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The long road to recovery in Honduras

By Courtney Wilson, Communications Aid Worker in Honduras
 
It’s been just over a month since Hurricane Eta wreaked havoc through Honduras and much of Central America, followed soon after by Hurricane Iota. The emergency is still very much ongoing, though its brief appearance has swiftly disappeared from Canadian headlines.
 
A teddy bear laying dirty in the aftermath of Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota in HondurasDriving through communities in La Lima, the damage is harrowing to witness. A family photograph, a child’s backpack and a stuffed bear are some of the belongings that families had to abandon as they rushed to evacuate.
 
The flooding that followed the two hurricanes devastated entire communities who were already dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the pre-existing humanitarian crisis. Before the pandemic, roughly 1.3 million people in Honduras were already in dire need of food, health, protection, and water and sanitation. This is roughly equivalent to everyone in Calgary requiring humanitarian assistance.
 
When the hurricanes came in early and the city flooded, many people climbed onto their roofs and had to stay for days until they were rescued; others moved to their upstairs neighbours’ homes to evade flood waters.
 
“Lots of people have been helping each other,” says Honduran Red Cross volunteer, Jose.
 
The Honduran Red Cross played a critical role in search and rescue efforts, often using a boat to get people who were trapped and, in some cases, rescuing people from under water.
 
A Red Cross member walking down a flooded streetMany homes are still flooded, and others will take significant time and effort to clean and rebuild. Even for those whose homes are still standing, much has been lost.
 
During the day, people who can safely return home do so to try and salvage what was left behind. We spoke with one woman who was cleaning out her home with her two young children. Her husband had lost his job earlier this year and she told our team that her whole life had been turned upside down by the hurricane.
 
Many families still spend their nights in makeshift shelters along the side of the highway. Kilometer after kilometer of temporary shelters made from tarps and other materials line the highway on our daily commute. There are many families who still are unable to return home and others that can but are not ready to handle what might await them when they do.
 
The devastation is extensive, but the strength of the community is evident every single day. We have witnessed this community resilience first-hand in the Canadian Red Cross emergency health clinic, where almost all the Honduran Red Cross volunteers have been affected themselves in one way or another. Jose’s family home was flooded, and he still gets up each day to volunteer with the Honduran Red Cross to support his community. Honduran Red Cross staff and volunteers are critical to the work the Red Cross is doing on the ground.
 
As is evident from the damage on the ground, disasters don’t stop for a pandemic, or any other crisis for that matter. While in Canada, the focus for many of us has been on COVID-19, the people here in Honduras and across Central America, are just trying to get through another day trying to rebuild their lives.
 
The road to recovery will be long but we must not forget about the more than three million people who lost almost everything and will be rebuilding their lives for weeks, months and years to come.

Watch our Honduras Response short film:


 
Canadians wishing to help are encouraged to donate to the Hurricane Eta in Central America Appeal online at redcross.ca
 
Canadian Red Cross efforts in Honduras are made possible thanks to funding from the Government of Canada and generous Canadians.

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