Indigenous Hondurans with Africa descent are facing poverty, poor health-care access and limited information through the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. Members of these communities are joining together to ensure information and resource reach the most vulnerable.
"We have had to get creative in these times,” said Yimene Calderón, head of the Organisation for Ethnic Development, which is working with the Garífuna community to raise awareness of infection control measures and provide support to households in need.
They are “being resilient, relying on our traditional medicine and foods, and seeking support and solidarity to receive assistance from the government - not individually, but collectively, and operating as a network,” she said.
Thus far, more than 1,800 cases of the disease have been confirmed in Honduras. The outbreak is concentrated along the country’s northern coast, where much of the Garífuna population lives.
The Garífuna community has roots among both indigenous groups and African descendants. Many households are headed by women or grandmothers, with one or both parents working abroad to send money home. As in other Afro-Honduran and indigenous communities, some neighbourhoods and households lack electricity, Internet access and running water. Food insecurity is common, and many are unable to access health services due to distance or affordability.
All these vulnerabilities have been exacerbated due to the pandemic.
Major sources of income – including remittances, tourism and small businesses – have been severely curtailed. The most vulnerable may be unable to engage in social distancing or frequent handwashing, among other disease prevention measures.
But these communities are also proving to be resilient through their network. Community members are also making their own cloth masks and turning to traditional foods and medicines.