Mary Robinson travelled to Honduras between 27 – 30 July in her capacity as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on El Niño and Climate to mobilise resources for the Honduras Humanitarian Response Plan in order to provide life-sustaining assistance and to restore community coping mechanisms.
In 2016 Honduras was declared as the most vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index. Honduras was affected by more than 50 socio-natural disasters between 1980 and 2014, resulting in 15,548 deaths, and the drought caused by El Niño in 2015 and 2016 affected the food security of 161,493 families in 2015. Annual economic losses due to climatic events are estimated at US$667 million (2.6% of GDP).
During the visit Mary Robinson met with key government ministries involved in mitigation, adaptation and response to climate change, civil society groups, UN agencies, and the diplomatic and donor community in Honduras and the region. She also visited drought-affected communities and met with human rights defenders, women’s’ groups, and farming cooperatives with the support of Trócaire and Oxfam.
“The region has been seriously affected by deforestation and droughts for 10 years with small-scale producers being the most affected. The impacts of the drought have diminished livelihoods, increased poverty and forced migration to overpopulated urban areas” Mary Robinson said during the visit.
Hardest hit are families who depend on subsistence farming, general day labourers and landless farmers who have had their livelihoods destroyed and their resilience eroded. These low income households are dependent on rainfall as they work in farming without irrigation, have limited access to basic health services and education and face difficulties in obtaining the basic food basket.
During a visit to the region of Pespire, Mary Robinson saw first-hand how women are particularly vulnerable due to lack of access and control over productive assets and low levels of participation in decision making in community and local disaster preparedness and response organisations.
Rural communities of Pespire are vulnerable to environmental, economic and social problems and there are very few programmes or projects being implemented that promote the building of local capacities, appropriate productive initiatives, innovation in agriculture and natural resources protection.
Many farmers of Pespire feel that climate has changed in the last 30 years and has become more variable. Temperatures are much higher during the day, it is raining less often and when it rains the amount of water that falls in a short period of time is high. The drought is causing forced migration, especially amongst the youth who are migrating to large cities in Honduras or to the USA or Spain.
“These people cannot wait to receive assistance – they are in immediate danger and require urgent assistance. But the situation also requires a more holistic approach with longer term planning as the impacts of climate change are diminishing agricultural production in the area which is exhausting food reserves thus making people even more vulnerable to El Niño. This is the new normal and therefore requires a new, multifaceted approach to deal with the slow onset impacts of climate change” said Mary Robinson.
Visit Trócaire: Mary Robinson visits families hit by El Nino drought in Honduras
Learn More via the UN: El Niño: Donors pledge some US$22 million to address climate-linked humanitarian needs