryside subsist in varying states of poverty, less than half of all Hondurans who live in urban areas lead lives plagued by poverty,

The disparity between rich Hondurans and poor Hondurans is overwhelmingly large. A robust middle-class has yet to take shape in Honduras so Hondurans filter into one of two polarized class groups. A high rate of violence makes life treacherous for the poor.

Seasonal flooding has a detrimental effect on economic growth. Flooding from Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota combined with seasonal flooding make 2020 one of the worst years in Honduras’ history. Livestock and farmlands were swept away and Hondurans have had to search desperately for other means to feed themselves.

Homelessness and Hurricanes in Honduras

In 1998, three million Hondurans were made homeless by Hurricane Mitch and tens of thousands were forced to flee to the United States. The devastation that was unleashed by Hurricane Mitch is the closest analog to the combined effects of Eta and Iota. Reports on the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Eta and Iota remain incomplete, but it is undoubtedly high, similar in scope to the rate of homelessness in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch.

7 Responses to Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

  1. Public Investment in Infrastructure and Social Programs. Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez plans to engage “four times the nation’s annual budget in infrastructure and social programs to help Hondurans recover from devastating storms.” His plan will put thousands of Hondurans to work rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, so it works on two important levels. First, his plan creates jobs for Hondurans whose livelihoods were lost as a result of the hurricanes. Second, it will lead to necessary rebuilding projects.

  2. USAID Funding. By the beginning of December 2020, USAID had committed close to $50 million for humanitarian aid to meet the needs of Honduras’ relief efforts. Funding goes to securing “emergency food, shelter, urgent medical care, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

  3. USAID’s Honduras Emergency WASH and Shelter (HEWS) Program. In mid-December 2020, USAID announced that it will send packs of materials to “select families” through its HEWS program, which families can use to rebuild damaged or destroyed homes. Experts will also be sent to teach families how to use the material that has been sent and to work alongside families during the initial stages of the rebuilding process.

  4. Project HOPE Emergency Medical Teams. In remote villages, where poverty rates tend to be highest, villagers have scarce access to medical services. Project HOPE medical teams focus on these locations because unsanitary water supplies have been identified there. Also, cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

  5. Project HOPE WASH Program. Potable water is provided to 3,000 families through Project HOPE’s WASH program. Additionally, resources for sanitizing water, including chlorine and training materials, are provided to families so that water purification practices can be carried out indefinitely.

  6. AMDA Emergency Relief. Relief supplies, including food, coverings and hygienic supplies, were distributed to several dozen families through a partnership between AMDA and AMDA-Honduras. The rate of homelessness in Honduras is so high that many people have taken shelter in nursing homes. Hondurans who lost their homes as a result of Eta and Iota live side by side with Honduras’ elderly. Similar AMDA relief packs were distributed throughout such facilities.

  7. Distribution of KN95 and Surgical Masks. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 have accompanied the disastrous effects of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Project HOPE distributed hundreds of thousands of KN95 and surgical masks to activists, doctors and frontline workers throughout Honduras to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hope on the Horizon for Honduras

Hurricanes in Honduras coupled with COVID-19 created severe consequences for people living there. Long-term concerns include the effect that lack of adequate health services will have on mothers, pregnant women, newborns and young children. Many humanitarian organizations are prioritizing aid to remote parts of the country to mitigate the effects of isolation. The spread of disease is an additional concern. A comprehensive solution to the crisis at hand will involve combined efforts.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

Success in Honduras
Despite fast economic growth, the country of Honduras still suffers from high poverty and inequality. According to the World Bank, 48% of people live in poverty in the country, with 38% in urban areas and 60% in rural areas. However, in recent years, the success in Honduras is worthy of noting.

The Situation

Inequality is the highest in the world in Honduras. Inclement weather, such as regular droughts and heavy rain, affects the poor the most. In addition, violence is rampant. In 2018 alone, Honduras had 38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has worsened Honduras’ economy. Due to the global shutdown, predictions have determined that the gross domestic product of Honduras will decrease by 7% in 2020, because of the sharp decline in trade, investment and consumption. The worsened GDP in the United States, Honduras’s partner in trade, has not helped matters. It will affect all classes, and especially the poor, according to the World Bank.

The Abundant Life Foundation

In response, the World Bank has initiated many U.S.-funded projects to aid the weakened economy with success in Honduras but one organization that has also never stopped giving aid is the Abundant Life Foundation (ALF). This highly successful organization creates opportunities for Hondurans so they can live a better life through long-term community development, education and conservation. Since 2007, the founders of Abundant Life, authors and poverty experts David and Brenda Dachner, have created programs that work closely with island residents to create environments that foster personal and community growth. The Foundation has served the Bay Islands of Honduras with the utmost commitment.

Community Development and Housing

Community Development is one pillar that the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. It has a project that is an affordable housing community called Los Sueños: The Dreams that has seen success in Honduras. At Los Sueños, not only does the Foundation provide dignified housing, but an entire community setting where families can thrive, not just survive. This is the first planned community in Roatán and has a K-12 school, a church, sports court and Ag Farm.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, co-founder Brenda Dachner stated that “2021 will also bring a library and computer center, our new ALF office, and the first public park on the island. Future plans also call for a Cultural Center to preserve the heritage and culture of the English-speaking islanders, and a daycare center so the many single moms who will be living in our community can safely leave their children while they work to take care of their families.”

The Abundant Life Foundation is currently responsible for the building of 24 of 80 homes, with 11 families waiting to move in by Spring 2021. For the selection process, families go through an application process, a debt screening with the bank, a personal interview and home visit and criminal background check, before an anonymous selection committee of reputable islanders with ALF make the final selection through a collective vote.

Bringing Electricity to Honduras

Electricity is also a problem in Honduras. In response, ALF has created other community projects which include the distribution of solar-powered Luci Lights to communities with little to no electricity. This has reduced house fires from those who use candles in their wooden homes. It also helps families save money as electricity is expensive on the island.

Also, a bag program with the community of St. Helene where ALF taught the local women there to crochet purses and other items out of recycled plastic bags. Through this program, 90% of the sale of products went back to the woman, whose product sold while ALF maintained 10% and put it into a community fund. To date, the women have sold over $30,000 of products. With the Fund money, a year ago, the community voted to use it to bring electricity to each home in their village, including their church. “No more dangerous candles at night,” claimed Brenda Dachner, “and no more noisy, expensive diesel generators.”

Providing Support for Students

The second pillar of the Abundant Life Foundation is education. Since the organization’s first days on the island, it has provided scholarships and support to students to pursue a better education, including sponsoring three high school graduates to university programs, two of whom attended in the States. ALF built two schools (K-6 and K-12), provided support to students and teachers and operated a Bilingual Literacy Program in communities across the island to promote English literacy among residents. “It is important to promote and support English on this island as, first of all, it is their native language that is quickly being lost, but also, with tourism as the primary source of income, it is pertinent for jobs and their financial well-being,” Brenda Dachner told The Borgen Project.

Conservation

Finally, Conservation is a pillar the Abundant Life Foundation focuses on. Roatán sits amidst the Meso-American reef system, the second largest barrier reef in the world, and is its primary source of income via the tourists that come to see it, and locals living off of fishing for themselves and for trade. It is vital for the long-term financial well-being of local islanders that the reef be healthy and vibrant. Not surprisingly, however, the health of the reef is deteriorating. ALF partners with the Roatán Marine Park and other reputable organizations to promote the protection of the reef around the Bay Islands and seek to educate tourists to eliminate ignorance, and locals to reduce apathy.

ALF operates both as a 501(c)3 in the United States and as a legal NGO in Honduras. As such, although headquartered in Austin, Texas, the Abundant Life Foundation has a local team in Roatán, currently composed completely of native islanders who oversee all its projects and provide input, ideas and suggestions with projects and programming.

“We are very proud of this,” states Brenda Dachner to the Borgen Project, “as it has always been our desire to let Hondurans help Hondurans.”

With a focus on long-term solutions in community development, education and conservation, the Abundant Life Foundation hopes to provide the very opportunities islanders need to create their own abundant lives. This sparkling success in Honduras, like island water, has created rippling effects to end poverty.

– Shelby Gruber
Photo: Flickr

Stopping Gang Violence Success Stories from Within HondurasHonduras is trapped in a cycle of violence and poverty that creates the perfect environment for gangs to thrive. Reports state that gangs and drug traffickers pay off members of the criminal justice system to get away with their crimes. However, despite these injustices, violent crime rates have dropped by half over the last decade as community outreach programs join humanitarian organizations’ efforts in stopping gang violence.

Poverty in Honduras

In 2018, Honduras had a poverty rate of 48.3%. Inequality in the country has led to an extremely small middle class and a large income gap. Gangs feed off of poverty and a lack of government services. Moreover, gangs become the only way young people could get an income and find a semblance of a supportive community.

Honduras has a Corruption Perception Index score of 26 out of 100, which is directly reflected in the fear citizens have of reporting crimes. Gang members can be killed for attempting to leave a gang and many businesses are forced to pay “war taxes” for protection. Luckily, nonprofits and community outreach programs have arisen to intervene in this cycle of violence. Here are a few anti-violence success stories from within Honduras.

The Association For a More Just Society

The Association For a More Just Society (AJS) is a nonprofit that works to create strong community bonds to dissuade violence in Honduras. In terms of working against corruption, AJS investigates and publishes reports about the health care and education sectors. Additionally, they hold youth services in small Honduran communities.

AJS has had remarkable success in terms of reporting cases of corruption by the government and wealthy elites in Honduras. In the public health sector, AJS found that the government purposely overpaid connected businesses for medical supplies and ignored cases of theft. Its reports led to the arrest of 13 officials and increased access to life-saving medication in public hospitals.

The organization also reported corruption in education as teachers who were not showing up to work were being paid and the average student only had 125 school days available to them. The Honduran government had the highest spending budget on education in the region, yet its test scores were still very low. AJS has reduced the percentage of non-working paid teachers from 26% to 1%. Additionally, many schools now hold an average of 200 days of school.

Skate Brothers

Skate Brothers is a community outreach program that was started by the Honduras local, Jessel Edgardo Recinos. He was shot at the age of 16 after being accused of stealing a cell phone from a prominent gang member. This near-death experience inspired Recinos to create a community youth program that taught kids about skateboarding instead of violence.

The group provides a place for Honduran youth to gather after school with friends while learning fun skills like skateboarding, BMX bike riding and rollerskating. Additionally, Slate Brothers provide counseling services to prevent youth from joining gangs. The group performs in parades and street fairs as well as volunteers for the community.

Recinos has convinced members of his youth group to leave gangs and join his community outreach group instead. His goal is to create a supportive community that serves as an alternative to gangs and does not mandate illegal activity. Skate Brothers is one of 64 outreach programs created by USAID’s Honduran Youth Alliance, which now serves 34,000 youth around the country.

Looking Ahead

While gangs in Honduras is still a major issue, nonprofits and community support programs like AJS and Skate Brothers have been instrumental in stopping gang violence. The cycle of violence, poverty and corruption is beginning to break because of the dedication of AJS and the Honduran Youth Alliance. Reciono’s creation of Skate Brothers shows how people in impoverished communities can inspire their peers to join them in stopping gang violence.

– Olivia Welsh
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Honduras
As of the end of 2017, homelessness in Honduras was a prevalent issue. In fact, the IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center) reported that there were at least 432,000 IDPs (Internal Displacements) in the countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Many of them left cities due to high rates of homicide and “levels of violence comparable to that of war zones.”

With Honduras having a high economic rate over the past years, reports have still determined that more than 60% of Hondurans live in poverty. In 2016, Habitat for Humanity estimated that the housing deficit for Honduras was over 1 million units. Meanwhile, in 2018, more than 17,000 people experienced displacement due to natural disasters and violence. Among these stark numbers, the topic of street children in Honduras has broken the ice as one organization reported that “an estimate 6,000 adolescents live on the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula alone” and about 800,000 minors do not attend school or have employment. Here is some information about child homelessness in Honduras.

Child Homelessness in Honduras

Unfortunately, the reality for these children is more than not having a roof over their heads or beds to sleep in. Most of these kids have to earn their wages by selling artifacts, washing windows and begging as a means of survival. For those who are pushed to the limits, joining a street gang might be their only option as they seek a means for protection and ultimate survival.

The push to join the infamous “mara” gangs of Honduras has presented an even greater danger as Honduran children have increasingly participated in the frontlines of gang violence. The New York Times reported that, according to the Violence Observatory at the National Autonomous University of Honduras, “in 2012, the number of murder victims ages 10 to 14 had doubled to 81 from 40 in 2008.” Due to this violence, families have taken the extreme measure of sending their children to the U.S./Mexico border to seek refuge. In 2014, in a span of 4 months, more than 2,200 children arrived at the border from the city of San Pedro Sula in Honduras.

While Honduras saw the pertinence of child homicide rates, rather than alleviating the problem through increased social services, the Government of Honduras liquidated the Honduran Institute for Children and Families, which had run since 1998, in May 2014. The Government also closed all the children’s shelters along with it. Its reason for the cut in funding came from the ineffectiveness of political appointees who used 90% of the budget to pay salaries. Along with that, as nonprofit youth shelter Casa Alianza began to increasingly report on the high murder rate of children, the government denied the evidence and turned its face on the issue.

Casa Alianza

With the lack of government assistance, local and international NGOs have had to step up to provide shelter. Covenant House, or Casa Alianza, is just one of these organizations that hope to serve the homeless youth community. Casa Alianza opened its doors in Honduras back in 1987 and was the second Latin American site for the larger organization, Covenant House. Its methodology is simple; it gains the children’s trust by providing a safe and engaging environment and then either helps them return to their families or offers to allow them to stay at its residence centers. Jose Guadalupe Ruelas, the executive director of Casa Alianza, reported that thousands of children have found a home through this nonprofit shelter for homeless youth.

Combined with the stress of finding a proper meal and a place to sleep, homeless children in Honduras have been facing daily struggles of keeping themselves safe from street gangs and hoping not to become another number on a “murder rate” statistic. The constant danger and lack of funding from governmental agencies exacerbate the problem of child homelessness in Honduras further.

While organizations like Casa Alianza have provided much-needed assistance to this vulnerable population, governmental support and advocacy are necessary in order to properly address this concerning issue.

– Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

Honduras Uses U.S. Foreign AidAs one of the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras is one of the three countries in the region that receives U.S. foreign aid. However, in 2019, U.S. foreign aid to Central America came to a halt. The U.S. government denied foreign aid meant for three countries in the region: El-Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to NPR, mass amounts of refugees migrating north caused the U.S. to suspend aid. In April of 2020, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo issued a press statement ensuring the resumption of foreign aid to Central America. Despite the reassurance of continuing U.S. support in the future, the suspension of foreign aid left many programs and people in Honduras without their usual financial support. Honduras alone has requested over $65 million in U.S. foreign aid for 2020. With U.S. lawmakers doubting the effectiveness of this type of financial support, here’s how Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid.

Maintaining Governance

Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to maintain its governance. In 2018, Honduras spent $55 million on agencies that provide government assistance. These agencies encourage public participation in government and make sure governments maintain checks and balances and separation of powers. In short, these agencies keep the government ethical, honest and accountable to the people. USAID funded this entire sector of Honduras’ U.S. foreign aid. As a U.S. foreign agency, USAID works to strengthen democratic institutions and citizen participation in Honduras.

Human Rights

In 2018, Honduras spent about $6 million on preserving human rights under the law. Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to fund many agencies that protect international human rights. Partially funded by USAID, Honduras’ human rights agencies ensure that all people find justice and fairness under the law. The U.S.-Honduras Bilateral Human Rights Working Group, a product of USAID, works to strengthen human rights institutions, citizen security and migration issues in Honduras. Without U.S. foreign aid funding human rights groups, vulnerable impoverished Hondurans, who are most susceptible to human rights violations, would have decreased legal resources.

Agriculture

Honduras spent $11 million on its agriculture industry in 2019 and $22 million in 2018. The country’s economy relies heavily on the international trade of its agriculture. The agricultural industry also employs 39% of the population in Honduras. With a large section of the population relying on agriculture as income, investing in agriculture is imperative to the country’s economy. Because of Honduras’ high poverty rate, a large part of the agriculture industry employs impoverished Hondurans. U.S. foreign aid is essential to the poverty-stricken portion of Honduras’ agriculture industry.

Education

Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid for considerable education development. In 2019, Honduras spent $24 million on basic education. This includes improving early childhood, primary and secondary education in Honduras. USAID largely funds this sector of Honduras’ foreign aid. USAID works with Honduras’ education systems on education reform, teacher training and alternative education for many children who can’t afford secondary school. Without U.S. foreign aid, impoverished children in Honduras could lose access to basic education and alternative education.

Minimizing Crime

Crime is a serious problem in Honduras. Honduras has one of the highest murder rates in the world. However, in 2012 Honduras began investing in crime prevention agencies, and investment has been increasing ever since. Honduras spent $25 million of U.S. foreign aid on crime-prevention agencies in 2019 compared to less than $300,000 in 2014. These agencies provide training to combat international crime and corruption while promoting international cooperation. In correlation with investments in crime-prevention agencies, homicide rates in Honduras dropped drastically in 2012. This portion of U.S. aid directly impacts Honduras’ impoverished communities where violence is prevalent.

Conclusion

The suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Central America created some doubt in the usefulness of foreign aid. However, Honduras uses U.S. foreign aid to fund agencies that work to better some of the most serious and significant problems affecting Hondurans. Many of these agencies help the most vulnerable and impoverished populations in Honduras.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr