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% 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% in the poorest rural areas.

According to the World Bank, Honduras is ranked ninth 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%. 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 programs, 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 by 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%.

With the support of global organizations like the World Bank and the 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% 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% 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% — 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 American countries, including Honduras. Luckily, cases of malaria in Honduras decreased by 78% 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 five 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 Africa

A 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 genderWorkplace 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

Protests_in_Honduras
For the fifth consecutive Friday, thousands of protesters in the Honduran Capital have marched, torches in hand, calling for their President and other leaders to resign on charges of corruption. In fact, their demands go beyond what many see as simply political theater in having high ranking officials resign. The protesters are seeking systemic change by having an international observing and prosecuting body investigate and fight corruption and impunity in the struggling Central American Nation.

This international commission, which exists only as an idea, is coming to be called CICIH, the International Commission Against Impunity in Honduras. The inspiration for such a sagacious demand by protesters seems to be the success of the CICIG, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, in enforcing the rule of law and subverting corruption in Honduras’s neighboring state.

The CICIG’s recently renewed mandate to operate in Guatemala was welcomed by the State Department and presented as an effective model for curbing violence, unlocking growth and reducing poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, in an earlier Borgen Blog post.

The grievances behind the recent protests in Honduras serve as a great example of how corruption undermines growth. An estimated $120 million was “fraudulently misspent” by the Honduran Social Security Institute, a large proportion of which went to fund President Juan Orlando Hernandéz’s 2013 campaign. Mismanagement of public funds, not to mention poor investment climates and the struggles of doing business, are some ways in which corruption impedes poverty reduction. In 2005, corruption was estimated to cost the world $1 trillion.

Leading the world in murders per capita, and Latin America in income inequality, life is difficult in Honduras.

At least 32.6 percent of Hondurans live in extreme poverty, reports the World Bank, and the the number of people below the national poverty line continues to climb. Rocked by a drug war, hyperactive and omnipresent gang activity and intense violence from law enforcement, the symptoms of corrupt and unstable institutions consistently make headlines in what The Economist warned was fast becoming a “failed state.”

The issues facing Honduras are not entirely endogenous and are incredibly complex. For starters, their geographic location is favored by narco-traffickers aiming to get products to markets in the U.S. They are still reeling from a 2009 coup. Impunity among state security forces is rampant, something that has been blamed for their out of control killings and targeted assassinations.

Among the many things that Honduras needs, are dependable and capable institutions, which are difficult to cultivate in the environment in which Honduras finds itself. Thankfully, the unique model provided by the work of CICIG in Guatemala lends itself perfectly to their situation, and the people of Honduras are ready for it.

– John Wachter

Sources: Al Jazeera, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace , CNN Español, The Economist, The Guardian, Huffington Post, La Prensa, Tico Times 1, Tico Times 2, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: Flickr

honduras
In 2013, tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children crossed the U.S. border. Most come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and are fleeing their home countries because of poverty and violence. The rising numbers of child immigrants are bringing the issue to the forefront of Washington’s political debate.

“I am personally appalled by the staggering numbers of minors — sometimes 5 and 6-year-olds — who are left with no other choice but to cross the desert by themselves,” says Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Ted Menendez (D-NJ).

There is a growing movement of minors crossing the Mexico-U.S. border in Texas, and allowing themselves to be arrested. In 2013, the Office of Refugee Resettlement took in 24,668 unaccompanied minor immigrants, up from the average of 7,000 a year in the early 2000s. This sharp increase in numbers is explained by critical lawmakers as children taking advantage of U.S. policy on child immigrants from Central American countries. The policy allows such children to live with an adult in the U.S. from the time of their arrest until their court date.

Many more than the 24,668 taken in by the Office of Refugee Resettlement cross the border without notice by authorities. Still thousands more never make it to the border. As of June 2014, Mexico has deported 4,500 U.S. bound child immigrants from Honduras alone.

Poverty and violence are the two main factors driving people out of Honduras. Mario Aquino Vasquez is a security guard in Las Brisas, a neighborhood in San Pedro Sula, one of Honduras’ most violent cities. He describes the constant gang raids in the neighborhood: “If you were held at gunpoint and you didn’t give up everything you owned, they would kill you.” The dirt roads and shack-like houses of Las Brisas represent the 60 percent of Hondurans living below the poverty line.

James Nealon, nominee for the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, addresses the issue of unaccompanied minors fleeing a poverty stricken country. The issue stems from a complex system of narcotics trafficking and organized crime. In order to address the corruption, Nealon explains, the U.S. must assist Honduras in establishing democratic intuitions, in fostering respect for the rule of law and in the successful prosecution of criminals.

He confirms that it is in the U.S. interest to promote stability in Honduras. A stable Honduras means a stronger trading partner for the U.S. and fewer drugs making their way to the U.S. All of this will indirectly result in less unaccompanied minors making the dangerous journey across the U.S. border. Learn more about poverty in Honduras.

— Julianne O’Connor

Sources: USA Today, World Bank, CNN, U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations 1, U.S. Committee on Foreign Relations 2
Photo: America Aljazeera

UN_women_latin_america
Over the past decade, Latin America’s economy has improved due to the rising quantity of exports. At the same time, rapid growth of urban centers has created socioeconomic problems like an increase in prostitution and sex trafficking. One of the consequences of the urbanization of Latin America is a rapid increase in population, which in turn results in a larger number of unemployment and homelessness. The high population outnumbers the amount of jobs available for people, especially women. The consequence is that more women living in these urban slums resorting to commercial sex work. These women then become vulnerable to diseases and to violent environments.​

In Brazil, over 40,000 women have murdered for simply being women in the past 10 years. And Honduras is labeled one of the most dangerous places to live for a woman. There, the violent killings of women there have tripled. Unfortunately, only 5 percent of these crimes have been investigated and the murderers prosecuted.

Columbia is facing significant gender-based violence because of military conflict within the country. Women are often attacked who take part in activism to encourage political and social reforms for more representation and rights.

The third most violent place in the world for women is Guatemala. The county ordered a new law to prevent violence against women in 2008, making it the first Latin American country to do so. Yet since the law was implemented, not much has been done to support the new reforms. Women continue to have problems finding prosecution for the culprits.

Not only does violence cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in Latin America, but it decreases the region’s social and economic development. The killings are preventing these women from contributing to the economic growth of the country. Seven Latin America countries rank in the top 10 countries in the world for most domestic violence against women.

One answer to this matter is the program U.N. Women, which helps to strengthen the representation of women in government and politics. New policies are developed for women’s economic development; particularly, women in isolated and rural regions in Latin America. These policies aim to create equal and fair workplaces for all women who are seeking or already have employment and to create job opportunities.

UN Women is helping to end gender based violence against women in Latin America by creating services for victims and survivors. This will help by implementing laws to protect women and provide justice for those in need.

— Rachel Cannon

Sources: CSIS, UN Women 1, UN Women 2
Photo: UN Women

Violence_Poverty_Exacerbate_Homelessness_Honduras
Birthplace of the term “banana republic” and victim of the brutal fruit companies-led coup, Honduras is among the countries with the lowest incomes in Latin America, poverty is very pronounced problem in this Central American nation. Despite an economic growth of around 3 percent per annum, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of the country remains stagnant.

This discrepancy could indicate that there is a widening disparity gap.

In fact, since the coup d’état in 2009, Honduras witnesses the most rapid rise in inequality in Latin America, a factor that contributes to prevailing climate of violence. Equally frustrating, the top 10 percent of the population also earns virtually all of the republic’s real income gains.

Furthermore, the 2009 coup d’état had increased the overall rates of poverty and extreme poverty. This climate of political crisis had reverted the economic advances that took place in the country. In addition, the government of President Porfirio Lobo, who came into power after the post-coup elections of 2010, had reduced social spending despite the boost in public spending.

It is estimated that 71 percent of the 8.3 million Hondurans live in poverty, a major problem that contributes to the frequent instances of violence that plague the nation. Because of this astronomic number of people living in poverty, a large sector of Honduras’ population is also deprived of education.

Only a lucky few can afford any education beyond sixth grade.

What’s more, Honduras has the highest rate of homicide in the world, with the average of 20 people murdered daily, 90 percent of whom are male victims. This frightening data stem from the burgeoning narcotic business, which has given rise to many organized crimes. This epidemic problem of homicides also takes away from the country’s meager income by necessitating the Honduran government to spend 10.5 percent of the national GDP in the combat of violence.

Due to Honduras’ constant history of political instability, there has always been very little opportunity for Honduras to develop democratic institutions to impose the rule of law. Instead, centuries of colonialism and decades of dictatorship have marginalized the poor, leaving them with minimal choices to make a living.

This scarcity of upward economic mobility and grinding poverty have driven many towards illicit ways of earning money.

In its attempt to encourage Honduras to alleviate poverty, the World Bank has suggested the country to support the stability and the growth of its macro-economy as well as to improve the quality of its education. But, these key options to improve the situation of the country are easier said (or suggested) than done. Development and democracy are not phenomena whose advent can be brought about at an instant.

Instead, they require years of institutional and systematic reforms for a society to have a functional democracy and a sustainable development.

 – Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: El Pais Internacional, El Heraldo, El Heraldo, Los Angeles Times, World Bank, World Bank
Photo: Zimbio