Honduras: The Garifuna People Seek Community Solutions to Pandemic

Miriam Miranda. Foto: Ofraneh
Miriam Miranda. Foto: Ofraneh

FROM THE EDITORS: We share a reflection by Miriam Miranda, president of the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization, OFRANEH, about the work they are doing around the COVID-19 emergency. This is a transcript based on an interview by Radio Temblor. We highlight the community efforts that are being made in Honduras, despite the abandonment of the state.

Original audio by: Radio Temblor de Panamá. Translated to English by Awasqa.


We are living moments we never believed our generation would live. We are facing a pandemic similar to that of many centuries ago, where so many people died, millions of people. Right now, millions of people are not dying, but there is no record yet…

We must recognize that we are not prepared, as a humanity, to face this coronavirus. Not even the most perfect health system has the capacity to face it, like countries up north, for example. But not only because we do not have the capacity to face it, but because we have been creating patterns and life system that make us more vulnerable as a humanity. It is a pattern and a model of life that is disrespectful towards nature. As human beings, we think we are above other living beings. Now a virus has arrived that keeps us confined to our homes, and the only thing we say we can do at a planetary level is: stay home.

This solution, of course, works in some way so that the virus does not spread. In fact, that is the recipe that has been recommended to us on a planetary level. Ideally, we should all have the resources to face a pandemic like this.

If we have advanced so much technologically, why are we as a humanity so vulnerable? Plain and simple, because there is less investment in areas such as health, and if investments have been made, it is to set up private hospitals, which only save the lives of people with financial resources.

What COVID-19 is really demonstrating, showing us, stripping away everything for us to see the true face of a collapsed, destroyed, hijacked health system on a planetary level. A health system that is definitely not prepared to safeguard the life of humanity, of human beings. A health system that shows how important it is that we have a strong immune system, prepared for diseases and pandemics such as COVID-19.

Therefore, and in that logic, we want to share what OFRANEH has been doing in the past three weeks, since March 17, to fight this crisis.

Crisis Service Centers

As a response and as a safeguard for our communities, since March 17 we began to create COVID-19 Service Centers within our communities. In other words, networks began to be created within the community to organize the community’s response to COVID-19.

It is a community response, not an individual one. A response that involves community leaders but also women who, from their homes, offer to be part of a team to contain the entry of the virus into our Garifuna communities.

It has been a wonderful job, carried out by groups and teams in 18 communities, and we are sure that more communities will continue to join. From these centers, some of the following activities have been carried out:

We have been making and distributing masks

There is a campaign saying that these face masks that are made by women, do not offer protection. It is possible that they do not protect 100%, we do not doubt it, because they are not made in factories. But we don’t have anything in our communities, in the health centers … In other words, it is incredible that in this country, for example, there are not enough masks or equipment in large hospitals, much less in those that are health centers, those that serve our communities.

The women decided to start making their own masks to distribute within the communities and within other communities where they cannot be made, or do not have the conditions to do so. Thus, for example, in a beautiful gesture, from the community of Limón, masks were sent with health authorities for the community of San Fe.

Maybe it doesn’t “work” and they don’t “protect” them because they wear masks on the street that are supposedly for the military. Those are masks that the communities do not have access to. And now we have seen that even the medical personnel in this country do not have the basic equipment to attend to the population.

Preventive fumigation and strengthening the immune system

We have also fumigated within the communities, fumigation teams have been made for the community, made up mainly of young people.

Something beautiful has been the making and distribution of tea, for elders and all people to continue strengthening their immune system. We have collected medicinal plants within the communities to take them to the centers, to make tea, and that is an important way to remember needs that have been forgotten. Commercial drinks nowadays have dyes, are mostly made of colored water and lots of sugar, and that destroys our immune system, that kills us.

These centers have also helped us to collect information on the diseases that the Garifuna people suffer the most, which diseases make them more vulnerable for COVID-19.

Protecting borders and outreach work

Within the communities, teams of guards were integrated to control who enters and who leaves those communities. Also to safeguard the community, so that other people who have not taken proper precautions do not enter, and so that the virus does not spread within the communities.

We have also been carrying out outreach work within the same communities, placing up posters, talking to the people of the pulperías (shops) that have to protect themselves. Disinfectant gel has been made and distributed. We continue to work within our communities to contain the virus.

Neighborhood communication networks & food distribution

I think it is important to recognize that without community networks and without neighborhood networks and without networks within a family and with other families, it will impossible to contain the coronavirus. What does that mean?

While it is true that what they have done is confine us to our homes — and the best system at this time for the world authorities is stay at home — we believe that we must also use the possibility and the need to generate collective community responses to contain the coronavirus.

We are extremely concerned about some things. One, that in Honduras the coronavirus containment is in the hands of the health system, it is in the hands of the army and the police. And in that sense, if there is no health strategy from the health system to deal with the coronavirus, I do not see that we can easily get out of this.

On the other hand, the funds that have been approved by Congress are not being invested to provide equipment for hospitals, especially respirators, and all the needs that exist from the coronavirus. Here I see that a catastrophe is waiting to happen in Honduras, and that would be premeditated, because there has been no coherent state response to confront the coronavirus.

There is a lot of misinformation on the one hand, but on the other hand there is no national strategy. It does not exist because there is no interest. It seems that the only interest is to decrease the population.

I also want to mention that from the centers we are also going to distribute food. There are already three food centers with food that has already been purchased and will be distributed to needy families within the communities. This is not going to be a permanent response, and on the other hand there is a serious situation, a shortage that will occur in the coming weeks or months in this country.

This calls us to reflect on what we’ve been doing lately to retake the productive system, from our homes, our territories, which must be protected.

What comes into my mind is, what if the rice runs out, the beans that are sheltered in the big warehouses, or in the silos or in those centers. What will happen, if in two or three months, there is a strong shortage? And I’m talking about months, it may be next month. What will happen to the Honduran people? When all countries are also safeguarding the food they have in their pockets? In other words, we are in a crisis, before a major crisis, before an unprecedented crisis.

At this moment nobody can go out to produce, to sow, everyone has to be at home, but we have not prepared ourselves, as many do, and some animals that we do not appreciate. Many store food for tomorrow, some for months and years, and we don’t. Also, many people in their territories have monthly food supplies; these people will have the possibility of spending months without leaving their home. What will happen to those who do not have food stored? Comrades, this is catastrophic.

That is why as an organization, for more than 15 days, we have installed a network at the national level, to work together, but also designed a strategy to face this pandemic, this situation. In the medium term and in the long term. Because this is a situation that we are not going to get out of tomorrow, nor the day after. That’s clear.

In Honduras we have to fight hard so that we don’t have a high mortality, so that here does not happen what is happening in Guayaquil, Ecuador, for example. Nobody is collecting the dead, they are under the sun, until four days later they come to collect the bodies. These things are terrible, horrible.

And one wonders, why is it that we are supposed to have an advanced humanity, when we cannot even face a virus that is killing us? And so there is an urgent need to reflect, what is this pandemic teaching us? What are we not doing well? What should we be doing? Unfortunately, we are facing a situation and a very hard lesson.

This is what I wanted to share with you, brothers, sisters, companions, companions at the national and international level, what we are doing, the Garifuna people in Honduras. We invite everyone, all people to join us, from all feminist, women, peasants, peasants, LGTBI population, workers sectors, and neighborhood residents. Everyone, let’s do something, even if it’s from inside our homes.


  • Radio Temblor is an alternative means of communication of Voces Ecológicas COVEC that emerged in 2008 in the context of the Rural and National Socio-Environmental Mobilization in Panama. In the midst of these events, the founding team composed of university students set out to make a popular communication medium, turning Radio Temblor into an informative…

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