RIC Query - Honduras (March 2002)


Honduras

Response to Information Request Number: HND02001.OPP
Date: March, 2002
Subject: Honduras: Information on the Current Status of Reconstruction Following Hurricane Mitch in 1998
From: INS Resource Information Center
Keywords: Honduras / Natural disasters / Drought / Floods / Hunger / Population transfers / Humanitarian assistance / Criminal offences / Unemployment / Corruption / Poverty

Query:

What is the current status of reconstruction following Hurricane Mitch in 1998 in Honduras?

Response:

Droughts and flooding from Hurricane Michelle in 2001 have added to the humanitarian, economic and social problems initially brought on by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Honduran authorities are describing the situation as one of the worst in its history. ¿According to the UN World Food Program, more than 1.5 million people in Central America have been affected by the drought, nearly 700,000 of them farmers who lost half to all of their crops¿ (Washington Times 17 Sep 2001). USAID has declared the new crisis the worst since Hurricane Mitch and designated Honduras as one the most seriously affected countries (USAID 16 Aug 2001). Honduran officials and business leaders believe the drought¿s economic impact will be greater than that caused by Hurricane Mitch (CNDH 6 Mar 2002).

CURRENT ECONOMIC STATUS

Poverty in Honduras is estimated as high as 80% for the country¿s six to seven million people. Government figures show that poverty affects 66% of households, and that 49% of those are in extreme poverty (LADB 25 Oct 2001).

After a three-year suspension of payments granted by creditor nations after Hurricane Mitch, Honduras must resume servicing its $4.6 billion foreign debt in 2002 (Reuters 27 Jan 2002).

The crash in international coffee prices over the past two years has resulted in widespread unemployment and losses in foreign exchange reserves (IFRC 2 Feb 2002). About 200,000 coffee workers and their families experienced ¿food insecurity¿ in 2001 and, with no improvement foreseen, were expected to remain at risk in 2002 (USAID 30 Oct 2001).

The Honduran economy is still suffering the effects of Hurricane Mitch which caused losses of about US$5 billion in the agricultural sector and in infrastructure damages. Foreign donors have contributed about US$2.7 billion for reconstruction purposes leaving a shortfall of more than US$2 billion (LAN 4 Dec. 2001).

The drought has adversely affected the shrimp, sugar and meat export sectors, among others, e.g., 80% of shrimp aquaculture was lost in 2001 (CNDH 6 Mar 2002)

In collaboration with government counterparts, international partners and nongovernmental organizations, the World Food Program was able to provide emergency food assistance following the 2001 drought. However, many families in need did not receive adequate assistance because of the lack of sufficient resources (WFP 21 Dec 2001).

FOOD AND NUTRITION

Honduras lost as much as a third of its agricultural product during 2001 because of the May-September drought (IFRC 2 Feb 2002). The drought struck worst in the western third of Honduras, affecting more than 300,000 people in the departments of Choluteca, Valle, Lempira, La Paz, Intibucá, Comayagua, Francisco Morazán and El Paraíso, with crop losses ranging from 70-100 percent (WFP 21 Dec 2001).

The southern departments of Choluteca, El Paraíso and Valle, home to nearly one-sixth of Honduras¿ more than 6 million people, were hit particularly hard, leading to severe crop loss for about 66,000 peasant families (USAID 9 Aug 2001, Inter-Press Service 21 Feb 2001). In July, the government acknowledged that 57 of the country¿s 297 municipalities were suffering famine conditions and declared a state of food emergency (FBIS 17 Jul 2001, LADB 26 Jul 2001).

In October, tropical storm Michelle destroyed large agricultural sectors affecting over 60,000 people (WFP 21 Dec 2001). Incidence of acute child malnutrition in the three worst affected southern departments more than doubled from 2.7 percent in July to 5.9 percent in November (IFRC 2 Feb 2002).

By November 2001, many subsistence farmers had used up produce kept in reserve, six months in advance of the start of the next growing season (Reuters 15 Nov 2001).

RECONSTRUCTION

Reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 has been underway for several years, but Hurricane Michelle in 2001 and alternate bouts of drought and flooding since 1998 have added to the damage. These repeated environmental catastrophes have interrupted Honduras' ability to recover from Hurricane Mitch by causing major problems of food insecurity, unemployment and displacement of citizens. In addition, delays in disbursement of aid needed for rebuilding have slowed the replacement of housing, schools, roads and bridges (USDOS Mar 2002). For example, some schools have been rebuilt, but considerable work remains to repair damaged buildings and to construct new schools for relocated communities (CRS 7 Mar 2002).

Further, much of the rebuilding of infrastructure may be unstable. In November 2001, the Honduran National Comptroller General initiated an audit of all infrastructure projects carried out by federal agencies since the hurricane. The audit was called for after communities on the north coast ¿ where the US owned transnational company, Chiquita International, operates large plantations of bananas and other crops -- complained of failed protection mechanisms against flooding caused by Hurricane Michelle in October 2001 (Inforpress Centroamericana 23 Nov 2001).

Early evaluations indicated considerable damage by Michelle and demonstrated the fragility of the country¿s ecology. According to the executive director of the Sula Valley Executive Commission, one of the federal agencies responsible for rebuilding infrastructure, US$ 44.8 million has been invested in flood protection, but US$ 320 million is needed in order to fully protect the Sula Valley, the country¿s principal agricultural production area (Inforpress Centroamericana 23 Nov 2001).

SECURITY, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY CONCERNS

Crime has soared in recent years, partly due to the proliferation of maras, or street gangs, reported to comprise as many as 40,000 youths. At least 2,250 people were killed in the first 10 months of 2001, up from 2,155 murders in all of 2000 (Reuters 23 Dec 2001, NY Times 5 Mar 2002).

Loss of jobs and the lack of basic commodities due to drought and flooding have also led to increases in other types of crimes, including kidnapping, robberies and assaults, deterring much-needed foreign investment (Reuters 23 Dec 2001).

The Catholic Church in Honduras has expressed concern that corruption is the biggest obstacle to the success of the government¿s plans for poverty reduction (LADB 25 Oct 2001).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

Catholic Relief Services Honduras (CRS). Flores, Miguel. Deputy Director, Telephone Interview (Washington, DC: 7 March 2002).

Comisionado Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH). ¿Sur de Honduras Sufrirá Impacto Económico Mayor que por Mitch,¿ (6 March 2002), Bulletin 1569, p. 2.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Honduras Press Highlights, 17 July 2001.

Inforpress Centroamericana. ¿Hurricane Confirms Vulnerability,¿ (23 November 2001).

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). ¿Hunger Deepens in the Honduran Countryside,¿ (2 February 2002), posted on Relief Web.

Inter Press Service. Muñoz, Néfer. ¿Honduras: Acute Malnutrition Among Children a ¿Silent Emergency¿¿ (San José, Costa Rica: 21 February 2002).

Latin America Database (LADB). ¿Floods, Drought, Crisis in Coffee Prices Have Created Economic Refugees,¿ (26 July 2001).

Latin America Database (LADB). ¿Honduran Government Announces Poverty Reduction Plan,¿ (25 October 2001).

Latin American Newsletters (LAN). ¿Maduro Wins in Honduras, but Lacking Majority in Congress Faces Uphill Task,¿ (4 December 2001).

NEW YORK TIMES. Gonzalez, David. ¿On Mean Streets, a U.S. Import: Zero Tolerance,¿ (New York: 5 March 2002).

Reuters. Brosman, Greg. ¿Aid Agencies Fear Central American Hunger to Worsen¿ (Guatemala City: 15 November 2001).

Reuters. Palencia, Gustavo. ¿New Honduran Leader Vows to Cut Crime, Lift Economy¿ (Tegucigalpa, Honduras: 27 January 2002).

SUN SENTINEL. Fullerton, Elizabeth. ¿Gangs Terrorize Tegucigalpa; Economy Worsens and No One Feels Safe in the Capital,¿ (Fort Lauderdale, FL: 23 December 2001).

USAID. ¿USAID Announces Immediate Food Aid to Central America and Drought Assistance to Honduras and Nicaragua¿ (Press release, Washington, DC: 16 August 2001), www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2001/pr010816.html.

USAID. ¿USAID Assistance to Central America Region¿ (Fact Sheet, Washington, DC: 9 August 2001), www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2001/01fs_car_081001.html.

USAID. ¿Central America Drought: Update #5¿ (Fact Sheet, Washington DC: 30 October 2001), www.usaid.gov/press/releases/2001/fs011030.html.

US Department of State. RECOMMENDATION FOR TPS EXTENSION (Washington, DC: March 2002).

WASHINGTON TIMES. Feldman, Megan. ¿Drought Starving Central America,¿ (Washington, DC: 17 September 2001), p. A14.

World Food Program (WFP). ¿2001: Food Insecurity and Disasters in Central America Fact Sheet,¿ (21 December 2001), posted by Relief Web.

Last Reviewed/Updated:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION