TEGUCIGALPA — Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with approximately 60 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. In 2014, USAID launched the Alliance for Prosperity, a regional plan designed to improve living conditions in the Northern Triangle and reduce the need for civilians to emigrate from their home countries. The plan allocated $7.7 billion in aid between 2016 and 2018 to promote prosperity, enhance security and improve governance. Since its implementation in 2011, the homicide rate in the region has decreased by 25 percent.
Historically, U.S. foreign assistance to Honduras has contributed to a number of projects in the country, including violence and protection programs, market transformation systems and efforts to strengthen human rights and security. This assistance plays a critical role in supporting development and safety in the country, and instills hope in the people of Honduras.
For 2019, Honduras has requested aid funding in three sectors: democracy and governance, economic development and education and social services.
Democracy and Governance
According to a 2019 Organization of American States (OAS) investigation report, the Honduras government is facing a serious corruption problem. More than 140 current and former members of the Honduran congress embezzled thousands of dollars from social service programs, and approximately $12 million were misallocated in the 2013 presidential election. The state has also created devices used to monitor and impede citizens from raising their voices, specifically those advocating for environmental protection and improved human rights. In response, Global Americans, a nonprofit focused on international human rights and democracy, has outlined key areas where change needs to be made. Among those are facilitating the connection between investigative reporters and their regional counterparts to help spread awareness about corruption.
In an effort to support safe governance, USAID has created a two-part approach operating at both the local and national level. The goals are to strengthen institutions of public administration, to increase budget transparency and to support civil organizations in society-led advocacy efforts. USAID has focused its efforts on four pillars: elections, accountability of public institutions, civil awareness and improved delivery of government services.
Operating through the OAS, The Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) is working to reestablish the credibility of government officials and encourage collaboration between authorities and civilians. The mission is comprised of two target reform methods:
- attacking corruption networks using a team of prosecutors, international judges, investigators and forensic experts
- creating proposals for legal change that fight back against corruption.
Some of the specific reform efforts that MACCIH supports include constructing a Criminal Prosecution Policy on acts of corruption and creating an anti-corruption jurisdiction.
More than half of the population in Honduras lives in poverty, largely as a result of a struggling economy and education system. Children are malnourished, inadequately educated and lack access to electrical energy, making household productivity an immense challenge. The USAID nutrition profile found that approximately 1.5 million Hondurans face extreme hunger annually, and 42 percent of children living in the lowest-income sectors of the country will face growth stunting. Through U.S. foreign assistance to Honduras, economic growth activities are being implemented to increase the overall income of families living in poor, rural segments of the country.
Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s hunger and food security initiative, reported that agriculture is considered one of the top sectors of income among poor Hondurans, providing employment opportunities as well as the potential for expansion. Through Feed the Future, Hondurans are taught how to create market-driven production systems, rather than rely on subsistence farming. In 2016, Feed the Future farmers earned $50 million from agricultural sales alone, and 22,000 families increased their daily income from $0.90 to $1.38 per person. This improvement put them above the extreme poverty line – $1.25 per day – which is considered a remarkable achievement and step forward.
Education and Social Services
The public education system in Honduras is plagued with low retention rates and high dropout rates. UNESCO reports that there is a 12 percent grade repetition rate, and 20 percent of the population does not complete primary education. Furthermore, only 64 percent enroll in secondary education. Most schools in rural parts of the country have limited resources including textbooks, teachers and effective curriculum plans.
Without U.S. foreign assistance to Honduran public schools, many students would likely drop of out school before age 16, which is the final year that formal education is offered. USAID has built an education program that works with the Ministry of Education to correct ineffective policies. The program is re-calibrating the format and structure of standardized testing and emphasizing learning opportunities at the higher education level. The three pillars of the USAID/Honduras’ education program are: alternative education, teacher training and reform of the education sector. In the 2019 fiscal year, USAID is obligated to provide $14.65 million to fund these initiatives.
Additionally, the Education Development Center (EDC) partnered with the USAID in April 2018 to launch a five-year education plan in Honduras. The USAID invested $69 million, and the funds have gone towards two specific projects: USAID Honduras Reading Activity and Quality Reading Materials. Both projects are designed to support the Honduran government in improving literacy across the country. The initiative is targeting 700,000 students enrolled in grades 1-6 and offering improved training programs for 15,000 teachers.
U.S. foreign assistance to Honduras is essential for the nation’s progress. While high levels of government corruption, challenges with food security and inadequate education threaten Honduran livelihood, the programs funded by USAID are significantly improving conditions. Additionally, these programs are addressing the root causes of migration to the U.S. To oppose the proposed cuts to foreign aid to Central America and voice your support for these programs, email your congressional representatives using this template.
– Anna Lagattuta