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Drought and Zika response in Honduras

Drought and Zika response in Honduras

GOAL’s long history in Honduras began in 1998 when it helped the people of Honduras recover from the devastation of Hurricane Mitch.

These women are concerned about the Zika virus and want to know more about how the disease could impact their children and neighborhoods and how they can help.

In nearly two decades in country, GOAL has succeeded in helping thousands of Hondurans to get out of poverty through innovative market-based, neighborhood driven, livelihood programs as well as helping communities prepare and respond to natural hazards such as drought, landslides, and floods through community based early warning systems.

New threats have emerged and GOAL’s programs in Honduras now focus on drought and the Zika virus as well as longstanding challenges such as malnutrition, dengue, and chikungunya. GOAL USA is working together with the GOAL Honduras team to respond to these needs though nutrition sensitive approaches, increased health expertise, community based early warning systems and drought response to maintain individuals’ assets and livelihoods.

The challenges facing Hondurans were immediately apparent upon my arrival in the capital of Tegucigalpa for a recent GOAL USA mission to Honduras. May is normally the rainy season but the weather was extremely dry. Three GOAL Honduras staff attending our GOAL US trainings contracted Zika (with one co-infection with chikungunya) in a period of less than a week.
GOAL Honduras’ existing programs use the “Barrio Resiliente” or Resilient Neighborhood approach through local, women-owned, neighborhood stores and links to existing community disaster preparedness structures to implement its long-running livelihood and early warning system programs. These successful programs give GOAL unparalleled access to urban areas that are often difficult to reach because of their informal nature and criminal activity and also provide an ideal platform to help these communities deal with drought, malnutrition, and the Zika virus outbreak.

During a visit to GOAL’s programs, I met women who’ve been helped by GOAL’s Resilient Neighborhoods program and they told us how GOAL has changed their lives and their community. The women previously didn’t have the skills to make their corner stores profitable or know how they could use their businesses as agents for change in the community. These same women told us how their shops are now successful, earning much needed money for food, education and health care for their families. More importantly, these women explain how the program has transformed the places they live by making them cleaner, safer, and better prepared for disasters such as landslides or flooding.

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Despite their confidence, these women are concerned about the Zika virus and want to know more about how the disease could impact their children and neighborhoods and how they can help. GOAL hopes to use these women and their community networks to detect and respond to Zika.

The Honduran government declared a state of emergency in February 2016 due to the alarming increase in cases of the Zika virus, which shares the same vector as dengue and chikungunya. As of June 1, Honduras had identified 10,865 cases of dengue, 9,099 cases of chikungunya, and 20,348 cases of Zika, with over half of all cases in urban areas. GOAL Honduras’ Resilient Neighborhoods approach is an ideal platform to access these at-risk communities and provides existing early warning systems (EWS) for hazards such as landslides and floods. GOAL USA worked to provide the health expertise on mosquito borne infectious disease and vector control, as well as partnerships with private tech companies, to repurpose GOAL’s existing EWS to detect and respond to Zika at the community level. GOAL is now working with the Honduras Ministry of Health, government emergency preparedness agencies, private tech companies, and UN and NGO partners on this innovative community-led Zika early warning system that is also supported by a high-tech information management system.

"Some women observed that they knew the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, but didn’t have the time or space at their job to breastfeed their infants."

We heard from Honduran women and men about the many obstacles to good nutrition that ranged from the current drought conditions to lack of understanding of the right foods for children to eat. Some women observed that they knew the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, but didn’t have the time or space at their job to breastfeed their infants. These insights illustrate that, while behavior is the key to good nutrition, discovering the causes of the actions through behavioral analysis is key to bringing about lasting behavior change and improved health and nutrition.
GOAL US, along with a behavior change expert from GOAL UK, conducted a two-day training for GOAL Honduras technical and program staff on the causes and treatment of chronic and acute malnutrition as well as techniques to make all of GOAL’s programs “nutrition sensitive”. Nutrition Sensitive means to make programs in any sector, such as livelihoods or sanitation, work towards improved nutrition outcomes through 1) nutrition education, 2) targeting families with mothers and/or children in the crucial “1000 days” period with the highest nutritional needs, and 3) linking recipients to existing health and nutrition programs of government health facilities and/or UN/NGO partners. The training concluded with GOAL staff developing work plans for all existing or planned programs to make them nutrition sensitive, including required partner, technical, and financial resources.

The current El Nino patterns have produced a severe drought across Central America’s dry corridor and GOAL Honduras is implementing a USAID/OFDA drought response grant to protect the assets and livelihoods of Hondurans impacted by the drought. GOAL staff observed sustenance farmers that had lost their entire crop of beans in 2015 and are likely facing another failed crop in 2016. These farmers told GOAL that they had already sold family assets such as tools to feed their families and they would have to sell their remaining belongings if they did not receive assistance. The USAID/OFDA funded GOAL program will provide cell phone based cash assistance to sustain farmers livelihoods and promote early recovery and resilience.
GOAL USA staff provided technical assistance in program design including the targeting of beneficiaries to ensure that children and mothers most at risk of malnutrition are being reached, as well as nutrition messaging on proper infant feeding practices and appropriate nutritious foods needed by young children.

Together with GOAL Global and the broader international humanitarian community, GOAL USA continues to provide technical and innovative assistance to scale-up humanitarian responses in times of need.

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