Monday, November 30, 2009

Helping Honduran Shanty-town Without Medical Care

Honduras has the 2nd worst public health system in the Western Hemisphere. Off the northern coast on an island called Roatan, I discovered a shanty-town community called La Colonia that was founded by refugees from Hurricane Mitch that destroyed these peoples' communities over ten years ago when tidal waves washed away their homes and their farmland. Seeking to settle somewhere with higher ground and jobs, they moved to this tropical island. But life in La Colonia is a daily struggle.

and our first field report from Guatemala here.

Atrocious economic conditions, a lack of educational opportunities and medical problems have left the 4,000 residents of La Colonia mired in poverty. With scant resources from the government, the people here are left to fend for themselves. Sanitation is absent, schools are overloaded (only 1 in 4 kids here go to school) and the only public health clinics are severely overcrowded and under-manned. Imagine going to a clinic without running water or any medicine!

Fortunately, an American nurse named Miss Peggy Stranges, while down in Honduras in 1998 doing humanitarian work after the destructive Hurricane Mitch, recognized the need and acted upon it. What started as a make-shift operation in her kitchen has grown into the two-story Clinic Esperanza addressing pediatrics, maternal health and more. Over 250 foreign volunteers (such as doctors from the states) volunteer at the Clinic annually and the only paid employees are Hondurans, such as the two Honduran doctors, nurse and dentist on staff. Much of the medicine is purchased with World Health Organization (WHO) discount or donated from foundations. Many supplies are donated by tourists that come through Roatan (famous for its gorgeous beaches and coral reefs) but due to the recent political crisis, tourism has been down, which is what led to the current shortage. We are confident that the holidays brings more generous foreigners to aid the clinic.

Having helped rebuild homes after the Hurricane back in 1999 while living in Guatemala, I was saddened to see people still victimized by this storm a decade later. Fortunately, Cause & Affect was able to make a difference. We learned about the current shortage of respiratory and diabetic medicine, so we delivered a $1,200 Micro-Grant to allow them to purchase these needed medications. Be sure to watch the video to see personal accounts about the importance of this clinic for this downtrodden community - their words speak louder than mine.
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