Monday, July 14, 2008


Last week a national newspaper, La Prensa, there are 300,000 children that suffer chronic malnutrition. If you add adults the number of chronically malnourished reaches half a million. In Honduras, a country of about 7 million, that means that about 14% of the people in this country do not have enough food to nourish themselves.

I fear that this might become worse this year since the costs of seeds, fertilizer, and other farming products has increased significantly and the costs of basics – corn and beans – have skyrocketed.

I have seen a little of this here in Santa Rosa de Copán. Each week I try to go to Hogar San José, a home for malnourished children under five, run by the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by mother Teresa of Calcutta.

About two months ago I saw Saul, an 18 month old boy with severe malnutrition – complete with extended belly and the skin that looked like an old man’s. The last time I visited he was standing with help. There are other stories of successes, I am glad when I hear that a child is returning to his parents. The hogar is helping the child, but you cannot help but see the sadness in the eyes of some of the kids whose parents left them there so that they could recover.

The other week I walked through Colonia Divina Providencia with Sister Inez and two women volunteering here for two months. We saw a few kids with patches of blond hair – a sign of malnutrition.

This past Saturday I spoke with Father Efraín in Dulce Nombre. He told me that the Missionaries of Charity are distributing basic food baskets to 1000 families in the parish. There are only about 55,000 people in the area of the parish!

This is only a makeshift solution, he said. And so he’s been trying to develop a number of projects to help promote food security. The silos will provide a way for people to store their corn and not have to sell it to speculators who will sell it back to them when they run out at inflated prices. Father Efraín also wants to promote small family gardens to help people diversify their diets.

But there is another problem. When I told him how poor the village of Yaruconte seemed to me, he spoke of other areas on the parish which are very poor. One problem he mentioned was the lack of land for growing corn and beans. There is land but it is in the hands of a few landowners, many of whom use the land for cattle grazing. He talked of possible long term solutions – perhaps getting some land to work communally. But that’s a big project that will need a lot of careful planning.

Father Efraín also told me that there have been 19 deaths of children under two since the beginning of the year. to help deal with this a doctor whose work is supported by the Catholic Medical Mission Board is giving workshops in the parish for health workers on how to prevent such deaths.

In Santa Rosa, God willing, we’ll soon have a lunch program for kids - a comedor infantil. I’m part of a small committee planning to open a lunch program for 40 to 50 kids on the grounds of the bishop’s office and residence. We’re hiring a cook for about $135 a month and we’ll buy tortillas, 120 per day, for about $16 a week. There will be other costs – buying beans, rice, and spaghetti as well as vegetables and meat. This week I’ll be meeting with the cook and one of the leaders of the group to prepare a budget.

The infrastructure was prepared with some money that came from St. Thomas Aquinas and I hope that the parish and others will help with the continuing costs.

Offers of help have already come in from people here in Santa Rosa. A professor at the Catholic University of Honduras campus here is going to ask his class to donate some basic supplies of corn, beans, pasta, salt, and sugar so that we have some basic foodstuffs to work from. I have to follow up on two other offers of help.

But what more?

These are small efforts – absolutely essential. But I see the need for some structural change – here in Honduras and throughout the world.

Here corruption and bureaucratic interests have siphoned off much of the money that was supposed to go to the Eradication of Poverty funds that were related to the debt forgiveness that Honduras was granted a few years ago.

Poor farming practices, as well as the lack of good land and adequate financing for small farmers, have made it hard for people to produce enough for their needs.

In the world, there is enough food, but speculation, monopolization of food production and distribution, and other policies have raised the costs of basic food stuffs and made it more difficult for the poorest to access the food they need.

Gandhi once said, “There is enough for each one’s need, but not enough for each one’s greed.” And so in the end, it comes down to conversion – personal and social.

More on that later.

For more info on the food crisis, check out this resource on the Center of Concern website: or this resource from Bread for the World:

One last note.

This past week there have been a good number of heavy rains – not too unusual for this time of the year. But Wednesday we had one of the hardest and longest rains I have ever seen. I even had a little rain in my house front room.

A few days later I dropped by the kindergarten in Colonia Divina Providencia. I saw Alex who lives in a house by the side of the stream which serves as a sewer for the city. I learned from the teacher that he was living temporarily in another house since his poor home had been flooded out Wednesday night. Alex often comes to school without shoes – but from the way he does his lessons he seems fairly smart. So much talent that may be wasted!

1 comment:

Brad said...

John, Thank you for the update. Trish and I were just talking today of the kids at Hogar San Jose and missing Santa Rosa. Your post gave me renewed focus for my prayer time and re-energized me to get back and join you.