Honduras – EU Provides Disaster Risk Reduction Training for 50,000 People in Comayagua

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Disaster risk reduction training, risk mapping, education and awareness campaigns and small infrastructure works such as building flood drainage channels, have helped thousands of people in the Comayagua department of Honduras become more resilient towards floods and other natural disasters.

Blanca Rita Hernandez’s family is now safe from flooding thanks to a disaster preparedness project funded by the European Commission in Honduras. Photo credit: Mikko Vähäniitty / Finnish Red Cross
Blanca Rita Hernandez’s family is now safe from flooding thanks to a disaster preparedness project funded by the European Commission in Honduras. Photo credit: Mikko Vähäniitty / Finnish Red Cross

Anna-Sofia Joro, Media Producer, Finnish Red Cross, reports below for EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

Blanca Rita Hernandez’s children won’t get ill because of flooding anymore. Thanks to a disaster risk reduction project by the Red Cross in Honduras, the people of the Comayagua department are now safer. Awareness activities, training and small infrastructure works, funded by the European Commission, have helped people become more resilient towards natural disasters.

Honduras is one of the most disaster-prone countries in Central America, subject to the constant threat of floods, droughts, landslides, fires, hurricanes and earthquakes.

In a context as vulnerable to recurring disasters as Honduras, preparedness is key. People’s lives can be saved by even the most modest initiatives, such as first aid training or getting basic tools to respond to emergencies.

Early June this year, I had the opportunity to visit projects which the Honduran Red Cross is carrying out with Red Cross partners from Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway and Spain. These projects are funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) through its Disaster Preparedness programme, DIPECHO.

More than 53 000 people in Comayagua, one of the country’s most vulnerable departments in Honduras, have been trained in actions to reduce risks from fires, floods and landslides thanks to a DIPECHO project. Mapping risks, education and awareness campaigns and small infrastructure works are examples of simple and inexpensive measures which save lives during and after a disaster strikes. Thanks to preparedness training, local communities will now be able to more promptly react to emergencies in villages, schools, health centres and prisons.

The Honduran Red Cross coordinates activities with local residents, municipal authorities and the national authority for disaster risk reduction (Contingency Permanent Committee, COPECO) with the objective of building awareness on prevention and resilience issues and consolidating the capacities of public institutions, as well as the role of the Honduran Red Cross as an auxiliary body to these.

We are hard-working and decent people, but we lack resources to be able to improve”, explains María Ramona Alvarado, president of the local emergency committee in Camino Nuevo, a village in Comayagua. She is an active participant in the training sessions offered by the project. “I am proud of our community and so grateful for the help we receive” she says.

Before these sessions, most communities were not aware of the principles of disaster management. Schools, for example, did not have emergency committees. For the first time, 25 villages have organised coordination meetings with the authorities, and school children and teachers learnt about first aid and staying safe in case of an emergency.

Thanks to the European Commission’s funding, disaster management initiatives have also been launched in the prisons of Comayagua and El Progreso. Jails are especially vulnerable to flooding, fire, earthquakes and epidemic outbreaks, as serious incidents have painfully shown in recent years. Inmates, guards, firemen and police officers are now being trained to respond to emergencies and minimize the risks caused by disasters.

Prisoners lose their freedom, but not their rights as human beings. They are motivated by our training, as they know information can save their life. Many of them remember too well the horrible fire in 2012, which killed over 380 people trapped inside the prison of Comayagua”, says César Montesinos, who works at the Comayagua prison clinic and is also a Honduran Red Cross volunteer.

Montesinos and his colleagues have facilitated workshops on first aid, clean water and the prevention of diseases affecting inmates. “In addition to trainings, beneficiaries receive equipment such as first aid kits, fire extinguishers, fire alarms and megaphones. Knowledge alone does not help if you do not have the tools”, said Montesinos.

As part of the DIPECHO programme, the European Commission also finances micro projects suggested by local committees, and implemented with the help of the Red Cross. In Camino Nuevo, for instance, flooding of houses in the lowlands occurs every year during the rainy season. A channel is now being dug to drain excess waters which could destroy the houses and which will also protect Blanca Rita Hernandez, her husband and their three children from water-borne diseases.

Blanca’s family is now safe from flooding thanks to the new channel being built: “When the next rainy season arrives, water will be diverted from our home to be used later. My children won’t get sick anymore and we won’t have to leave our house”.