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10 Facts About Sanitation in Honduras
After decades of military rule, Honduras established a freely-elected civilian government in 1982. Honduras remains the second-poorest country in South America, however. Much of the country’s economy still depends on U.S. trade and remittance. The CIA estimates that about 15 percent of investing in Honduras is direct foreign investments from U.S. firms. Honduras’s GDP is on a constant rise, but it also reflects the unequal distribution of wealth. This unequal distribution of wealth contributes to the state of sanitation in Honduras. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Honduras.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Honduras

  1. A total of 91.2 percent of Honduras’ population has access to an improved drinking water source. However, access to an improved water source is more limited in rural areas where most of the country’s impoverished populace lives. An estimated 63 percent of the rural population lives in poverty.
  2. People in rural communities rely on unprotected sources. The rural populace, which does not have access to improved water facilities and infrastructures, is forced to rely on small springs and wells that are not protected. This reliance on natural water sources means that access to water for the rural populace can be difficult during the dry season.
  3. Decentralizing water and sanitation services helped sanitation in Honduras. In 2003, Honduras passed the Drinking Water and Sanitation Sector Framework Law, which decentralized the water and sanitation services. The World Bank reported that this decentralization improved water services for approximately 108,000 families and sanitation services for 3,786 families. 
  4. The World Bank is contributing to decentralizing water and sanitation in Honduras. Through this project, the World Bank is helping to establish autonomous municipal water and sanitation service providers, thereby increasing sanitation coverage in Honduras.
  5. In 2015, 80 percent of the population had access to basic sanitation services. Similar to access to improved water sources, access to improved sanitation facilities is higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Those who do not have access to basic sanitation services are more likely to contract diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid.
  6. New technologies help produce clean water for Honduras. Working with the Pentair Foundation, the Water Missions International (WMI) was able to provide water filtration machines in the Honduran district of Colon. The machine uses filtration and chemical disinfection to produce 1,000 gallons of water for less than 75 cents. WMI also established microenterprises in Colon, where local communities obtain ownership over their community’s filtration machine.
  7. Agua de Honduras program aims to provide local communities with data about their water source. Agua de Honduras provides communities, especially in the dry western regions of Honduras, with data on hydrology, soil properties, water demands and future climate scenarios to local communities. The USAID supports this program from 2016 to 2018 with an investment of $800,000.
  8. Mining in Honduras poses a danger to the quality and quantity of water in Honduras. Mining is a lucrative industry in Honduras. In 2016, mining contributed one percent to the country’s GDP and made up five percent of the country’s exports. However, there are reports of local mines in Honduras contaminating the local water source with heavy metals. Furthermore, the water demand from mining operations can lead to water scarcity for the local community.
  9. Environmental activists and communities in Honduras are in danger of violence and death threats. Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries for environmental activism. In 2017, for example, people of the Pajuiles community fought against the construction of a dam that polluted their community’s water source. When the community set up road-blocks to prevent heavy machinery from getting to the construction sights, armed police force and swat teams forcefully removed them from the roadblocks. A protester in the same group was later murdered by a police officer.
  10. Climate change threatens Honduras’s access to water. Inside Climate News’s 2019 interview with the small rural community of El Rosario included a discussion of the effects of climate change for the people of Honduras. Residents of El Rosario reported that the prolonged dry season is hurting their crops and their livelihood. Some experts suggest that this lack of water could lead to further destabilization of Honduras’s political, economic and social climate. As many people will be forced to migrate from the effects of climate change, experts also suggest that there could be nearly 4 million climate migrants by 2050.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Honduras highlight the progress that has been made, as well as the continuing struggles. Moving forward, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations continue to make sanitation in Honduras a priority.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

poverty in panamaPanama has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and has made great strides in reducing poverty. However, some have called it a dual economy where the benefits of trade and commerce are felt in some urban areas but not by its most vulnerable populations, including its indigenous peoples. Here are ten disturbing facts about poverty in Panama.

10 Disturbing Facts About Poverty in Panama

  1. Panama has the second worst income distribution in Latin America— Although the country is rapidly growing in wealth, prosperity is not felt by all. According to the CIA, approximately one-quarter of the population lives in poverty. The richest 20 percent of the population controls half of the country’s wealth while the poorest 20 percent control only controls 12 percent of the wealth.
  2. Poverty in Panama is largely divided along urban and rural lines— The Panama Canal and its related sectors bring in more than 30 percent of the country’s annual economic growth through port activities alone. The total internationally focused service sectors account for more than 60 percent of the overall GDP. However, 21 percent of the population still makes its living in agriculture and does not see wealth generated by internationally focused services. Rural areas are largely inhabited by indigenous people who have limited access to resources and basic services. The Panama government, though, is working to improve access in these areas. Panama’s World Bank portfolio is $435.59 million USD, which includes seven active projects on social protection, governance, sustainable production, disaster management, wastewater management and indigenous peoples protection.
  3. The average life expectancy is much shorter for indigenous people— There is an 11-year difference in life expectancy between indigenous people and the general population. While the average life expectancy for the overall population is 79 years-of-age, the life expectancy for indigenous men and women who live in their original territories is 67.75 years.
  4. Access to healthcare is largely determined by location— Rural areas often lack medical infrastructures such as access to doctors and hospitals. This, as well as extreme poverty, takes a toll on the health of indigenous populations. Infant mortality rates among indigenous people are four times higher than urban Latino populations and 75 percent of Panama’s malnourished indigenous and non-indigenous children live in rural areas. To combat this, the Panama government has deployed its Coverage Extension Strategy by sending out mobile medical units providing basic care to 149,028 people from 47 poor rural communities. According to the World Bank, by 2014, 96 percent of children under the age of one received full vaccinations compared to 26 percent in 2010.
  5. The maternal mortality rate is much higher for indigenous women— The rate of maternal mortality for indigenous women living in their territories is five times higher than the national average. Nationally, the maternal mortality rate is 80 per 100,000 births, but for indigenous women, the rate is 462 per 100,000. Panama’s Coverage Extension Strategy has also been providing maternal healthcare with its mobile units by increasing access to prenatal controls. In 2010, only 20 percent of poor rural women had access to prenatal controls. By 2014, the number jumped to 86 percent of pregnant women in these communities receiving healthcare.
  6. Rural Panamanians largely lack access to education—A lack of infrastructure in rural areas makes it difficult for its largely indigenous population to gain access to a good education. While, in the year 2000, approximately 5.5 percent of non-indigenous adults couldn’t read, 37.7 percent of indigenous adults were illiterate. School attendance is also lower, with 78.7 percent of indigenous children in school compared to 96.8 non-indigenous. However, according to the CIA there has been an increase in secondary schooling lead by female enrollment in rural and indigenous areas, which will likely help to alleviate poverty.
  7. Access to information and communications technology (ICT) is largely determined by region— Access to communications technology such as computers and the Internet can be vital in improving education and opportunity. However, rural areas are often passed over by private companies who see little profit in creating the infrastructure that remote and impoverished regions need.
  8. Indigenous people’s rights are at risk— According to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, in 2016, Interior Minister Milton Henríquez told the leaders of all the country’s indigenous congresses and councils that the country would only recognize the five original comarcas, or tribal regions, preventing the leaders of 30 indigenous territories from advocating for themselves in further consultations and negotiations.
  9. Indigenous tribes’ territories are being encroached upon—The Barro Blanco hydroelectric plant in the Ngäbe-Buglé territory is being implemented without the tribe’s consent. Communities were forcibly evicted from the project area, which then flooded homes, farmland and sacred sites. Additionally, many tribes have begun using drones to keep an eye on their rainforest territories and prevent illegal logging and mining on their land.
  10. The need for water in sustaining the canal often supersedes the needs of the rural poor—The Panama Canal requires the release of approximately 52 million gallons of fresh water daily. The water comes from two reservoirs, which also provides water for the city. The prioritization of water for the canal ignores the need of farmers, who, beginning in the seventies, were viewed as threats to the canal instead of partners in watershed management. Though improving water management is important, the poor have reaped few of the benefits and many of the negative consequences of these policies.

Although Panama is a wealthy nation, prosperity is not felt by all. Rural and indigenous people often lack access to education, health care and political efficacy.

While this list may look grim, Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama has declined from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent and extreme poverty has decreased from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent. According to the CIA, from 2006 through 2012, poverty overall decreased by ten percentage points.

Although Panama has made great strides in reducing poverty, this list shows that there’s always room for improvement. Overall, the country has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

sustainable agriculture in MadagascarMadagascar is one of the world’s most biologically diverse areas, but only 10 percent of its original rainforests are intact. These remaining pockets of vegetation are highly fragmented due to local and small-scale destruction. Conservation must be combined with sustainable agriculture in Madagascar.

The Madagascar Flora and Fauna Group (MFG) has joined forces with Dr. Christof den Biggelaar, Associate Professor at Appalachian State University, North Carolina, to develop the MFG Ecoagriculture Project. The program works by teaching farmers agricultural techniques that encourage sustainable development and food security while conserving biodiversity. For instance, composting is an easy and effective method for combating the universal issue of soil infertility in Madagascar. Other MFG activities include research and the creation of new markets.

Human population growth in Madagascar has led to severe deforestation, largely due to the implementation of tavy, or slash-and-burn agriculture. Tavy is used primarily in the clearing of land for rice paddies and cattle grazing. It leads to erosion and productivity losses by exposing fragile soil. Runoff into the ocean is bad for fish health, which harms the local fishing industry. Deforestation also contributes to planet-wide climate change. Farmers understand the problem, but in their daily struggle for survival feel powerless to stop it.

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), or the Madagascar Method, has contributed to sustainable agriculture in Madagascar by increasing food security while decreasing environmental damage. For the last 25 years, Malagasy farmers have grown rice using intermittent wetting and drying of paddies rather than continuous flooding. Irrigating rice by flooding paddies suppresses weed growth, but at the expense of huge quantities of water. SRI uses less water, less land preparation and less fertilizer. With this method, young seedlings are planted individually with nutrients into wide rows of healthy, aerated soil. SRI results in rice with deeper roots that do not suffocate. These stronger roots create larger plants with heavier grains, thereby producing more grain per hectare while conserving water and reducing the environmental impact.

Madagascar is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, accounting for 80 percent of world production. Haagen-Dazs has partnered with General Mills to invest $125,000 over two years to encourage sustainable agriculture in Madagascar. General Mills buys most of the vanilla that goes into Haagen-Dazs ice cream from the Sava region. It has prioritized vanilla as one of the ten most important ingredients to source sustainably. Smallholder vanilla farmers have benefited from education and training aimed at the production of a more sustainable and higher quality crop. The resulting improvements in yield quantity and vanilla curing have increased the incomes of local farmers, which in turn has had a positive effect on entire communities.

The problems facing Madagascar are daunting, but the Malagasy people are becoming better equipped to tackle them. People around the world can contribute to sustainable agriculture in Madagascar by enjoying the nation’s famous shade-grown chocolate and vanilla.

– Anna Parker

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in LithuaniaThough Lithuania has experienced marked progress since joining the European Union in the early 2000s, it still faces a number of challenges. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, many European countries experienced a spike in poverty. The rise in poverty in Lithuania was among the most significant, and, compared to other European nations, it has not necessarily recovered to its full capacity. Arguably the most significant causes of poverty in Lithuania are those factors that relate to inequality.

The vast inequality present throughout Lithuanian society is the result of a persistent lack of adequate social programs and fair incomes. In addition, many areas of Lithuania maintain a low standard of living, with poor access to social programs and services, quality education and non-agricultural employment opportunities. This is particularly true of rural areas that are largely disconnected from the state’s urban centers and therefore do not benefit from the prosperity of the Lithuanian government or local businesses. Improving infrastructure to connect rural areas to urban centers would supply additional opportunities to those residing outside the city rather than forcing them to pursue only opportunities in their immediate vicinity. To do so would eliminate one of the main causes of inequality and therefore chip away at the causes of poverty in Lithuania as well.

Within Europe, more equal societies typically have the lowest rates of poverty. These are the states that prioritize social protections and mandate an adequate income in order to support a decent living, whereas others neglect disadvantaged populations in favor of other kinds of spending. Thus, one of the main causes of poverty in Lithuania is also one of the main causes of inequality: lack of adequate government assistance and social protections. For example, Lithuanian pensioners often do not receive enough to live on and thus become dependent on their families, placing an additional burden on household incomes that are already low. A more equitable allocation of government spending and redistribution of government services would serve to provide poorer and more vulnerable populations the resources they need to rise out of poverty.

By national standards, nearly 30 percent of Lithuania’s population faces poverty and social exclusion, one of the highest rates among members of the European Union. A comparable portion of the population is considered at risk of poverty. These facts and the lack of opportunities and government assistance available to Lithuanians have driven Lithuanians out of the country in search of better employment, despite the growth of the Lithuanian economy. In 2016, 50,333 Lithuanians left the country, 5,800 more than in 2015 and 13,172 more than in 2014. Should this pattern persist, economic growth in Lithuania will eventually slow, resulting in higher rates of poverty and inequality. In addition, those leaving are likely to be skilled workers, which means that Lithuania could also soon face a brain-drain, deepening the economic downturn that could occur.

While the causes of poverty in Lithuania are relatively simple to identify, their implications for the future are complicated as the country moves forward. In order to stop the emigration that would inevitably worsen Lithuania’s poverty rate, there must be a shift toward more equitable social programs and an effort to improve the access of rural communities to urban centers, therefore exposing them to education and employment opportunities necessary to their success. Should these issues be addressed, it is likely that Lithuania’s recent prosperity will continue.

Alena Zafonte

Photo: Flickr

PoaPower Provides Energy to Rural CommunitiesAccording to the International Energy Agency, 1.2 billion people are without access to electricity globally. Over 95 percent are located in either sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia, and 80 percent live in rural communities. Access to clean energy sources directly affects health, education and income, putting rural communities at a severe disadvantage.

The Global Innovation Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to investing money in new innovations that combat poverty issues in the developing world. One of their recent investments aims to combat the clean energy disparity in rural communities in Africa. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities at an affordable “pay-as-you-go” rate. The Global Innovation Fund has invested £150,000, or just over $191,970, in a pilot program based in Kenya that has brought energy to over 100 households.

In 2015, over 34 million Kenyans lived in rural communities throughout the country. Located in eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, Kenya’s primary energy usage is industrial. According to PoaPower, 80 percent of Kenyans lack affordable electricity, with data showing that 75 percent of families have children that require adequate lighting to finish homework. Another issue is the use of kerosene lamps in homes that have risks of indoor air pollution and fires.

By signing up with local PoaPower agents in their area, Kenyan households are able to receive enough energy to run their homes on an affordable “pay-as-you-go” model through the pilot program. The model allows for PoaPower to sell energy at a metered rate with no upfront costs. This allows even the lowest income households to receive energy quickly and when they need it. PoaPower provides energy to rural communities in Kenya that would otherwise be completely off-grid.

Testimonials provided by PoaPower include that of Samuel Mwangi, who stated, “Although power lines run over my house, I could not afford the connection fee. Now with PoaPower I have all the electricity I need – it’s even enough to run my laptop!”

In 2015, PoaPower received recognition for its efforts from Menorca Millennials, who invited the team to a 20-day focus program in Spain highlighting startup innovations that focus on tackling world issues on a global scale with new business models such as their pay-as-you-go program.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr

EmpoweringBRAC is a development organization in Bangladesh seeking to alleviate the lives of the country’s poor by empowering them through various efforts including disaster management, community empowerment, support programs, and education.

Overtime, Bangladesh has made major improvements in its education system. The literacy rate in Bangladesh is 83 percent for youth and 61 percent for adults. However, there is still work to be done. It is estimated that 1,300,000 primary school-age children do not have access to education in Bangladesh. Additionally, the rate of student school drop-out is still very high and the student to teacher ratio can be as high as 51:1. However, BRAC is taking steps to improve the education in Bangladesh.

With innovating teaching methods, BRAC provides children of poverty – who have been left out of the traditional education system – an education comparable with that of the mainstream school system. Education is one of the keys to fighting poverty, as upcoming generations will have more opportunities can change the course of their lives.

BRAC’s program on education in Bangladesh has four major practice areas: non-formal primary education, pre-primary schools, adolescent development program and multi-purpose community learning centers. These different practice areas reach not only children but also young adults and older members of communities.

The non-formal primary education initiative is a three-year program that aims to help kids aged eight to ten who have dropped out or never been enrolled in school. This program now has over 22,000 schools and over 681,000 students. The recent pass rate of BRAC’s pre-school graduates on the Primary School Certificate is 99.99 percent, and its students perform outstandingly on the exam, compared to national numbers.

Schools lead by BRAC not only provide a traditional education but also vocational skills, health awareness classes and financial services. Additionally, the schools provide safe places for children to play and participate in community activities, fostering community growth. The education program additionally brings mobile libraries to developing communities, which promotes reading and allows the members of the community to have access to computers and the internet.

The education program “has evolved organically, following a ‘life cycle’ approach with capacity and potentials to empower communities through livelihood improvement, citizenship development and poverty alleviation” according to BRAC.

As members of developing communities have better access to the tools they need to survive, like education, they have a better chance of thriving and building a successful life. By bringing education to poor communities in Bangladesh, BRAC is taking significant steps in order to fight global poverty. Its extensive education program will soon help children in many more poor countries, as the organization brings its schools around the globe. Improving education in Bangladesh will ultimately set an example of what needs to be done in other poor countries and communities.

Julia Arredondo

Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in Sri LankaThe World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced it will award a $20 million grant over the next two years to fight food insecurity in Sri Lanka.

Health officials say the grant will primarily be used to improve childhood nutrition in rural communities, where an estimated 21 percent of children under the age of five are moderately or severely underweight. More than 17 percent of children in Sri Lanka are also victims of stunting

“Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of children’s lives can have irreversible consequences…so, we must do what we can, as fast as we can, to give the most disadvantaged mothers and children dependable, quality nutrition,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.

Vulnerability to malnutrition affects many Sri Lankans who have been displaced by 30 years of internal conflict. The problem occasionally escalates when seasonal tsunamis and droughts pass over the island nation.

In partnership with Sri Lanka’s Ministries of Health and Education, WFP currently reaches children in school and at home.

WFP’s Schools Meals Program provides rice, dhal and vegetables to 160,000 students in 958 schools across the Northern Province. For many of the students served by the program, these school lunches are their only nutritional daily meal – a safety net, which has increased school enrollment and attendance.

Through regional health clinics, WFP distributes a nutritional supplement called Super Cereal Plus to 4,300 new and expectant mothers and over 10,000 children under the age of five. The supplement is a blend of corn, soy, vitamins and minerals and provides a guard against acute malnutrition.

The $20 million grant from WFP will help maintain funding levels for these programs as well as expand them to more provinces and more rural communities. The WFP said it hopes every child in Sri Lanka will receive reliable nutrition.

WFP also partners with the Ministry of Environment to strengthen agricultural resilience to climate shocks like drought and flooding. Their programs have reached 14,000 farmers. The organization hopes by empowering farming communities to be efficient and sustainable, they may be able to mitigate the effects of future climate shock, and thereby food insecurity in Sri Lanka.

Ron Minard

Sources: News.lk, Scaling Up Nutrition, UNICEF, WFP, WHO
Photo: IPS

Amigos de Las Américas
Amigos de Las Américas (AMIGOS) was founded by youth pastor Guy Bevil in 1965 when he and a small group of young adults landed in Honduras to administer polio vaccines in isolated, rural communities.

He knew that people lived off the beaten path, and wanted to provide health services for those who would not normally have access to them. Nearly 50 years later, his philosophy is strongly upheld in the organization.

Amigos de Las Américas has a mission: to make young people leaders and improve underdeveloped communities while doing so. Volunteers are high school or college aged. Summer programs are generally four to nine weeks in length, though college students can take a gap semester or year. All must have a base level of Spanish and an interest in changing the world.

Over 700 volunteers received training in leadership and specific community development projects annually. Volunteers are placed with host families, which gives them a chance to improve their Spanish, learn about the host culture, share their own culture and further integrate into the community.

Accepted applicants to the program must pay a program fee; 80 percent of this goes to cover travel, additional housing and meals. The remaining 20 percent is used for the organization’s administrative expenses.

AMIGOS operates in nine different countries: Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica. Community development projects cover a wide range of services, but are largely dependent on AMIGOS partners.

AMIGOS partners with locally based organizations, often nonprofit, to ensure that its volunteers are doing effective and needed work within a community. There are 25 partners in total.

Organizations like Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca in Mexico and Prodia of Peru, work mainly in health services, sanitation and nutrition awareness. Fundación Paraguaya and Panama’s Ministereo de Deasarollo Social provide investment services in local projects and individual enterprises. Fútbol con Corazón provides workshops on nutrition and life skills to more than 2,000 children in Columbia. This is in addition, of course, to soccer training.

Some might ask why AMIGOS focuses its efforts on Latin America when there is poverty still in the United States. The organization says it builds leaders, and that the compassion and leadership skills learned while on programs abroad are brought back to the U.S.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: AMIGOS, Go Overseas , US Gap Year Fairs
Photo: Vimeo