Hurricane Mitch devastated Honduras in 1998, causing over 7,000 deaths. Over 1.5 million people were left homeless by the storm. Thousands of buildings were destroyed, and roads and bridges were washed away. The economy came to a near standstill, worsening the effects of already endemic poverty.
Since 1998, the government of Honduras has committed to a development strategy which was coordinated in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF. The World Bank is currently supporting a US$30 million Social Investment Fund aimed at alleviating poverty through the improvement of the country's infrastructure at the community level. The project includes self-help programs for the poor and involves the construction of numerous schools in rural areas. The World Bank has also initiated a US$25 million nutrition and health program for 255,000 poor women and children. The program's goals include the establishment of up to 160 health care centers with a priority given to rural areas.
The infant mortality rate in 2001 was high at 36 deaths per 1,000 live births. Approximately 25 percent of children were suffering from malnutrition. Despite World Bank initiatives, Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in the Americas with an estimated gross domestic product of US$6.5 billion in 2001. More than 53 percent of the population live below the poverty line,
|GDP per Capita (US$)|
|SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.|
|Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage|
|Survey year: 1996|
|Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.|
|SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].|
42 percent of the population do not have access to safe drinking water, and a quarter of the population are illiterate. Over 50 percent of Honduras's rural population are agricultural workers who own no land or are small-scale landowners who have less than 5 hectares. Land reform that provides technical as well as financial assistance in the form of micro credit (small-scale loans) could reduce poverty in Honduras by allowing farmers to earn income, be self sufficient, and increase overall production.