Arrived nearby in November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated large areas of Honduras. The rains and winds that battered the country exacerbated pre-existing political, social and environmental crises, leaving 4 million people affected, one million evacuated, hundreds of communities cut off, bridges and dikes destroyed and many other negative impacts. The worst affected area of the country was the northwest, in particular the Sula Valley. Drained by several rivers, including Ulua, the largest, this region of agricultural importance is home to more than 2 million people.
The merged Jesuit organizations, Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación and Radio Progreso (ERIC-RP) worked with the humanitarian coalition Emergency and Solidarity Network to launch an emergency response plan in affected communities on the right bank of the Ulua.
Thanks to the solidarity of hundreds of people and organizations inside and outside Honduras, including Development and Peace – Caritas Canada, the immediate needs of affected families were met within the first two months of the double disaster. More than 10,000 emergency baskets containing food, water, hygiene and biosecurity supplies and clothing have been distributed in 119 shelters and camps in 31 communities.
Then, at the start of the year, an agricultural revival strategy was activated, following a detailed assessment which identified crop losses in 32 affected communities to 28,276 manzana (a South American land measurement that equates to approximately 1.7 acres). So far, more than 700 farmers who had lost everything have received native corn, bean and vegetable seeds and banana cuttings. The resulting harvests will soon be multiplied as the recipients have pledged to contribute part of their production to form a collective seed bank that can continue to benefit other people.
Realizing that all of this aid could prove to be useless if their homes and land remained vulnerable to hurricanes and heavy rains, communities themselves identified the need for an advocacy strategy to compel the government to act. Their demands included repairing dams, dredging rivers, reforestation of upper river basins and a housing program.
Making support for people in this fight a priority, ERIC-RP and the Emergency and Solidarity Network have focused on the demand for repairing damaged dikes in Ulua and its tributaries. The post-hurricane assessment indicated that 12 kilometers of embankments needed to be repaired. Until this is done, many communities will remain at risk of a single rainstorm, which is very likely during the cyclone season that begins every June.
The last few months have been a period of intense community organization, mobilization, awareness, communication and dialogue with the authorities. There have been some advances. Several communities that have been totally ignored by the authorities have now been included in the renovation plans. Embankment repair work has also started.
These achievements are, however, limited by lies, repression and corruption. Responsible authorities have not kept their commitments, public procurement processes are opaque, police often crack down on mobilisations and bribes, and corruption disrupt repair work. The new structures are so poorly constructed that the leaders of the local communities who audited them called them “sugar dikes”. Their assessment turned out to be correct last month, when rainfall quickly overflowed the river from its reconstructed banks and cut two communities off for a few days.
However, the communities are not giving up. Resolutely, they reiterate: “As long as our demands are not met, we will continue the fight. They plead: “We are entering the hurricane season; help us save lives.
With your support, ERIC-RP remains determined to accompany these bold Hondurans in this quest for security and dignity.