Likewise, the immediate situation in Honduras is “a very, very critical situation,” Walsh said.
Catholic Relief Services is the U.S. bishops’ foreign relief agency. There are about 60 CRS staff based in Nicaragua’s national capital of Tegucigalpa, the city of San Pedro, and La Esperanza in the west of the country. They normally focus on improving agriculture, water supply and education. Aiding youth vulnerable to exploitation and unemployment is another area of their work.
“All of these programs are being interrupted now because of the emergency,” Walsh said. “We’re using whatever funding we can to provide immediate assistance for the families that have been so badly affected.”
There is great need for drinking water, food supplies, and biosafety equipment like masks, antiseptic gel and soap. There are fears that crowding at hurricane shelters will lead to the spread of coronavirus infections.
“People who are in shelters, for the most part, had to leave their homes without anything, much less a mask,” Walsh explained. “The conditions for propagation of COVID are rife in those shelters.”
According to Walsh, Honduras “is suffering the effects of climate change, and it is not responsible for this.”
“It is our duty as human beings to respond to that in a way that recognizes our common humanity,” he said.
Scientists say a changing climate and hotter oceans have contributed to stronger hurricanes. The water in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico is consistently 2 degrees hotter than a century ago, according to National Public Radio.
“Honduras is starting from a very vulnerable point to begin with,” Walsh continued. “Even without the hurricanes, even without COVID, Honduras was teetering on the edge because it’s such a poor country and it’s been so hard hit by climate change.”
The country is suffering an “acute food insecurity situation” with low food supplies after several seasons of drought.
“And add to that COVID. COVID locked down the economy. It closed markets. It made it even harder for people to make a living or an income,” said Walsh. “Now, what little is left, Eta damaged, and hurricane Iota is going to finish off.”
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“What is going to be the result? In all likelihood, people who have lost everything are going to feel they have no option but to migrate. It’s going to translate into stronger migration pressures once again,” he added.
Walsh encouraged better ways of thinking about Honduras and its people.
“We have to get past this notion that Honduras is a source of problems or a source of migrants that we don’t want. It’s a neighbor of ours. It’s a place of great suffering, where poverty and exclusion explain why so many choose to leave the country,” he said. “The more that we can help Hondurans in Honduras, the better.”
Catholic Relief Services is accepting donations for hurricane relief through its website, www.crs.org.