Honduras is a small country with about seven million people located in Central America. It borders the Caribbean Sea in the northeast and the Pacific Ocean in the southwest. The capital of Honduras is Tegucigalpa, while San Pedro Sula is usually referred to as the economic capital. Its population is made up of 90% Mestizo, or a mixture between European and Amerindian, 7% Amerindian, also known as Native American in the U.S., 2% black, and 1% white. 97% of the people are Catholic while the rest are mostly Protestant.
After Belize and Nicaragua, Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America. With an extraordinarily unequal distribution of income and high unemployment (28%), Honduras was declared one of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 2005, making it eligible for debt relief. It is one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere and remains dependent on international economic assistance. 59% of Hondurans live below the poverty line and 36.2% below the extreme poverty line. 44% live on $2 a day or less. The economy is based on agriculture, with bananas and coffee its most important exports. Unfortunately for the people we visit in the aldeas, the steepness of the mountain slopes often makes agriculture impossible or at least extremely difficult. It is estimated that almost 90% of the mountainous area of Honduras has slopes with gradients that range from marginal for agriculture to those that do not permit agriculture or even decent pasturage. Poor food productivity and low incomes lead to a very low standard of living in the countryside, where illness and poor diets are endemic.
Unfortunately, Honduras’ health care is not much better than its economy. The life expectancy for Hondurans is 68 years, compared to 78 years for Americans. Adequate health care is available, but only to those able to pay the high cost. Health care for the urban and rural poor is extremely limited. As of 2000, on average there is only one doctor for every 1667 people. Most of the population lacks access to running water and sanitation facilities – all key contributing factors to the country's high infant mortality rate (63 per 1,000 live births) and the relatively low life expectancy rate. In the isolated regions of Honduras, there are almost no physicians. Government clinics often are empty shells lacking adequate personnel, equipment, and medicines. Because of these factors, Hondurans are at a high degree of risk of contracting major infectious diseases. Given the fact that food production has been insufficient for the country's needs, widespread malnutrition complicates the population's fragile health.
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