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The Pandemic Hits the Dry Corridor in Honduras

Along the Goascorán river – which starts in the La Paz department of Honduras and flows out into the Gulf of Fonseca  – there are indigenous campesino communities destined to almost absolute neglect. These communities, constantly in the shadow of climate change in the form of floods or drought – depending on the season – today are trying to survive Covid-19.

Martín Cálix

 
 

(This article was originally published by Contra Corriente.)

The Red Cross has arrived to the communities in the so-called Dry Corridor. It has brought them aid double the cost of what was promised by the government, and six months into the pandemic, it’s the first time that many of the farming families that live in this impoverished zone of the country have seen any help. 

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal for its Spanish acronym) predicts that by the end of 2020, at least 83.4 million people on the continent will fall into extreme poverty, as a result of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning a total of 15.9 million more people in poverty. According to Cepal, this represents 13.5 percent of the population in the region, which is the highest rate of poverty in the last 20 years. 

Oneida López, local councillor for the ruling National Party of Honduras in the municipality of Opatoro – a municipality high in the coffee-producing mountains of the La Paz department and 97.9 kilometers from the closest hospital located in the department’s major city – explains that the municipality of Opatoro has prepared to combat the pandemic: “We allocated, at the beginning of the pandemic, municipal funds for food rations for a thousand of our municipality’s most vulnerable families.” The rations that councillor López refers to are valued at about $20 dollars each, and they are the only aid that the mayor’s office of Opatoro has been able to give directly to its residents during five months of the pandemic – one thousand food rations in a municipality with a population of more than 7,000 people.

López also claims that the local government that she represents has invested municipal funds – through the transfers [of federal funds] to designated municipalities to ease the effects of Covid – to buy the treatment MAIZ (microdacyn, azithromycin, ivermectin and zinc), a packet provided at no cost by the Health Ministry in its home visits to people with or suspected of having Covid. 

As of September 8, 2020, the La Paz department reported 1,179 positive cases and 37 deaths from Covid, according to official data from the National Risk Management System (Sinager for its Spanish acronym). In the official data online reporting the advance of Covid in the country, it’s not possible to look up municipal statistics. As of May, La Paz was one of the five departments with the least PCR tests carried out, according to statistics from the Health Ministry.

According to the website of the Presidency of Honduras, to ease the effects of Covid in the country, the Honduras government will allocate about 250 million lempiras ($10.12 million USD) for the construction of triage centers and medical brigades in 298 municipalities, another 200 million lempiras ($8.09 million USD) that should come out of municipal transfers and another 500 million lempiras ($20.23 million dollars) donated by the Interamerican Development Bank that would be used to increase the capacity of public hospitals in the country.

The program coordinated by the Honduran Red Cross, Community Basin Management - Our Goascarán Basin, benefits at least 2,700 families affected by Covid in 17 municipalities in the basin, and provides some 37 health centers in the zone with biosecurity equipment. The food families receive from the project – valued at about $46 dollars per ration – means feeding themselves for 15 days in places where the closest store is four hours walking and where the little commerce that did exist before the pandemic ended up completely paralyzed given the restrictions declared by the Honduran government in its attempt to contain the advance of the pandemic. The program has also provided water filters to some communities in the Goascorán basin.

These predominantly farming communities have found themselves at the mercy of the social handouts of these organizations. Up in the mountains over the basin, where the telefone signal falters and access to education is minimal, it has become unthinkable in the context of the pandemic for kids and adolescents to be able to access the internet to continue their studies. Health centers operate with just the basics.

Felicita and her grandson pose in their kitchen. Felicita took responsibility for her grandson when her daughter, his mother, died. Now they depend on the help that comes from another one of her daughters who lives in Tegucigalpa, but who has been suspended from her job during the pandemic. Opatoro, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Felicita and her grandson pose in their kitchen. Felicita took responsibility for her grandson when her daughter, his mother, died. Now they depend on the help that comes from another one of her daughters who lives in Tegucigalpa, but who has been suspended from her job during the pandemic. Opatoro, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Three ears of maize hang from a rope in the kitchen of a home. Maize is one of the staple foods of the Lenca families from the mountains.  Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Three ears of maize hang from a rope in the kitchen of a home. Maize is one of the staple foods of the Lenca families from the mountains.  Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

The Catholic church in the Florida community has been empty during the pandemic. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
The Catholic church in the Florida community has been empty during the pandemic. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Food from the aid that the Honduran Red Cross gives to the communities in the Goascorán basin is laid out on a table during the food delivery in the Florida community. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Food from the aid that the Honduran Red Cross gives to the communities in the Goascorán basin is laid out on a table during the food delivery in the Florida community. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Sacks of food to be delivered by the Red Cross. Nacaome, Valle, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Sacks of food to be delivered by the Red Cross. Nacaome, Valle, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A child waits for his mother during the food delivery in his community. Curarén, Francisco Morazán. August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A child waits for his mother during the food delivery in his community. Curarén, Francisco Morazán. August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

The Goascorán river serves as a natural border between Honduras and El Salvador. It begins in the La Paz department and flows into the Gulf of Fonseca. The food delivery project that the Honduran Red Cross coordinates – which also delivers water filters to many communities – has given food provisions worth at least $46 USD to 2,700 families affected by Covid-19, across 17 communities in the basin. Goascorán, Valle, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
The Goascorán river serves as a natural border between Honduras and El Salvador. It begins in the La Paz department and flows into the Gulf of Fonseca. The food delivery project that the Honduran Red Cross coordinates – which also delivers water filters to many communities – has given food provisions worth at least $46 USD to 2,700 families affected by Covid-19, across 17 communities in the basin. Goascorán, Valle, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Two women who have divided the load walk to their homes, located at least an hour from the drop off location. This help – although small – will help feed their families for at least 15 days. Aguanqueterique, La Paz, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Two women who have divided the load walk to their homes, located at least an hour from the drop off location. This help – although small – will help feed their families for at least 15 days. Aguanqueterique, La Paz, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A young man carries a sack of food handed out by the Red Cross. To reach his community, the young man will have to walk at least half an hour with this sack on his back. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A young man carries a sack of food handed out by the Red Cross. To reach his community, the young man will have to walk at least half an hour with this sack on his back. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Three women stand with their food rations during the delivery protocols in the Florida community.  Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Three women stand with their food rations during the delivery protocols in the Florida community.  Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A boy carries a sack of food delivered by the Honduran Red Cross to his family. He will walk at least a half-hour to his house. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A boy carries a sack of food delivered by the Honduran Red Cross to his family. He will walk at least a half-hour to his house. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Given the restrictions put in place by the Honduran government to try to contain the pandemic, the fledgling agricultural economy in the communities in the Goascorán basin and Dry Corridor has become a subsistence economy. Aguanqueterique, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Given the restrictions put in place by the Honduran government to try to contain the pandemic, the fledgling agricultural economy in the communities in the Goascorán basin and Dry Corridor has become a subsistence economy. Aguanqueterique, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A community leader revises a list of people benefiting from the project coordinated by the Red Cross. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A community leader revises a list of people benefiting from the project coordinated by the Red Cross. Opatoro, La Paz, August 8 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

Drawn directly from the nearest water tributary, the water doesn’t receive any treatment before use by residents. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
Drawn directly from the nearest water tributary, the water doesn’t receive any treatment before use by residents. Curarén, Francisco Morazán, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A clay filter inside a plastic container helps the families that benefit from the project to purify the water for human consumption. Aguanqueterique, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A clay filter inside a plastic container helps the families that benefit from the project to purify the water for human consumption. Aguanqueterique, August 29 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

A woman crosses the corn field with a water filter on her back. The water filter, delivered by the Honduran Red Cross, will help her family purify the water consumed directly from the closest water source, the closest thing at the moment to potable water. Curarén, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix
 
A woman crosses the corn field with a water filter on her back. The water filter, delivered by the Honduran Red Cross, will help her family purify the water consumed directly from the closest water source, the closest thing at the moment to potable water. Curarén, August 27 2020. Photo: Martín Cálix

 

*Translated by Anna-Catherine Brigida


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