Honduras
In the wake of continuous violence in Honduras, authorities remain negligent in capturing the assailants or even investigating the attacks against land rights activists.

Honduras’ landscape, rich in natural capital, has been exploited for years. Resources of interest include raw land, timber from rainforests and minerals like zinc, copper and lead. While the wealth is abundant, it is not evenly distributed.

This is particularly unsettling given the already rampant wealth inequality prevalent within the nation. Among the population of about 8.1 million, 62.8 percent live on an income of less than $2.50 per day.

The primary obstacle facing poverty reduction and sustainable development within the small Central American nation is the excessive violence. Violence in Honduras has remained a serious and urgent problem for years. In 2011, the nation was dubbed the Murder Capital of the World by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes. While the rate decreased from 82 homicides for every 1,000 people in 2011 to 67 homicides among the same sample size only three years later, Honduras remains one of the most dangerous nations in the world.

With the growth of the mining, energy and agribusiness industries, violence in Honduras has taken a turn to target land rights activists and local communities that refuse to abandon their land.

There have been a reported 123 activist murders since the 2009 military overthrow. Recently, the anti-corruption NGO, Global Witness, has investigated the violence in Honduras and implicated a number of high-profile Honduran politicians and business people in the murders.

Global Witness states that the government has begun to crack down on families refusing to hand over their land for mining, logging, energy use and commercial development. In addition, authorities have failed to take action against the wave of non-gang related violence in Honduras.

Occasionally, the perpetrator of the attack will be taken into custody, but will rarely be indicted and will almost never lead to pursuit of the individuals ordering the attacks.

Under the Obama administration, the United States committed $98.3 million in bilateral aid directly to Honduras, as well as another $750 million in regional development funds through the ‘Alliance for Prosperity Plan.’

Half of the direct funding is contingent upon the Honduran government’s accountability for meeting human rights standards, which include the permittance of activists to engage without conflict and denunciation of the violence in Honduras.

There is an evident lack, thus far, of the Honduran government’s ability to meet this condition and advocate on behalf of its citizens’ rights. This is troubling given the history of non-targeted violence in Honduras, and can only venture to hurt the nation’s prospects of future development.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

GAPP
In Honduras, as in many places, gender conceptions influence national prosperity. Reimagining the ways that men and women can contribute to their communities and economies and learning how to share the societal load can stimulate poverty alleviation.

More than 1.7 million people in Honduras live in poverty, and many live on less than $1.25 per day. Many impoverished people live in rural areas. In fact, 46 percent of all Hondurans live in rural areas, where the primary occupation is farming. About 38 percent of all Honduran employment is in agriculture, and many farmers are struggling to make ends meet.

USAID and Feed the Future have made significant strides in assisting the Honduran farming community by improving technologies and management practices to help farmers increase the value of their agricultural products. However, there is still a long way to go, particularly in regard to supporting female farmers.

Income gaps and marginal political representation have crippled Honduran women’s leadership in the agricultural sector, despite the fact that in western Honduras alone, more than 40 percent of farming households are headed by women.

For three years, USAID and Feed the Future have partnered with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) in a project called Gender in Agriculture: From Policy to Practice (GAPP). Aiming to stimulate women’s leadership in Honduran agricultural communities, the program is training female farmers in leadership, public speaking and investing. Its hope is that as female farmers become more involved in local political processes, they will gain access to public funding and loans that tend only to benefit male farmers.

One recent GAPP success is a municipal agreement that part of the civic budget reserved for gender activities be specifically applied to women-led agricultural enterprises.

In addition to empowering female farmers in Honduras to demand their own rights, GAPP also funds programs to educate male leaders about the importance of gender equity in agriculture.

Using the concept of “new masculinities,” GAPP teaches male community members to appreciate women’s crucial role in the agricultural sector. According to one male GAPP advocacy training participant, Maximo Mejía, “Being a man isn’t, as they say, being a big shot, but understanding and seeking equality with your partner.”

While the provision of funding and new technologies does alleviate the difficulties faced by female farmers in Honduras, helping people rethink gender roles and stereotypes will help ensure that economic stagnation dissipates.

Feed the Future continues to train women to grow home gardens, farm fish and utilize the latest farming technologies, while GAPP teaches female farmers in Honduras how to use their voices to gain the civic support they need.

At the same time, Honduran men are relearning not only women’s roles in their economy, but also their own roles in caregiving and family health. This mutual empowerment of men and women will help break the poverty cycle in Honduras.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Violence Fuels Honduran Refugees
While many in the U.S. have begun focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis and the horrors committed by the Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime, the U.S. still has a major refugee crisis along its southern border.

For decades, millions of migrants have traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. in search of better work opportunities and social benefits for themselves and their families. Recently, however, the migrant crisis has transformed into a refugee crisis, with many also traveling to the U.S. to escape the dangers of their home countries.

With the U.S. as the world’s biggest customer, a thriving drug market worth more than $300 billion has fueled the violence between gangs, each fighting for territory and the rights to sell drugs. In countries dictated by drug trades, government corruption also becomes inevitable, with police sometimes working hand in hand with gangs.

Especially in Honduras, these drug wars have displaced thousands, destroying neighborhoods and forcing their inhabitants to move north. Thousands of Honduran refugees have traveled to the U.S. in search of new lives.

In the past few years, however, U.S. investment in countries like Honduras has helped reduce violence. The American government has put money and resources into programs that dissuade youth from joining gangs and replenish impoverished neighborhoods.

Here are 10 facts about Honduras and Honduran refugees:

  1. One hundred and seventy-four thousand people, four percent of the country’s households, have been displaced because of violence.
  2. In 2011, Honduras was the murder capital of the world, with 91.6 murders per 100,000 people. In 2014, that number dropped to 66.
  3. In 2014, 18,000 unaccompanied Honduran children arrived at the U.S. border.
  4. This year, the U.S. has sent between $95 and $110 million in violence prevention funding to Honduras.
  5. In one pilot program, participants were deemed 77 percent less likely to commit crimes or abuse drugs and alcohol after a year of counseling, according to Creative Associates International.
  6. Because of fear and corruption, 96 percent of homicides do not end in a conviction in Honduras.
  7. There are about 23,000 gang members involved in police shootouts and turf wars daily.
  8. About 15,000 Hondurans applied for refugee status in 2015, double that of 2014.
  9. In 2014, 64.7 percent of unaccompanied minors received the asylum they applied for.
  10. For 2016, the U.S. has 3,000 refugee slots for applicants from Latin America and the Caribbean even though 9,000 people may be eligible.

While there is a lot of potential in the U.S. funded pilot programs, more money is necessary to enact change on a large scale. Although many may criticize the foreign aid the U.S. already gives as being too charitable, they must keep in mind the costs of receiving these refugees illegally and the cost of them making the journey north. By fixing the roots of the problem, the U.S. can prevent the symptoms from reaching its borders.

Because Honduras is filled with human rights violations, many would see the funding completely cut. This summer, government officials tried to pass a bill in Congress that would do so.

However, responding to the human rights issue by cutting funding to violence prevention may be most impractical and harmful. Although expensive, the best solution may be to continue funding violence prevention programs while beginning separate programs that address government abuse and corruption.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

Education to the Children of Honduras
Honduras ranks poorly in terms of education among its counterparts in Latin American and the Caribbean. Currently, the country spends the highest percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education of all countries in the region but has the second lowest test scores. Huffington Post notes that in many classrooms, girls and boys alike sit on dirt floors with no blackboards, no desks, no electricity and latrines that serve as unisex bathrooms.

The Foundation for Education in Honduras, or FEIH, is a charitable organization committed to giving education to the children of Honduras.

“The first step in restoring hope in Honduras is to invest in the children’s futures and livelihoods…Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), along with charitable foundations whose efforts are dedicated to improving the state of education, are slowly but surely promoting the necessary changes to make social transformations a reality,” writes Gina Kawas, FEIH’s director of Corporate Relations.

Although the Honduran Constitution formally specifies that minors must have their education taken care of, many enter adulthood without knowing how to read or write at all. Lack of public resources and the extreme poverty that encompasses Honduras is much to blame.

In order to change the status quo, the organization partners directly with local Honduran businesses and groups to renovate rural school buildings and provide school supplies to the children and teachers. In addition, FEIH aims to engage the school in cross-cultural activities in order to foster positive educational outcomes in the community.

More often than not, the necessity of increasing the family earnings forces many Honduran children to leave school for work, usually permanently. FEIH’s approach to this predicament is simple and extremely effective. The organization invests all the money it raises into school construction and educational programs. It helps to build sustainable, community-owned education projects, thereby giving education to the children of Honduras.

FEIH requires 20-25 percent of local labor building these schools to be volunteered by members of the community where the school is being built. This cultivates potential job opportunities to members of the community while simultaneously providing new schools for the communities’ children.

If Honduras is to prosper and provide its children with the education they deserve, it must realize and address how significant the relationship between increased time spent in school and a reduction in criminal activity truly is.

Marked as the “most violent country in the world” by the U.N. back in 2012, Honduras needs to place focus on its younger generations and invest in their futures. FEIH is slowly helping the country tackle one of it’s biggest issues at its root one school at a time.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

Honduran Refugees
Honduras, the small Central American country nestled between Guatemala and Nicaragua, is home to a rich, cultural heritage, stunning wildlife, beaches and forests. Despite the beauty this country has to offer, many of its citizens are seeking a safe haven far from the country they know. Here are 10 things you need to know to better understand Honduran refugees.

  1. The countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador often are reported on in tandem. This grouping, referred to as Central America’s Northern Triangle, experiences similar problems leading all three to their high refugee rates.
  2. Honduras is struggling with an incredibly high homicide rate. The country is currently tied with El Salvador for highest homicide rate in the world and in 2015, over 17,000 homicides were recorded across the Northern Triangle.
  3. Many of these killings are related to gang or criminal organization activity. Citizens of Honduras run the risk of being extorted by these groups and are often threatened with violence if they are unable to pay fees.
  4. Honduras is dangerous for women. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that women fleeing the Northern Triangle often report being assaulted, extorted and threatened. Honduras averages at 10.9 female homicides per 100,000 people. In comparison, the same statistic for the U.S. is 1.9 per 100,000.
  5. The number of Honduran refugees is growing. Nearly 10 percent of the region’s 30 million citizens have fled in the past 10 years. An analysis from the Council on Foreign Relations said that the amount of people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala living in the U.S. increased from 1.5 million to 2.7 million between 2000 and 2013.
  6. In addition to the threat of violence, Honduran refugees may also be fleeing from their countries for climate-related reasons. Honduras is experiencing prolonged drought effects due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.
  7. This drought is having a severe effect on food prices and on farming in the country. Bean and maize harvests have been cut in half due to the drought leading to an increase in food prices.
  8. Malnutrition is a serious risk for families. The U.N.’s World Food Project reports that around a quarter of children aged six months to two-and-a-half years struggle due to chronic malnutrition.
  9. The U.S has begun attempts to help the situation. In 2015, the Obama Administration appropriated $750 million to help address root causes of the influx of refugees.
  10. The U.S. Refugee Admission’s Program has been established to aid refugees from the Northern Triangle. The program will seek to identify families in need, and then relocate them as permanent residents in the U.S.


Though the situation in Honduras looks grim, the U.S. has the opportunity to make a difference through programs that will alleviate poverty-induced violence and restore the country that is home to so many refugees.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Honduras

It is estimated that 1.5 million people will face hunger in Honduras at some point every year. Honduras is the third poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean, with over 62 percent of the population living below the poverty line.

Rural areas of Honduras are even more susceptible to issues of hunger due to higher poverty levels and a lack of food security. Chronic malnutrition levels can reach up to 48.5 percent in the poorest rural areas.

According to the World Bank, Honduras is ranked 9th among countries with high-risk of mortality from exposure to two or more hazards. It is one of the most vulnerable countries to extreme weather conditions. Hunger in Honduras, therefore, is largely due to the reoccurrence of natural disasters such as flooding, drought, and hurricanes.

For small-scale subsistence farmers living in rural areas of Honduras, exposure to the disasters aforementioned can both decrease production and ruin crops and further prevent access to food and nutritional security.

Things, however, are looking up. Numerous global organizations, including the World Bank and World Food Programme (WFP), are initiating projects to alleviate Hunger in Honduras:

World Bank

The Corredor Seco Food Security Project is projected to lift 50,000 Hondurans out of poverty and reduce chronic malnutrition among children under the age of five by 20 percent. In order to achieve this goal, the World Bank is supporting small-scale farmers in one of the most drought-stricken areas of Honduras. The project will support the introduction of high-value crops, improve access to new markets, and increase food production.

In a recent press release, World Bank Representative in Honduras Giorgio Valentini stated, “This project is of vital importance because it aims at fighting poverty in rural areas, where most of the poor are concentrated, and to boost agriculture, one of the key sectors of the country’s economy.”

World Food Programme (WFP)

The School Meals Programme in Honduras is implemented in the poorest schools to provide funding for children’s meals and increase access to education. Thanks to such program, 1.4 million Honduran students in over 17,500 preschool and primary schools are able to receive a meal. The Programme in Honduras is WFP’s third largest school meal initiative worldwide.

In 2009, the School Meals Programme joined with WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P), which has been supporting agricultural production for small-scale farmers through connecting them to the local markets.

Two years later, nearly half of the maize and beans for the school meal rations were bought from smallholding farmers participating in P4P. In turn, the farmers’ yearly income was estimated to have increased by $500 and their crop yields by 50-80 percent.

With the support of global organizations like the World Bank and World Food Programme, farmers increase crop production, children receive adequate nutrition, while poverty and hunger in Honduras continue to decrease.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Diseases
Poor health is not only an effect of poverty but also is one of its root causes. This is particularly true for Central America’s second poorest country, Honduras, where 62.8 percent of the population lives in poverty. Many of the top diseases in Honduras are preventable; however, the fact that Honduras is not a first-world country with good access to health care makes illness more severe.

Without access to affordable health care, a lack of clean water and sanitation methods and a shortage of health centers, the poor are most susceptible to becoming ill from diseases in Honduras.

But what are the top diseases in Honduras?

Diabetes

Diabetes is the second-leading cause of death amongst Hondurans and occurs when a person’s pancreas fails to make enough insulin or does not use insulin correctly. As a result, people who suffer from diabetes often experience an increase in exhaustion, hunger, thirst, urination and weight loss.

For the 3.6 million people who live in rural areas, diabetes is a severe problem and one of the more menacing top diseases in Honduras. While it is an arguably treatable disease in first-world countries, diabetes can be fatal for those who do not live near clinics with adequate testing methods, or for those who do not live near clinics at all. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals that Latin American clinics rarely have the tools to diagnose diabetes early.

Cerebrovascular and ischemic diseases

Cerebrovascular disease causes 6.1 percent of mortalities in Honduras and refers to any condition that restricts blood flow to the brain, such as stroke, embolism or aneurysm. Ischemia includes coronary heart or artery diseases that usually result in heart attack.

Those who smoke, have high blood pressure, have diabetes, have high cholesterol or are obese are at higher risk of developing a cerebrovascular or ischemic disorder. This is especially concerning for Honduras, where the World Bank reports seeing a rise in overweight individuals eating high-fat diets with decreased levels of physical activity.

Lower respiratory diseases and influenza

According to an NIH study, respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia, are the primary cause of death among children five years old or younger living in rural regions.

Tropical regions often see a higher frequency and hospitalization rate for the flu than more northern areas of the world. The study also showed that parainfluenza and influenza were the most prevalent viral agents amid the children surveyed. While the flu is a common and treatable occurrence in the developed world, that is not the case for resource-poor Honduras.

HIV/AIDS

In 2015, there were 20,000 Hondurans living with HIV, 1,000 died due to AIDS and 18,000 children became orphans. Honduras’ most at-risk citizens include sex workers, men who have sex with men, inmates and the ethnic group known as the Garifuna.

An Afro-Caribbean community whose descendants were West African slaves, the Garifuna are not only marginalized from the rest of society but also more likely to live in poverty, experience gender discrimination and lack access to health care or education. These are all contributing factors as to why the Garifuna’s HIV prevalence rate is 4.5 percent–five times Honduras’ national rate.

Malaria, Dengue fever and Zika

Some of the top diseases in Honduras are transmitted via mosquitos. Mosquito-born diseases are extremely common in most Latin America countries, including Honduras. Luckily, cases of malaria in Honduras decreased by 78 percent between 2000 and 2011 due to community awareness education. The government aims to eliminate malaria’s deadliest strain by next year.

In 2013, Honduras experienced a widespread outbreak of Dengue fever which resulted in death in 5 percent of all cases due to hemorrhage. Although Dengue is typical in urban environments, it is a real concern for Honduras’ rural regions riddled with trash sites and where water is not regularly delivered. With piles of trash and pools of stagnant water, rural Hondurans are at severe risk of being infected.

Currently, there is an outbreak of Zika in Honduras. While many people infected with the Zika virus do not show any symptoms, it can lead to neurological difficulties such as Guillan-Barré syndrome, which causes temporary paralysis, and microcephaly in babies with Zika-infected mothers. Honduras recently declared a state of emergency over Zika after noticing a spike in the infection rate.

Kristina Evans

Photo: Flickr

Economic_Central AfricaA Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing took place on April 19 regarding the Alliance for Prosperity Plan. The five-year initiative for economic development in Central America is the result of a joint partnership between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the United States. The partnership intends to address the issues of poverty and violence that lead to the flight of migrants to the U.S.

One of the panel members, Elizabeth Hogan of the Latin America And Caribbean Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development, stated,“As you know, social development and economic growth in Central America have been stymied by a dramatic rise in crime and violence — particularly in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.”

According to a roadmap provided by the three countries, the approach will focus on revitalizing the Central American economy by stimulating growth, improving public safety and enhancing social and legal institutions to increase trust in the state.

Major steps to implement the economic strategy include attracting private investment, modernizing infrastructure projects, as well as  promoting the textile, tourism and agricultural industries. Anti-violence measures include strengthening security, promoting social programs and creating transparent public institutions.

The United States Congress required that 25 percent of assistance to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras be withheld until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies that each government is taking effective steps to combat human trafficking and provide development services for its citizens.

On the part of the United States, the White House has pledged to expand access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for “vulnerable individuals and families” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The Obama Administration is aiming to provide a safer and legal alternative to the dangerous journeys Central Americans are taking at the hands of human smugglers.

Additionally, Mercedes Garcia, a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, warns that to avoid long-term issues, aid must remain focused on empowering citizens rather than creating “precarious employment opportunities, like those offered to unskilled workers by most foreign corporations.”

With continuous monitoring and communication, leaders are hopeful that this alliance can boost economic development in Central America and improve U.S. relations with its neighbors. President Juan Hernandez of Honduras said at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank,“A peaceful Central America, with opportunities for its people, with justice and security, will be of great benefit not only for our citizens but also for the United States and other peoples of the world.”

Taylor Resteghini

Photo: Flickr

latin america gender
Workplace gender equality is vital for economic growth. With women making up 50 percent of the working population, but only contributing 37 percent to the GDP, it’s important to realize that their financial success is crucial for the global economy.

In order to see this success, women will need proper training and economic incentives to be economically stable. One small business owner, Daniel Vàsquez, moved his plantain processing plant from Tegucigalpa to Valle de Jamastràn in order to tap into the markets of smallholder farmers, both male and female alike.

Vàsque’s business, Dartma, processes the plantains that are used to make chips and other snack foods throughout small convenience stores in rural Honduras. His business model prioritizes gender equality throughout the workplace and was created by TechnoServe, a nonprofit that focuses on business solutions to poverty.

Dartma purchases produce from male and female farmers, and has a gender-balanced sales and production staff—individual talent determines who works where.

Vàsquez explains broadly, “There’s balance. Women are more creative in some areas, they’re detail-oriented, they’re better at product quality control. Men are better at activities requiring physical strength, like carrying materials.”

After implementing TechnoServe’s goals towards gender equality in the workplace, Dartma saw a 20 percent increase in revenue after one year. With more growth, he hopes to one day provide parental leave to his female employees.

According to global management firm McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), advancing women’s roles in the workforce can contribute $12 trillion in global growth by 2025.

For women to contribute more to the economy, there must be more gender equity at work. This requires adequate training that provides the skills females need to perform well in higher-productivity jobs, along with equal benefits and pay from the employer.

An MGI report states that in order to achieve gender equality at work, there must be economic development and a change in society’s attitude towards gender equality.

Over the last 30 years, these social attitudes have already improved, which has contributed to a 19.7 percent increase in female workforce participation last year, according to the same report. If this growth is maintained, nearly 240 million people will be added to the world’s labor force by 2025.

Daniel Vàsquez shares why he values the women who work for him and supports gender equality in the workplace. He states, “The main benefit of buying raw materials from women is that they deliver a higher quality product, they always deliver the right order and on time. The other benefit is that the money reaches their hands and they invest it in their children.”

Kelsey Lay

Sources: McKinsey Global Institute, TechnoServe
Photo: Latin Correspondent

Malnutrition_in_Honduras
Honduras is the third poorest nation in the Americas. One-third of the population lives below the poverty line and 1.5 million Hondurans or 20% of the population, face hunger on a daily basis.

However, malnutrition is especially problematic for children.

  • In rural Honduras, the problem is especially acute with 48% of the population suffering from malnutrition.
  • 10% of infants born in Honduras are underweight as a result of malnutrition in the country.
  • One out of two children in the poorest communities suffers from stunted growth.
  • 50% of children between the ages of 2 and 6 suffer from anemia.
  • 29% of Honduran children younger than 5 years old suffer from slow growth rates.

Fortunately, several organizations are providing funding to the country to alleviate malnutrition.

World Bank and the United Nations

The growing rates of malnutrition in Honduras have prompted the World Bank and the United Nations to act. Currently, the organization is supporting a program called the AIN-C with the United States and investing $20 million into Honduras.

The money will be divided among nearly 1,000 Honduran communities and benefit 16,000 children.

World Food Programme

In addition, the World Food Programme (WFP) implemented the School Meals Programme in Honduras, which has provided 1.2 million children in primary school with food aid.

The program targets the very poorest communities in the country and provides the children with daily meals in order to encourage school enrollment. In addition to the program, the WFP has implemented the Purchase for Progress (P4P) program.

The P4P is a program that buys products from small farmers in order to help support the community. In partnership with other buyers, they have purchased $60 million in food from local Honduran communities.

Hopefully, as the international community continues to support poverty reducing programs in Honduras, the rate of malnutrition will decrease throughout the country.

Robert Cross

Sources: Hope International, World Bank, World Food Programme
Photo: Wikimedia