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COVID-19 in Honduras

Published: May 8, 2020


From Sister Alegria:

As soon as the coronavirus pandemic hit Honduras, we all instantly became much poorer than we had been. The experts say that the peak number of cases here will happen in June, then gradually decrease until late September, with the hope of some kind of normalcy starting in October. This is inside information.

The government responded rapidly. It doesn't take space scientist-level intelligence to see that a health care system that is inadequate in normal times won't do in hard times. The response is to close schools, businesses, control transportation, everything. Usually announcements are made for two week stretches at a time. I think this is very wise. Almost anyone can “get through” emotionally “just two more weeks,” but 4-5 months is overboard.

Doctora Diriam has returned to Limón, at least for the length of this emergency. The public health system uses a lot of people in “social service.” That is auxiliary nurses, professional nurses, laboratoristas, microbiologists and physicians. They are required to provide this low-paying service for a year in order to obtain their license to practice. The nurses and physicians in social service normally start in April and finish in March. They have gone out on strike because the government is not providing full body protection. Dr. Marvin, our microbiologist, is very professional and stays on the job. So, when the need has risen, the supply of services has decreased! Frustration, anyone?

We did learn last week that the government has contracted extra health personnel in this “hour of need.” I don't know lots of details about that.

Those are just the facts. On Thursday, April 30, we went with the public health team to La Fortuna, which has had no health care available for the last month. Juana Nidia, R. N., and nurse Wornita are relegated to doing paperwork at home, not allowed to see patients. Juana Nidia has high blood pressure and Wornita has insulin-dependent diabetes. I, of course, am not allowed to see patients either because I am 72 and have heart trouble. Be that as it may, Sister Confianza and I (along with J) were invited to accompany the team. I was decked out in a surgical cap, mask, and full-length disposable gown. It was very hot. I saw 25 patients before I was too tired to go on. Dra. Diriam saw 50. Oh, youth, how wonderful! She's in her 40's.

When I saw patients with “colds” I asked if the family had had visitors in the last two weeks. The response was always a shocked, “No!” There is a chain across the road into La Fortuna and the guard, after making a telephone call to autorize our entry, sprayed the door handles, wheels of the car and the hands and feet of those riding in the bed of the truck. La Fortuna is determined to stay safe.

Profa Marta, the school principal, gave me school books for J—first grade for Spanish, Social Science and Natural Science, second grade for Mathematics. We are all very grateful. She also agreed to keep a box of medicines at her house. For years, whe someone is sick, they go to her (a wise choice). Now she can dispense medicines. Officially, Marta will call me and I will prescribe over the telephone, but she will have to keep the paperwork. I had suggested that I have medicines here at the monastery, but I am forbidden to do that—too much risk. Yes, I hope to die with my boots on, but in obedience, and in the allotted time. 

Last Tuesday, Juana Nidia, Wornita, and a few family members came to visit us and bring us groceries. Such loving, thoughtful friends. Also, we were able to order through the milkman (who delivers milk from the farmers in La Fortuna to a family-owned dairy in Bonito Oriental) more groceries. He brought us 25 pounds each of rice, wheat flour and corn flour, and a gallon of cooking oil. When he heard our wish list for groceries, he immediately understood our situation much more than he ever had before.

Our neighbor, Oscar, whose dogs we had cared for in his absence, also gave us some nice groceries.

Sister Confianza arranged with a farmer to bring us beans and corn within a week or two. The cost of beans has risen. We have been eating guavas and cashew apples from our trees until we are tired of them. We hope for pineapples from our plants in late May through September. These three fruits share the delightful characteristic that they will grow in very poor soil. We're eating eggs and greens, too. So our diet is adequate in balance and quantity.

On Saturday, Sor Leonarda visited. If we had wanted to, that was our opportunity to send J home with her. We think she is better off here. Since she ran off to play instead of staying to hug Sor, we could feel pretty comfortable with that advice. Sor decided to leave her here and explained that to J You can imagine the mixed feelings that engendered in poor J. Just a few days after seeing her “Ma” and receiving her blessing, J is already doing better. 

We will need money. This country cannot get through 4-5 more months with most people not earning a living. People are scared and pretty much obey the restrictions, modified by their own common sense, except when it comes to family members, for whom exceptions are regular. In the cities, the government is dispensing groceries to the very poorest (those who live in cardboard shacks). There will be more. Face masks and sanitizing gel are becoming more available through the government.

We actually purchased a cheap telephone for the monastery to use during this emergency. We will stay in touch with Dra. Diriam and the mayor so that we will know what the needs are. I don't know, besides food, what the needs will be, but I know there will be lots of needs.

Tocoa has just been “closed” for two weeks. That is, it has roadblocks on all roads going in and out. This builds much greater safety for our counties. Cooper, the supervisor of health promoters in Limón, is let through all road blocks, so we can still get what we'll need. Right now Centro de Salud needs, at a minimum, syringes and a blood pressure cuff.



From Sister Confianza:

I am in Limoncito today, borrowing WiFi.

The Honduran mail system is closed due to coronavirus, so letters and other mailings will not reach us for many months. When possible, please send letters and news by email, so I can save them when we get access to read at home. 

Sister Alegría and I decided it is better for all of us if J doesn't go out anymore. Children are promiscuous, as Sister A says, and just can't stick with the hygiene protocols and other restrictions very well. I hope to keep coming in every week or two to send and receive news by internet. However, as soon as we learn that there is a case of COVID-19 in Bonito Oriental (the neighboring county)--or Limón--I will stop coming in to Limoncito for internet. When that happens, you won't hear from us again by email for a while. Please know that that means that we are staying home and staying safe. There are currently over 1,050 cases in Honduras (the count has exploded in the last week), including several in Tocoa, but none confirmed in Bonito yet. 

During this time when we are not going to the city where the bank is, you may make donations to Amigas del Señor through Western Union. (The WU fee is about 3%.) We greatly appreciate your continued support. There is a WU agent in Limón, and our trusted friend Cooper is willing to receive them for us. (He can pick it up at any agent in the country.) You may also send money to us through MoneyGram, which also has an agent in Limón.

In either case, Western Union or a MoneyGram, address your contribution to:

Erik Emerto Cooper Rivas, Honduras. 

Then send us a text message or voicemail telling us how much you have sent.

The Honduras country code plus our 8-digit phone number is: (504) 9722-6280

We greatly appreciate your continued support.


from Sisters Alegría y Confianza del Señor, Amigas del Señor Methodist Monastery, Limón, Colón, Honduras, which is in a covenant of caring with Multnomah Monthly Meeting (5/5/2020)