Impacts of hurricanes ETA and IOTA in Honduras
Hurricanes Eta and Iota devastated the Honduras’ most important agricultural zones, destroying not only the homes of thousands of plantation workers, but the headquarters of their union federation FESTAGRO as well. The humanitarian and economic crises resulting from this destruction exacerbate the health crisis wrought by COVID and longstanding crisis of democracy. The ability of agro-industrial workers to survive and rebuild is critical to national recovery. And the survival of FESTAGRO, an anchor for democracy, equitable development, and human rights for workers is vital if Honduras is to maintain a robust civil society and a viable fight for a just, equal, and transparent country.
The Federation of Trade Unions of Agroindustrial Workers (FESTAGRO) represents 4,000 members in four unions in the agricultural sector (SITRATERCO , SUTRASFCO , SITRABARIMASA and STAS), and is born of the agricultural union that founded the Honduran labor movement.
In the first two weeks of November, the most important agricultural zone of the country was devastated by two disastrous hurricanes. Hurricane Eta began flooding the North on the night of November 4, by the morning of November 5 the water reached the roofs of houses. The government failed to inform citizens or issue life-saving alerts. On Tuesday , November 17 , Hurricane Iota reached land, exacerbating the devastation generated by the Eta days before.
Some people had already returned to their homes and had to scramble to re-evacuate in the absence of government rescues, shelters, or aid. The failures of the government during both storms, with makeshift responses, with shelters lacking protection, mattresses, food, or protocols COVID-19 , has made visible a situation where the only answers to the storms victims have come from fellow citizens, under the mantra of “Only the people save the people, only the community saves itself.” FESTAGRO, among many community organizations, social movements, and trade unions, organized and directed the delivery of direct aid from abroad to social organizations and impacted communities.
The year 2020 has been particularly hard for Hondurans, from the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensuing economic crisis, Hurricanes Eta and Iota, longstanding government corruption and ineffectiveness, and further escalating repression of civil liberties. Today levees have broken, flooding plantations and crops, and the river continues to rise, inundating houses in the communities where we live.
In the days following the hurricanes, women and girls in the hastily-organized government shelters reported a startling number of sexual assaults. And women workers in industrial agriculture, clustered in the packing plants, face nearly a year of unemployment since they won’t be able to resume work until not only are fields rehabilitated, but the first harvest is made.
Impacts on FESTAGRO and its affiliated unions
These hurricanes have been a hard blow for FESTAGRO and it member unions from the agricultural sector, located in the Sula Valley and the Aguan Valley, which suffered catastrophic flooding. At present there are more than two thousand families of workers on suspension, furloughed, or fired. Of these approximately 1,500 are permanent workers with suspensions, the rest are temporary workers. While there is a verbal commitment from the companies to rehabilitate the farms, this will be a long-term process. While workers wait, those who suffer the greatest impact are women workers, most of whom work in the packing plants, because packing cannot resume until fields are rehabilitated, replanted, and harvesting, at minimum a period of 8 to 9 months in the case of bananas.
Agricultural workers are teetering on the edge of survival, as some 2,000 of them and their families were forced to flee their homes with only with the clothes on their back. They have lost all their belongings because the communities where they live were completely flooded. Of these, 50 have lost their home structures completely. Among members’ families are some 150 children between 6 months and 5 years old and who are in urgent need for formula, milk, diapers, and other childcare basics.
FESTAGRO is urgently mobilizing to help 1,000 families with burner-stoves, mattresses, food, clothes, and cleaning necessities.
FESTAGRO is requesting support from our allies, comrades, sisters and brothers at the global level to provide our community and affiliates:
• 1000 baskets of food for a family (5 people) – $ 30 each
• 1000 cleaning and hygiene kits- $ 15 each
• Mattresses, bedding, and gas stoves for those in need- $ 50 – $ 125
• Milk, diapers, and necessities for 150 children – $ 20 each
HUMANITARIAN FUNDING GOAL – $169,000
Festagro in the last 20 years has faced total destruction by flooding and hurricanes three times over, with the devastation of Eta and Iota a fourth and final blow – destroying everything in the office as well as decades of documentation and records. Moreover, widespread citizen insecurity and anti-union violence targeted against FESTAGRO and its affiliates have resulted in vicious threats and attacks against members and staff, with some fleeing the country in exile.
Over the last 8 years we have felt more even more unsafe executing our union work because the building where we have our office, rented its upper floor to the national police, an entity which has enacted repression against members of the technical team as well as union activists when we have demonstrated on the streets. Due to the complete destruction of the last two hurricanes, FESTAGRO is in the process of a permanent move with the construction of a new headquarters, where there are possibilities to continue organizing new unions in other sectors, and that provides us with safety and security outside the flood zone and better protected against anti-union threats.
FESTAGRO seeks to raise $ 60 thousand for the construction of a new headquarters
WHERE TO SUPPORT:
Monetary support may be directed to: Number of account Festagro 2081254782 Banco Davivienda
From FESTAGRO’s executive leadership:
We greatly appreciate any contribution that we can direct to our affiliates in these times of humanitarian crisis.
We remain at your disposal for any clarification or consultation. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
telephone 99954755 – 26681736
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