As a sponsor of two children through Casita Copan and a nurse in the United States, I felt concern for my two sponsored children as the COVID-19 crisis spread across the world, and I started researching how this pandemic might affect them and their country. As I gathered information, I realized that the effects of COVID-19 will most likely be devastating to Honduras due to its lack of a developed medical infrastructure and due to long-standing corruption in the medical system, but I was encouraged in talking with Emily Monroe, the director, about the steps Casita Copan is taking to ensure the safety of its employees, children, and families. With the COVID-19 pandemic on everyone’s minds, I think at times like this, it is very easy to develop an every person for themselves mentality, but I am encouraged that it also gives people an opportunity to come together in the face of adversity and work together to address and fight COVID-19, and not only COVID-19, but the other issues that come to light because of it such as poverty, inequity, and corruption. It brings awareness to the weaknesses and strengths of countries, governments, organizations, and people all around the world, and it brings us all together because it is a virus that affects us all, and we must work together to fight it.
In the news, there has been a big focus on ventilators, how shortages of these in intensive care units are leading to higher mortality rates and discussing how if the curve is not flattened to avoid overwhelming hospitals, there could be too few ventilators to serve the amount of patients coming in. There has also been a concern about having enough face masks or other protective equipment for healthcare workers. This is why social distancing and quarantines have been implemented in countries around the world, to slow the pandemic and keep up with the need for ventilators for patients and protective equipment for hospital workers and to keep the infection and mortality rate low from COVID-19.
Asia, Europe, and America have been the primary countries discussed in the news, but very little has been discussed about Honduras or other Latin American countries. Yet, with corruption in Honduras and a health care system that is not well-supported by the government with proper supplies, Honduras could very soon be completely overwhelmed by COVID-19. According to a recent article by WBUR news station, Honduras has only “12 government-owned respirators for the whole country.” This already does not bode well for them. Just to give some perspective, in the state of Oregon, where I am from, there are 4.191 million people and 688 ventilators. In Honduras, however, there are 9.265 million people with only 12 ventilators. It is a country severely unprepared for the crisis that will soon be hitting it. Already, on March 29, 2020 according to the John Hopkins COVID-19 Map, 110 Hondurans were reported positive for COVID-19 with its first recorded death recently, but this is likely an under-reporting of the true situation due to a lack of testing and treatment availability within the country. When I volunteered as a nurse in Honduras only a few years ago, the local clinic in Copan Ruinas was reusing gloves patient-to-patient due to a lack of resources. Having the correct personal protective equipment was not even an option for clinic employees. I can already imagine what it will be like in the face of this crisis in Honduras when it comes to masks, gowns and gloves and protecting those on the frontlines.
In the United States, several people are losing their jobs due to the crisis and need for social distancing and quarantining, but the government is putting together a package to extend unemployment longer and to more people and sending out stimulus checks to citizens. In Honduras, a strict quarantine has been put in place but with little talk of support for those who have lost jobs or clear guidelines to Honduran citizens on how to make it through a long shut-down or how organizations and nonprofits like Casita Copan can continue to provide vital services amidst the crisis.
I am proud that Casita Copan has made the decision to continue to provide payment to its Honduran employees through the end of April, and that they will also continue to provide meals and medical support for the families whose children rely on Casita Copan for its day care services. They hope to continue these supports to the community as long as is necessary and they are able. Despite the lack of resources in Honduras, Casita Copan remains dedicated to its local staff, children, and families and prepared to support them and advocate on their behalf during the pandemic. They are one of the only resources these families will be able to rely on as COVID-19 spreads through their country. So as a nurse and a sponsor, I ask that people do not forget Honduras, or other countries like it, and if able, continue to support Casita Copan and other organizations that will be critical in Honduras and other vulnerable countries. Never was it more important than now to support Casita Copan, and together we can get through this pandemic together.
Thank you Emily Monroe and all Casita Copan Staff and Volunteers for your dedication to the children and families of Casita Copan during these trying times. You matter and make a difference. Know that so many stand with you in solidarity during the months ahead which will be challenging and overwhelming. Together, we will meet the challenge to continue the mission of Casita Copan amidst the COVID-19 crisis: “To prevent child abandonment by nurturing orphaned and vulnerable children and supporting single mothers.”
Beth Ann Nyssen
Nurse and United States Casita Copan Board Member and Sponsor