The Current Reality of Honduras

Editor’s note: The following comes from a mid-term evaluation of our Infant-Maternal Health Project in Honduras. I was struck by the chapter that contextualized the situation in Honduras presently and thought it worthwhile to share with our members. This has been Google translated from Spanish so please keep that in mind.

The work of Vecinos Honduras (VH) is in rural zones of Honduras, in poor populations, marginal and excluded, who have to settle in remote hill areas, because they do not have another option to keep their families; who had to build with tenacity and sacrifice a social coexisting system with many limitations: they do not have public services, lack worthy income; high deterioration of the natural resources, low production and productivity; suffer contamination due to agro-chemicals and garbage; bad infrastructure.  The majority of the families do not have potable water; more or less half of them lack electricity, and in the majority of the cases the houses need to be improved.

Household plumbing.

This scenario of shortages contributes to the precarious life conditions of the population.  They basically depend of subsistence agriculture, mainly for consumption. The only factors that contribute to local economy and alleviate a little the crisis of family subsistence, are the remittances in the south and coffee in the eastern part of the country.

Vecino Honduras teaches families how to diversify their crops to not only grow coffee but also more food for their family.

There is a very deficient education service: pre-school and elementary school with many limitations, and a poor public health service oriented to curing illnesses.

In research made by the World Health Organization to measure the performance, quality and coverage of the health services, Honduras occupies the 131 place of 191 countries.

The greatest potential for development in Honduras is agriculture.  However, investing in this sector implicates a very high risk with respect to the return of capital.  It is for this reason that neither the private companies, nor the financial system or the government support this sector, which could easily generate one million jobs at the national level (study from ANAFAE).

A well ordered farm.

Support is oriented towards large enterprises and crops for exporting such as: Coffee, Bananas, Cantaloupe, Seafood and Tilapia, among others.  The families, who live on the hills in a subsistence limbo, in which institutions with a sustainable development approach, such as Vecinos Honduras, play a very important role in their lives are in many ways lucky because, these type of development institutions are few, and those who would assume challenges in this context, are even less.

According to estimates from the government, for each ten Hondurans seven are poor, and of these seven almost five live in extreme poverty.  This has been this way for at least 100 years; which puts in evidence the erratic public policies applied, which base their dysfunctional neoliberal approaches that had and still have the economy of some developed countries in crisis; the last ones Spain, Greece and currently Argentina.

Neoliberalism does not even work for great powers who have been their promoters; and now USA embraces protectionism, that has generated a commercial war between the USA and the rest of the world, mainly with China and Russia.  Moreover, Honduras continues betting on the recipes of the IMF, when it has been proven that these only seek the mobility of resources to the great powers.

Honduras is known in the world as the country of extreme: the most violent, the most corrupt, the poorest, the most inequitable and more recently, the one with more massive immigrations to the USA.  Complete unemployment and sub-employment has a direct relation with poverty, is because the people do not have access to economic income and are poor.  The development plans of the public sector are subject to national and foreign investment, which never arrives.  The problem is that the families have to eat today, they cannot continue waiting until investment arrives, and in the meantime, how do they feed their families?

Based on skills learned at a Vecinos Honduras workshop she started her own business selling plantain chips and can now feed her family and afford to send her children to school.

Because of the political instability characterized by disrespect to the judicial framework, disrespect of popular will, election frauds, corruption and impunity, as well as fiscal insecurity as the rules change as it is appropriate to the politician in turn, investors don’t know what to expect and prefer to invest their capitals in other countries.

The debt of Honduras is 12 billion Canadian dollars (SEFIM). The Gross Domestic Product (PIB), is approximately 22 billion dollars.  The general budget of the republic is 11 billion dollars for the year 2018 (less than the debt), of this budget, and each year 2 billion dollars are used to pay the debt (capital plus interests).  In the last 6 years, 9 billion dollars has been paid; and the worst part is that Hondurans do not know why we have this debt; how it is used; and if there is evidence of it reaching the country.

“The Honduran health system is deficient in: Doctors, nurses, equipment, supplies, medicines, health centers, beds and budget.  It also suffers from corruption and lack of social sensibility from the staff; therefore, it is considered to be in crisis.  All of the above is summarized in that the State provides the Hondurans a health service which is of a very bad quality.  The greater impact is suffered by the poor, and among these, we find the families who live on hills of the rural areas. “

Vecinos Honduras trains local Health Monitors to do regular health check-ups on the community’s children under the age of 5.

However, what we do see is that because of its payment, investment is reduced in social aspects such as: health, education, housing, community rural infrastructure, etc.  Instead of increasing the health and education budgets, increases go to the police and the army for weapons, equipment and war practices, in a country in which one third of the population is considered homeless. If this spending negatively impacts the living conditions of the urban populations, where there is more employment and more is invested in infrastructure; it affects the rural populations where there is no employment and investment is minimum even more. It is in this context, and with these families, that Vecinos Honduras works.

Cristina Margarita Alvarez’s success story

Cristina Alvarez

When Cristina Margarita Alvarez was a child she wanted to become a teacher. Unfortunately, because of a lack financial resources, she only attended primary school before leaving her community of La Batea, Honduras. She found work as domestic worker in the city of Danli in order to support her first daughter Berenice. She was sixteen at the time.

She lived in Danli for four years when she met Félix Donaldo Martínez.  They got married and decided to settle in the community of Flores #2 where Felix would grow coffee for 22 years.

They had three children; Darwin Donaldo, Josué Fernando and Josías Enoc. The first two have moved out and created their own homes and Josias studies at the Luis Landa Basic Education Center in the community of La Libertad.

Once settled in Las Flores # 2, she began to attend the Catholic Church, which motivated her to teach catechism to girls and children between 7 to 12 years of age. In a way, her dream of being a teacher of primary education was fulfilled with this task.

Christina teaching

When Vecinos Honduras began to support her community, she became interested in participating, especially in activities related to community health, drawing attention to the topic of food preparation based on local products. When the health monitors in her community were selected, she voluntarily offered to work with the children in Comprehensive Childhood Care in the Community and Early Stimulation. She mentioned that at the beginning of the AIN-C program she had not participated because her one-year-old granddaughter Tifany Mikeyla Salinas Martínez was in her care, which prevented her from attending the trainings. However, in the next phase of training for health monitors she managed to train and currently serves 15 girls and boys from the Las Uvas neighborhood.

“My wish is for children to be smarter so I treat them with all my love and affection. Now that I teach what I learned with mothers I feel good because I do not keep the knowledge, but I share it, taking into account that everyday I learn more.”

It is important to mention Cristina Margarita has the support of her husband and children, since they all share domestic chores, have common dreams and make efforts to improve their life situation. An evidence of the family effort is that based on their collective work they have managed to acquire other lands where they currently cultivate 15 blocks of coffee, a space in which the whole family works collectively.

Cristina Margarita is a worthy example of struggle, perseverance and dedication to her family; her volunteer work and her desire to serve others is a permanent source of inspiration.

Prepared by: Michael Newman program facilitator team

Date: August 25, 2018

Photography: Manuel Castellanos

 

Reflecting on progress in Maternal-Child Health

The Board of Directors of World Neighbours Canada met recently in West Kelowna for their Annual General Meeting. Board members responsible for communication with each of our partner NGOs – in Honduras, Burkina Faso and Nepal – provided an update on what has been achieved during the past twelve months. Highlighted here is only ONE of the achievements of the past year for each country. During the coming weeks, we will publish more in-depth articles about the activities that have taken place in each country.

Our matching grant from Global Affairs Canada is allowing us to provide much more monetary support to these grassroots organizations. Without our donors, it would not be possible for World Neighbours Canada to apply for such grants. The directors of WNC and our partner NGOs – Vecinos Honduras, TSS (Nepal) and APDC (Burkina Faso) extend a heartfelt thank you for the on-going support. Please remember our projects and our relationships are long-term and support locally appropriate initiatives. It is truly a model of participatory development.

Burkina Faso – During the past year, close to 5000 villagers have attended sensitization and/or information sessions on family planning, malnutrition, the importance of vaccinations, nutrition (how to prepare healthier, more balanced meals with local produce ) and gender equality.

Nepal – Over the past two years, TSS has supported villagers with the installation of 4012 toilets in homes in villages in Ramechhap District. This has been linked to a nation-wide campaign to encourage everyone to use proper toilets.

Honduras – The health initiative of monitoring young children for growth by measuring body weight has continued and expanded over the past year and positive results are being observed. Mothers are given advice and support in raising healthy, well-nourished children.

 

Community Medicine Kit

Typical Community Medicine Kit

By Gabriel Newman

This a photograph of a typical community medicine kit. There are now twenty-six communities that Vecinos Honduras works with that have these kits. Community Monitors (Volunteers) received training in how to administer medication as local health units are short on medication and only are open Tuesday-Friday.

The kits are well equipped; they contain medicines to treat anemia, diarrhea, dehydration, conjunctivitis, fever, fungus, parasites, stomatitis, and scabies, among others. They also aim to prevent severe episodes of pediatric bronchitis or pneumonia.

According to what the volunteers report, 165 women and 54 men, 148 girls and 156 boys have been treated in the last six months, the most prevalent diseases in the communities are fever, headache, respiratory infections, diarrhea, parasites, pediculosis, and stomatitis in few cases.

The Strength of World Neighbours Canada – Enduring Partnerships and Mutual Respect

Mother and her children at health education session. Honduras

By Bruce Petch

At World Neighbours Canada we are sometimes asked what makes us unique. There are many charities that support people in developing countries; what does World Neighbours Canada do differently?

The answer is multi-faceted. There are many aspects of our organization that inspire loyalty among our donors – we are run by volunteers, have very low overhead, and use modest fundraising approaches. The attribute of World Neighbours Canada that we hold closest to our hearts is enduring partnerships. These partnerships occur at multiple levels – between the local organizations we support and the rural people they serve; between us and the local organizations; and between World Neighbours Canada donors and its board and volunteers.

The emphasis on partnerships is rooted deep. When World Neighbors was founded in the U.S. in the 1950s, it was ahead of its time in recognizing that poor people in developing countries deserved respect. World Neighbors founders embraced the United Nations statement acknowledging the “inherent dignity” of all people.

Community Meeting – Nepal

World Neighbors evolved into an unusual organization, focusing on long-term partnerships and outcomes when many organizations worked with only a one- or two-year project term in mind. Their minimal expatriate staff – called Area Representatives – often held their positions for more than ten years, sometimes more than twenty, which was remarkable in a field where terms of more than two years were uncommon. The essence of their work was building long-term partnerships with local organizations and communities, growing leadership capacity and fostering knowledge-based development.

Local NGO APDC leading workshop in Burkina Faso

The founders of World Neighbours Canada were inspired by the commitment and effectiveness of the World Neighbors family of organizations, and created a Canadian group to support the international network. Since its inception, World Neighbours Canada has worked to establish enduring partnerships with local organizations. We have supported Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti in Nepal and Vecinos Honduras (and its predecessors) since 1989, and APDC in Burkina Faso since 2006.

Finished Tap No. 6. – Nepal

Each of these organizations takes a different approach in working with local communities. Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti is committed to improving the lives of people in the district of Ramechhap. They support the building of water systems and latrines in different villages each year, and provide technical back-up for as long as is needed (nearly all of the water systems installed with TSS support continue to operate; in one or two locations, the water source has become intermittent). Vecinos Honduras takes a holistic approach to community development, gradually building local capacity for continuous improvement in agriculture and health. Typically, after 5-6 years they phase out intensive support, and instead provide advice to local committees or cooperatives. APDC similarly engages in a wide range of activities with villages, and shifts emphasis as local leadership takes on more responsibility.

Community members are taught how to test and treat for malnutrition.

Coupled with the theme of enduring partnerships is mutual respect. We respect the abilities and insights of our local partner organizations. They are led by some of the brightest and most committed people in their respective countries. Furthermore, we recognize that people who are materially poor are not bereft of ideas and ingenuity. We have the greatest respect for their ability to survive under extraordinarily difficult conditions, and to improve the lives of their families when given the opportunity and the knowledge to harness clean water, grow more crops, and raise healthier children.

This plantain harvest will help feed the family.

Introducing Ides Onelba Bonilla – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Ides Onelba Bonilla

Onelba is a 34 year old woman who lives in the community of Casas Nuevas where she is dedicated to household activities.

Since 2010 she has worked in community development initiating participation with World Vision in another community. In 2015 she moved to Casas Nuevas where she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras. She began to participate in community meetings involved with training in basic sanitation issues, child growth and development, food preparation and improved stoves. In 2016 she became involved in child welfare as a volunteer health monitor and has been helping children in the community ever since.

Onelba studied at school until grade nine and she enjoys participating in community meetings and training sessions to learn and experience new topics of interest.

 

Healthy Homes in Honduras

Editor’s note: A condition of our grant from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is that an in-depth report must be delivered semi-annually. It is a Herculean task to compile all the data from these diverse projects. However, for those of us not tasked with this duty, the reports give us great insight into how complicated, varied and impressive these projects are. The following is from a recent report encompassing July 1, 2017 to December 2017, and comes in under the title “Healthy home environments and improvement” as it pertains to the Honduras projects. It is one page within sixty but gives a sense of how much is being accomplished, but also some of the challenges along the way.

Coordination was made with the Ministry of Health of the municipality of Danlí (with the coordinator of the Environmental Unit) and a study was carried out to determine the technical feasibility and environmental impact of the construction of sealed hygienic toilets in the communities of Boneton and Buena Esperanza. With this coordination, a technical report was produced, which describes that the realization of the toilet project is considered technically and environmentally feasible since it will not contaminate aquifers, and it will help to ensure the reduction of diseases such as hepatitis, diarrhea and others (see details in the Construction Annex of the annual report for 2016-17).

The toilet construction was approved by GAC. During the reporting period, using project funds and the contribution of families themselves, 31 household latrines were built: 9 in Boneton and 22 in Buena Esperanza. Before building the latrines, beneficiaries received training on their use and management.

Five training events were conducted to raise awareness on the benefits of using improved stoves. This technology reduces indoor smoke pollution from burning of wood fuel, firewood consumption, and consequently respiratory problems. In each training event an improved stove was built. The events were developed in the communities of El Picacho, Los Encuentros, San Jose, Casas Nuevas, and Llanitos Verdes; and 58 people participated (45 women and 13 men). In addition to the 5 stoves that were made in the trainings, 20 more stoves were built. The families built the 20 stoves with an approach called mano vuelta, which consists of all the participants collaborating in the construction of 20 stoves until they finish with the last one (“I help you help me”).

Three training sessions on leishmaniasis and leptospirosis prevention were conducted; 21 women, members of health committees, attended the sessions. The women implemented the preventive practices at their homes and each shared the practices with four families of their communities. As a result, four (4) families installed nylon (plastic) on their roofs; two (2) families build a fence around the house to keep animals outside the house; and two (2) families build enclosures for domestic animals.

The Secretary of Health through the HU carried out diagnostic tests to detect Leishmania parasites in the community of Llanitos Verdes; 15 people tested positive and received treatment. The occurrence of the disease was the reason for developing the training. Participants said they didn’t have any knowledge about the disease; nevertheless a group commented they still didn’t believe it exists, incongruously these group had infected patients at home.

Health committees conducted nine cleaning campaigns in nine communities: Matasano, Guanacastillo, Jocotal, Brasilar, Quebrachal, Lajas Blancas, El Rincon, Mal Paso and Torrecillas. The cleaning campaigns pick up trash and litter and remove standing water that could provide mosquito breeding habitat.

In Las Guarumas Program, a six-month training course on participatory diagnosis and project design, management, implementation, and evaluation was conducted. Six (6) health committees of the communities of Las Labranzas, Guanacastillo, Lajas Blancas, El Jocotal, Quebrachal, and El Rincon participated in the course; six men and 28 women. As training output, participants prepared project profiles for a community latrinization project because only 46% of 300 families have latrines in good condition. This training strengthened the institutional capacities of the health committees, providing them the tools to conduct a health needs assessment.

Introducing Community Leader Hancys Yadira Martinez – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Hancys Yadira Martinez

Hancys is a 28 year old woman who is recognized as one of the dedicated leaders in her community of Casas Neuvas where she participates in domestic and agricultural activities.

Since 2010 she has collaborated in community development activities.  In 2013 she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras and began volunteering as a health instructor.

The following year she collaborated with other institutions such as World Vision where she promoted ideas such as gender equality, leadership, health and human rights, and AIN-C (Atención Integral a la Niñez en la Comunidad)  Comprehensive Care for Children in the Community (AIN-C).

Hancys has studied to the ninth grade and she works to promote children living in healthy conditions where they can achieve good development and growth.

She has held positions in community organizations such as parent societies and health committees.

Introducing Community Leader Eiby Milesi Maldonado – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

Eiby Milesi Maldonado

Milesi is a 29 year old leader in the community of Casas Nuevas, Honduras, where she takes part in domestic activities and, together with her husband, in agricultural activities.

In 2013 she learned of the work of Vecinos Honduras and the following year she began training in their methodology. In 2015 she trained in basic sanitation processes, improved stoves, infant nutrition, managing domestic animals, and responsible food preparation and consumption. In 2016 she volunteered in her community as a mother mentor where she helped children achieve adequate development and growth. She studied up to the seventh grade and she likes to collaborate with her neighbours to develop her community.

Honduras Visit 2017

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages.” (Edwin Escoto, Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator.)

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages,” says Edwin Escoto, with a smile and a glance in the rearview mirror as he drives.

He is the Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator, and at this point in the journey, I am starting to believe him.

It is October, and we are in a Toyota 4×4 in the mountains of Honduras. The road is becoming more rough, winding and washed out as we climb.

I am here in an official capacity as a board member of World Neighbours Canada, to monitor the Maternal and Child Health Project funded by Global Affairs Canada, in partnership with our private donors.

Vera Radyo and Magda Lanuza from the Kenoli Foundation are also in the truck. They partner on these projects and we’ve coordinated the visit.

Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving

This is my first time in Honduras, and I’ve come with no expectations. By that, I mean I had essentially no understanding about what lay ahead.

There is clearly an agenda. I catch bits of it, in Spanish, as they discuss the coming days. And I understand they have filled my time with plans to visit several villages to see many things. I’d read the proposal and the reports about the projects, so I knew what this was all about, at least on an academic level. But I couldn’t find the project areas on a map, and I’ve had little experience outside of my Canadian upbringing.

Plus, I don’t speak a word of Spanish, so finding out the plans is a challenge all around. So I keep an open mind, and listen intently to the Spanish sentences, trying to pick up what I can, asking for translation when a translator was available.

Luckily, I’ve driven on rough roads before, though Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving. But it helped to quell the panic about the steep inclines and the washouts; the men walking with machetes, and pretending not to be startled when we come across motorcycles rushing at us on blind corners (sometimes on the wrong side of the road). The backs of others trucks we see are full of extra passengers, making the trek up to the villages, or down to Danli, the nearest city.

Almost two hours later: “We get out here.” It’s a farmer’s gathering. We are in a village named Las Flores, and they are expecting us.

It’s a transformed soccer field, with people of all ages celebrating. There is a row of tables on one side of the field, displaying fruit, vegetables. One table has recycled containers of organic fertilizer and pesticides – methods they are learning and teaching each other, from Vecinos Honduras workshops.

All these are the fruits of the labour put in by village participants, who are learning and teaching each other, as part of Vecinos Honduras projects.

It was a grand start to four days of visiting in both the Azabache and the El Guano areas, listening to the stories of project participants, learning about their lives, their struggles, and their successes.

In Claveles, I visited family homes, then a meeting to weigh and measure their young children.

Monthly baby weigh-in sessions are improving child health in Honduras.

The monthly weigh-in is a part of their routine now, thank you to the programs. Before, mothers could never be sure how their babies were growing, or if they were thriving. Now, they see the numbers, and if the young ones are not thriving they get some hands-on advice. Usually, the next month sees an improvement, along with much relief to the mothers and fathers.

In my time in the villages, I watched a monthly child stimulation class; I visited health committee meetings, and heard about goals and struggles.

La Libertad has land set aside for a health centre – they want to put up a building where they can maybe bring in a nurse to help care for pregnant mothers, young children and other health needs. Now, they have to walk about three hours on the rough roads to get to the nearest health centre – in Beuna Esperanza.

Not only did we visit the current project areas, we made a few stops in the El Guano area. This is an area where there are examples of great success from past Vecinos Honduras projects.

Eva Lagos has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, and is supporting her children’s attendance in a better school with her profits.

For example, we visited Eva Lagos, who has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, after learning at a Vecinos Honduras workshop. She sells many pre-packaged bags – enough to make more than $400 USD per month, which she uses to send her children to a better school.

A coffee co-op meeting was held in El Guano, where we heard about the co-op’s successes and ongoing challenges. They have made enough of a profit that they have started a micro-lending program – one per cent interest for women, two per cent for men – a far cry from the interest rates offered by intermediaries who lend to the communities at a huge interest rate that can virtually never be re-paid. We also visited a member of the co-op who used a loan from the coffee co-op to build a coffee dryer.

In Claveles, Francisco Aradón, the water board president, told us about their work. The water board now has two female members, and his village is installing a new water system. Their next goal is to purchase the chlorine they want to use to keep the water safer – something they learned about at a Vecinos Honduras workshop.

Felicita Zaróm back in 2007, after installing an improved stove in her home.

In the El Guano area, I met Felicita Zaróm, who was a participant in Vecinos Honduras programs more than 10 years ago, building one of the first indoor stoves. She’s a community health promoter, and says the programs have changed her life.

Felicita Zaróm now, in 2017, 10 years later.

“I feel like a free woman. After these trainings I realized I was able to speak up in a meeting. I learned to socialize with others, I learned to speak up and have no more fears,” she says.

In my time there, not only did I see the latrines being built  – I used them. I washed my hands, and some dishes, at the pilas (a combination between a sink and a water tank); I drank coffee and spice tea made on the indoor, smokeless stoves that are being installed at a rapid rate in homes.

On my last day, I visited a village called San Jose, where Vecinos Honduras was sponsoring a celebration – the International Day of Rural Girls and Women. It took place in a concrete building with a tin roof – hot, sweaty inside. But there was grand celebration – dancing, pinatas, and lunch. I danced with Manuel Castellanos, the community participation facilitator.

I left Honduras with a much better understanding of our programs, the people who run them, and the people who participate. I learned to say Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, and Gracias – so much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate in these hard-won successes in the remote communities of Honduras.

If you are interested in seeing more about the programs in Honduras and more images, here’s a slideshow. You can hover over the images and use right and left arrows to view the images below!