Honduras is a country literally drowning in a sea of trouble. Hurricane Mitch has virtually destroyed the country’s infrastructure. In order to prevent looting in flooded areas, President Flores has issued a decree imposing an “Estado de Excepcion” that limits the rights of citizens and residents in Honduras for 15 days, beginning Oct. 30.
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Article 187 of the Constitution of Honduras allows the president, in a council of ministers, to suspend constitutional rights in times of emergency. The suspension of these constitutional rights allows the implementation of a curfew and gives the police and military more power than they already have, especially in regards to apprehending looters. People who feel their rights have been violated by this decree are told to seek protection from the National Commissioner for Human Rights.
First hit by Mitch was the North coast at La Mosquitia, with a population primarily of Miskito and other indigenous groups. These people are without shelter, aid or food. Winds of 180 mph battered the island of Guanaja, once a paradise, now a barren rock. Honduras’ tropical forests were already encroached by deforestation and are now a complete disaster area. Whole villages were wiped out.
Very simply, Honduras needs help. Small donations can add up to enough to relieve the suffering of Honduran people. Canned food and drinking water are priorities. Baby food, flour, beans, rice and just about anything else are seriously called for. Medical supplies such as pain relievers, cotton balls, pads, soaps, etc. all are in desperate need as well. Cleaning supplies, clothing, household items, any practical items, shelter materials — ship it on in. On a larger scale, boats are currently the only means of transportation and are in short supply. Most supplies will have to be airlifted, and there is also a shortage of choppers and small aircraft.
Well over 6,000 people have lost their lives, and more than 11,000 more are missing. Millions of survivors’ lives hang in the balance. Homes were washed away in mudslides. Roads and bridges are out. Cholera is feared, along with many other diseases and injuries. Crops are destroyed, in an economy already too dependent on coffee and bananas.
The country’s communication systems are no longer operable. Electricity is out. The political climate of Honduras was tense before the hurricane, and what will happen now depends on world response and effort. Without international support, the Honduran people fall prey to more than just looters.
The cleanup and rebuilding efforts are monumental, and Honduras needs all the international help it can get. Honduras was simply not prepared for such devastation. But now is not the time for reprimand. Rescue teams are currently undermanned and underequipped. Some people are sitting on what’s left of rooftops or just wandering the countryside in search of help. Children suffer the worst, losing parents and homes with no one else to turn to.
It is really impossible for anyone outside Honduras to really imagine such total devastation, and this is not a Hollywood movie. It is important that people call their local relief agencies to see what is needed and what to do to get help to the Honduran people.
Jerry Flattum is the Daily’s opinions editor. Send comments to [email protected]