In the month of October, heavy rains caused landslides and flooding all over Honduras. Across the country, 29 people have tragically lost their lives, and nearly 70,000 have been affected (1). Dozens of roads, highways and bridges have suffered damages, disrupting travel and hampering relief efforts. Losses to agricultural production include an estimated 18,963 acres of crops throughout Honduras, part of which are basic staples, such as rice, beans and corn, hindering national food security (1). Public sector engineers are currently assessing the total cost of damages to infrastructure endured during the month of October. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates 1.2 million people have been impacted by October’s torrential rains in Central America (2).
In Southern Honduras, where the rains were most intense, surging rivers flooded whole communities. Landslides and flooding made roads impassable, and even collapsed a section of the Pan-American Highway, which connects Tegucigalpa to Southern Honduras. The highway closure not only caused economic losses to commercial enterprises, but also obstructed efforts to send aid to the area. The department of Choluteca experienced the worst human impact, with 27,227 people affected, 1,880 dwellings damaged and 3,311 flood victims housed in shelters. Large tracts of sugar cane remain underwater, and the Ministry of Agriculture reports that some 2,000 producers of various crops are affected in the southern zone (3). Relief aid has been contributed by various countries and international organizations, such as the UN World Food Programme, as well as by the Honduran government, which spearheaded a solidarity campaign to raise funds for flood victims.
The rains that have disrupted life for so many Hondurans this October were largely not the product of a hurricane or tropical storm. On October 10, weather forecasters announced a low pressure system hovering off the Pacific coast that would produce torrential rains over several days. Last week, Hurricane Rina raised fears of further destruction when the tropical storm strengthened into a category 2 hurricane. Fortunately, the storm did not provoke significant damages, but Rina did generate heavy rainfall in the Bay Islands and along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras.
The relentless October rains have affected clients in each of the eight departments where the Adelante Foundation operates. The road conditions have deteriorated during the month of October making travel for both clients and Credit Officers a challenge. In the department of Yoro, travel between the departmental capital of Yoro and the city of El Progreso became precarious, as a result of potholes and landslides along the major highway that connects the two cities. In the department of Colon, heavy rains caused flooding in several areas around Tocoa and Trujillo, delaying a pending field trip I had planned. During the week of October 24, the Adelante Foundation held a bread making workshop for clients in the department of Intibuca, and although the workshop was a success, disrupted travel routes caused by heavy rains prevented some clients from attending the event. In addition, Intibuca has suffered enormous damages to agricultural production, with an estimated 6, 875 acres (36% of national losses reported) of primarily corn and bean cultivation (1). Across Honduras, downpours prevent many people from venturing out to purchase goods, which reduces small business sales for the Adelante Foundation’s clients. While the rainy season comes to a close in parts of Honduras, the hurricane season and rains still impact the Caribbean coast through November.
The onslaught of rain in October left the team at the Adelante Foundation branch office in Choluteca very concerned. Credit Officers were unable to reach 25 assemblies, where overflowing rivers made several communities completely inaccessible. The office supervisor, Pedro Ortiz, comments ¨all of our clients have been affected, their homes, their businesses, by illness, the situation for October loan payments is going to be complicated¨. The prognosis looked bleak, but once the rains calmed and the rivers receded, the assessment indicated that remarkably only 6 solidarity groups were so severely impacted that they could not pay their next installment. These clients have been given an additional 15 days to make their microloan payments from mid-October. However, Pedro contends, ¨they are not going to be able to recuperate in 15 days, in some cases they have lost their homes, their businesses, so it will take time, but eventually they will recuperate¨. If clients are unable to pay their loan installments, the microloan will be refinanced in order to help them get their lives back on track. The rainy season on the Pacific side of Honduras is coming to an end, but the struggle continues as flood victims try to rebuild their lives.
At the beginning of October, I met clients that reside in the community El Botadero, in the department of Choluteca, which borders a lagoon near the Pacific coast. This assembly group consists of four of the six solidarity groups that were severely impacted by the heavy rains. During my next trip to Choluteca, I will meet with these courageous women again and report on how they are recovering from the flooding that has devastated their communities. What are your thoughts on the relentless rains affecting Honduras and their impact on clients of the the Adelante Foundation?