PAMPLONA, Spain — Central America is a region especially vulnerable to natural phenomena such as hurricanes. Since many countries of this region have important agricultural sectors, natural disasters may bring main economic activities to a standstill. Already dealing with high poverty rates, the region was affected in November when two category four hurricanes hit the countries in a period of two weeks. The heavy rainfalls and floodings worsened Central America’s situation, which has been already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and political instability.
The Catastrophe Caused by Hurricanes Eta and Iota
Hurricane Eta occurred on November 3, generating heavy rains, flooding and landslides. In the affected countries, Guatemala and Honduras, more than 250 inhabitants lost their lives. Approximately two weeks later, Hurricane Iota hit the region. Both hurricanes challenged the population, destroying houses and infrastructure and causing hunger as they flooded many agricultural fields. The northern part of Honduras suffered the worst impacts in all of the region and requires outside help.
The Situation in Honduras after the Hurricanes
Sebastián Pastor is working for Operación Frijol, a nonprofit that initially partnered with students and NGOs to provide food during the pandemic. Later, they helped to alleviate the damages of the hurricanes. In an interview with The Borgen Project, he stated, “Providing food although is vital, it is a temporal relief, so we started developing sustainable projects and suddenly the hurricanes came. Hurricane Eta had the same characteristics as Mitch in 1998, a hurricane still working to restore the damages. We knew what was coming.”
The hurricanes left Honduras with 20% of the agricultural production destroyed and hundreds of roads and bridges shattered. In San Pedro Sula, the city which was most affected, the water reached approximately 14.7 meters in height. Estimations predict that the economic impact of COVID-19 and the natural disasters could sum in a loss of around 50% of the country’s GDP. Pastor explained, “agriculture is the main economic activity and literally in a matter of two weeks, the production of bananas, coffee and crops disappeared.” The government, as well as various organizations, had to rescue people from the most-affected areas, provide food and necessities and also guarantee hygiene to control the transmission of COVID-19.
How Help and Support Started in Honduras
Joaquin Nodarse from Canal 6, the second-largest television channel in Honduras, had an interview with The Borgen Project in which he stated, “the water overstepped the roofs of the houses and the light poles, it was impossible to see anything. The United Nations has predicted that people will remain at least two months in the shelters and the main airport in the country, inundated to such an extent that the government said it would also take two months to enable it.”
In the beginning, the government found it difficult to take control of the problem. Organizations approached to distribute food or help rescue people and the government started coordinating activities. Many people have adapted to the situation and have transformed their houses and buildings into shelters. It is difficult to say precisely how many people were affected. Still, within Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, authorities say that more than four million were impacted. The government of Honduras has so far set up 636 shelters and accommodated 13,000 refugee families. Likewise, 60,000 food rations and 235 thousand masks have been delivered nationwide.
How Operación Frijol and Canal 6 Helped the Victims
Canal 6 is an example of a business united toward alleviating the situation of Honduras after the hurricanes. It has built five special divisions to help in this crisis. The first possesses boats, jet skis, helicopters and trucks to rescue people in flooded or inaccessible areas. The second has two industrial kitchens and alliances with restaurants that prepare meals every day to distribute them to recently rescued people. Likewise, the third manages rescue logistics and receives calls and messages to notify authorities of the damaged people’s location. The fourth division has excavators to help clear roads and open access to remote areas. The last one manages the long-term provision of essential materials like personal hygiene.
Furthermore, Operación Frijol saw the need to spread the word worldwide through social networks and a fundraising campaign. The organization, made up of young people, managed to raise approximately $320,000. “Beyond money, everything we have managed to collect has been massive,” Pastor said. Operación Frijol has managed to send five industrial trucks to San Pedro Sula. It has joined with the Red Cross to send people to the World Kitchen to prepare 12,000 meals a day. Additionally, they have joined universities’ efforts to distribute food and have worked with local shelters to notify them of what is missing.
Hope created by International and Local Help
Even though the situation is critical, Nodarse explained that “the most encouraging thing has been the awakening of people, and not only that but also that the international community is participating and helping, sending humanitarian aid, rescuers, donations and more.”
Solidarity is essential to overcome the challenges of Honduras after the hurricanes. Many people have been faced with unfortunate circumstances; they have lost their jobs, homes and families. For a region that previously suffered from high poverty rates, this crisis’s effects will be critical. Honduras needs foreign and local help to reconstruct the destroyed regions and lift people out of precarious circumstances.
– Isabella León Graticola