Honduras hurricanes: “Heart-breaking destruction of people’s hopes”

Hurricane Iota has submerged the Sula Valley, where more than 100,000 people who had already suffered devastation by Eta are in temporary shelters

Small-scale farmers and families are facing economic ruin as up to 70% of crops and grains are affected by storms Eta and Iota

Over 3.3 million people across Honduras have now been affected by the back-to-back tropical storms over the past weeks. Nearly 450,000 thousand people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the two storms and need urgent humanitarian assistance. Maite Matheu, CARE Honduras Country Director, says:

In the six shelters where CARE and partners were already providing support after Eta we have seen occupancy double in the past few days as a result of Iota and services are at severe risk of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in need. Over 100,000 people are now living in temporary shelters, in often cramped conditions without access to basic necessities like food, clean water and protection services, particularly on gender-based violence.

Aerial photo of house roofs in flooded village
Homes in the Sula valley nearly submerged by flood waters
Village houses and fields covered in flood waters
Homes and fields surrounded by flood water

While the destruction wreaked by Eta and Iota poses huge immediate risks, even more worrying are the long-term impacts these storms will have on a country already suffering with a food crisis, economic downturn and the COVID-19 pandemic. Ismael Romero, a farmer, saw his coffee and plantain crops wiped out:

The wind was so powerful that the trees fell on the farm destroying everything. The little that was left was also lost because the rain spoiled the coffee beans and caused the plantain plants to collapse. We were already struggling because of the COVID-19 confinement, which had left us without income, and now we have lost everything, and we no longer have money to invest again.

People wade across a flood in a village
Flood damage in a village in Honduras
People walking across debris from flood waters in village street
People contemplate debris left in the street by floods

Coffee is one of Honduras’ main export products and 90% of coffee production in the country is done by smallholder farmers. Maite Matheu says:

The effect this will have on income and livelihoods for people, especially the poorest in society, is unimaginable. Experts are already saying that it will take at least a decade for the country to recover from this.

A combined 3.5 million people in Honduras and Guatemala are currently suffering from severe food insecurity, while COVID-19 lockdowns have meant the loss of half a million jobs and livelihoods in Honduras alone.

Tilapia farmers after hurricane damage in Honduras

Maria Magdalena Rivera Villatoro (above left) is a tilapia farmer in the country’s northeastern region. Eta caused the river where they farm to overflow, destroying her family’s livelihood. She says:

When the storm came, we couldn’t do anything. We just saw how it destroyed everything we had worked so hard for … it is really painful.

Maite Matheu says that only a month before, CARE visited Maria to profile her family business as “a success story”:

And now they have nothing. It is truly heart-breaking to witness the destruction of people’s hopes and dreams like this.

CARE’s response

CARE staff distributing hot meals in Honduras
CARE is working with partners, including World Central Kitchen, to provide more than 10,000 meals a day in affected areas

CARE Honduras is focusing its emergency response efforts on providing food, shelter, essential items like blankets, tarps and kitchen kits, water and sanitation support, and protection services to particularly vulnerable groups such as women and girls, who now find themselves in cramped communal shelters.

Prior to the hurricanes, CARE has been supporting farmers and small businesses in Honduras with a range of interventions including food security and nutrition, access to finance, training in crop and livestock production, youth entrepreneurship and technical skills training, women’s empowerment and climate change adaptation. CARE plans to provide livelihoods recovery support in the aftermath of Iota and Eta in the form of multipurpose cash transfers, agricultural inputs and equipment, rural banking and financial inclusion.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.