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Families in Honduras Struggle to Survive as Money From Abroad Stops Coming Home Amid Pandemic

Photo: CARE

Photo: CARE

Photo: CARE

Honduras’ high poverty rate has created an enormous reliance on remittances, the practice of individuals living abroad sending money home. But strict quarantine measures and massive job losses have cut off this critical income source for many in the country.

Reina Reyes, 45, lives in Villanueva, Honduras, where she sold tamales and ran a small grocery store until COVID-19 hit her community. Villanueva sits in the department of Cortes, one of the areas worst affected by COVID-19 in the country.

“This crisis has affected us a lot,” Reina says. “We have been locked up and I have not been able to sell my products because I have to move to the market to buy supplies and right now, we are not able to do so. The grocery store has helped us avoid going hungry these last 15 days, but we only had two days of food left when CARE called us to deliver a package of rations. With that help we are surviving.”

We are stuck.

Reina Reyes

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Reina and her family were struggling to make ends meet like so many others in Honduras, where 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. The country’s high poverty rate has created an enormous reliance on remittances, the practice of individuals living abroad sending money home to help sustain their families and loved ones. In fact, the value of remittances exceeds exports and represents close to 20 percent of Honduras’ GDP.

About a year and a half ago, Reina’s daughter Dixiana made the difficult decision to leave her 7-year-old son with the family in Honduras and move to Spain. She began taking care of children and soon started sending 4,000-5,000 Lempiras (US $160-$200) home monthly to help sustain Reina, her father, who is diabetic, grandmother, cousin and three children, including her son

of Honduras’ population lives in poverty

of Honduras’ population lives in poverty

But since Spain went into lockdown, Dixiana has been isolated and unable to send remittances. The last time she sent money was March 20, which the family used to buy food and make preparations to stay safely at home.

“We are stuck,” Reina says. “My mom is 83 years old and also depends on our income. I usually contribute toward her medicines and food, and with this situation we have not been able to help her. My husband, although we support each other, is very depressed, he does not sleep at night and I worry about his health situation.”

COVID-19 arrived in Honduras on top of widespread poverty and an ongoing food crisis driven by drought. The near-total paralysis of the economy as a result of strong restrictive quarantining measures initially meant people couldn’t even go to nearby shops to buy food. With more than 70 percent of Hondurans depending on informal labor, and the general neglect of key public services (public health funding is the second lowest in the region), this crisis is forcing millions of families to choose between health and survival.

We will not die because of COVID, we will starve.

Reina Reyes

Since the quarantine, there have been more than 128 protests in Honduras’ major cities demanding food and support. In the streets people shout, “We will not die because of COVID, we will starve.”

No clear plan for economic assistance for the most vulnerable and marginalized populations has been shared yet by the government. Without a more comprehensive response, poverty and social and gender inequalities will increase. Women are already disproportionately affected in terms of empowerment and economic autonomy, as they generally lack access to important resources such as land, credit, and technical assistance.

As part of its COVID-19 response, CARE aims to help more than 5,000 families with food and financial support through food packages and money transfers. CARE is also promoting hygiene and sanitation best practices to prevent the transfer of COVID-19, and supporting survivors of gender-based violence, which has also increased as a result of confinement. Close to 100 women’s domestic workers’ organizations will receive money transfers to help them with loss of income, since many of them rely on daily wages.

“I am very concerned about the economic situation and the lack of income,” Reina says. “I would like this crisis to end.”

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