How You Can End Malnutrition in Honduras

In Honduras, the poor often suffer from severe malnutrition. Children like Marta, 3, and Marcos, 7, are particularly vulnerable to this crisis. The siblings’ mother abandoned them, leaving them in the care of their 12-year-old sister. The community provided food and clothes, but it wasn’t enough to meet the nutritional needs of growing children.

Both siblings became malnourished and anemic, needing medical attention and immediate nutritional support. When the authorities learned there was no adult in their home, they took Marta and Marcos to the hospital, and they were later transferred to the Las Mercedes Nutrition Center, a Cross Catholic Outreach ministry partner. The center provided the children with round-the-clock care and nourished them back to health before transferring them to a loving children’s home.

Unfortunately, Marta and Marcos’ story isn’t unique. In fact, as poverty increases, Honduras grows hungrier by the day.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. The World Bank Group estimates that 48% of the population lives in poverty and that one in five people live on less than $1.90 a day. With such staggering poverty, it is no wonder that the poor struggle to put food on the table, living in an endless cycle of survival.

In the midst of a global pandemic and after a series of devastating natural disasters, the food crisis has pushed even more families into debilitating poverty. More than 3 million Hondurans are likely to face food insecurity in the coming months, one-third of the entire population — an unprecedented and dangerous level. Poverty is at the root of this crisis, along with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, recent natural disasters and agricultural instability.

You can be the hands and feet of Christ for hungry children like Marta and Marcos in Honduras. Keep reading to learn how you can share the love of God by feeding the poor!

Las Mercedes Nutrition Center delivering food relief to community members facing hunger in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Causes of Malnutrition in Honduras

Food scarcity impacts Honduras’ indigenous populations and rural areas the most. The World Food Program USA estimates that 48.5% of people living in rural areas are malnourished. Women, girls, young children under the age of 5, and the disabled and chronically ill are also vulnerable to hunger and the effects of poverty. Like Marta and Marcos, 23% of Honduran children suffer from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition, and 29% of children are iron deficient or anemic (The World Food Program USA).

COVID-19

Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 lockdowns have hit Honduran workers hard, leading to employment loss. Before the pandemic, 5.3% of the population was unemployed (CIA World Factbook), but at the start of the year, 2 million people and 40% of the workforce were unemployed.

The World Bank reports that Honduras’ GDP is expected to shrink by 7.1% due to a slowing of trade, with most of the financial loss suffered by low-income and middle-class families due to unemployment. Already in a difficult position, poor families are forced to sacrifice the little they have just to keep themselves fed.

Natural Disasters

In addition to a devastating pandemic, Honduras faced enormous loss in the aftermath of hurricanes Eta and Iota in November 2020. Hurricane Eta, a Category 4 storm, brought heavy rains, causing flooding and mudslides across the country. Two weeks later, Hurricane Iota traveled a similar path, leaving behind a trail of destruction. The storms destroyed houses, livelihoods and crops. The impact will continue through the rest of the year. With food reserves depleted, there will be an increase in food costs and unemployment will rise.

Related – A Catholic Response to 2020’s Record-Breaking Hurricane Season

Hondurans endured widespread flooding during the 2020 hurricane season.

Agricultural Instability

Much of Honduras is located in the Dry Corridor of Central America. The most vulnerable portion of the Dry Corridor extends through Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and is a tropical dry forest region. Since 2001, the Dry Corridor has suffered from irregular weather patterns that have made it susceptible to drought, famine and hunger. In 2019, a drought pushed the Honduras’ farmers to the brink of destruction. Farmers were not given much time to recover before the calamities of 2020, making a bad problem worse. This was especially hard on subsistence farmers living in rural areas, many of whom rely on home gardens to survive and feed their families.

Limited Career Opportunities

A large portion of Honduras’ workforce is in the agricultural industry, with 39% of all workers. Even though many work in agriculture, it does not mean they have enough to feed their families. Most farms rely on day laborers and export a large portion of their harvest. The remaining 60% of the population works in service or industry (CIA World Factbook).

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How Hondurans Survive

For many rural families, their only option for survival has been small farms. Unfortunately, these farms often don’t produce enough to feed a family 12 months a year, with a long dry season from November to April.

Poor families and the Honduran economy largely rely on foreign remittances (CIA World Factbook), which occupy 21.5% of the country’s GDP in 2019. That means many poor families depend on friends or relatives living and working in other countries, such as the United States, and sending money back to Honduras.

Why Children Need Nutrition

When young children like Marta and Marcos don’t receive the nutrition they need to grow, it affects everything from brain development to health outcomes later in life. Research has shown that much of the brain’s structure and capacity are shaped in the first 1,000 days of life. This means that food insecurity is a vicious cycle. The foundation for sound nutrition starts when a baby is developing in the womb.

It is imperative that we act quickly to meet nutritional needs of children in their first few years of life. Early nutrition is critical to breaking the generational cycle of poverty!

Cross Catholic Outreach ministry partner Las Mercedes Nutrition Center strives to increase the quality of nutrition in young children.

Fighting Hunger in Honduras

Humanitarian organizations, including Cross Catholic Outreach, are on the frontlines of fighting hunger in Honduras to rescue children like Marta and Marcos. Cross Catholic Outreach works with our Catholic ministry partners to fill stomachs and impact hearts in the name of Jesus.

Ministry Partner Spotlight: The Pearl Association

Cross Catholic Outreach receives generous donations of Vitafood — a fortified rice or lentil product designed to rehabilitate severely malnourished children — from respected aid organizations. Not only is Vitafood a cost-effective way of addressing hunger, but it’s also packed with nutritious ingredients to help malnourished bodies recover. Vitafood has been a versatile resource for fighting hunger during the pandemic, especially for quarantined parents who cannot work and struggle to provide for their families.

In Honduras, we ship Vitafood to our partner The Pearl Association, which then distributes it to ministries, schools, children’s feeding centers and health clinics that are working to help people suffering from malnutrition. When hurricanes Eta and Iota hit the country, Cross Catholic Outreach distributed medical and food aid through this dynamic partnership.

The Pearl Association transferred cases of Vitafood to the Atlantic coast of Honduras.

Ministry Partner Spotlight: Las Mercedes Nutrition Center

Cross Catholic Outreach ministry partner Las Mercedes Nutrition Center in El Progreso, Honduras, tirelessly works to end hunger among young children. They rescue suffering children like Marta and Marcos, admitting them to the residential program at the center, where they can be nursed back to health and given round-the-clock care.

“Our spiritual impact is to calm the hunger of people who suffer injustice and to feed thirsty souls with God’s love,” says Alicia Velasquez George, director of the center.

Marta and Marcos were welcomed at the center, nursed back to health and began going to school.

When boys and girls are admitted to the residential program, their parents must attend workshops that help them learn the basics of caring for their child’s nutritional health to prevent malnutrition in the future.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members have also delivered food to families in the community to meet the community’s great nutritional needs.

Dylan Medina, 2, was another child recently cared for by Las Mercedes. When Dylan arrived at Las Mercedes, he was emaciated and seriously ill. Seventeen months old at the time, he was severely malnourished, weighing only 12 pounds and suffering from a terrible case of pneumonia. Las Mercedes consulted with a doctor and began restoring Dylan to health through antibiotics and therapeutic feeding.

A year later, Dylan is a thriving, growing little boy! Thanks to Las Mercedes Nutrition Center’s care, he is reaching new development milestones each day. The staff has been busy preparing Dylan’s parents for him to return home, educating them in nutrition and proper care.

Provide hope to children like Dylan.

Before: When Dylan Medina first arrived at Las Mercedes, he was malnourished and sick.
After: Dylan is healthy and strong thanks to the care and compassion of Las Mercedes Nutrition Center.

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How You Can Be Part of the Solution

Proverbs 22:9 says, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.” Share your bread with the poor and answer the Lord’s call to feed the hungry in Honduras.

Help end malnutrition and hunger in Honduras by empowering hardworking Catholic ministries to deliver urgently needed food to those who need it most. Your support will help rescue children like Marta and Marcos from malnutrition and give poor parents the peace of mind that their children’s stomachs are full.

Save lives, one meal at a time.

“If you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.”

Isaiah 58:10

Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2021, the close of our ministry’s new fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.