Honduras has some of the most pronounced economic inequality in Latin America. In 2019, 52% of citizens lived below the poverty line.
Honduras produces only 0.1% of global CO2 emissions but is one of the countries hardest hit by climate change, which has intensified the effects of hurricanes, tropical storms and droughts.
Richard Barathe, who heads the office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Honduras, explains, "One in three families reports that unemployment is their biggest problem. Many others lost their homes in the devastating hurricanes at the end of the year — meaning many had to chose between homelessness in Honduras and the risky trip into the United States on foot. Many chose the latter."
Ana Ortega works with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and also advises Germany's Friedrich Ebert Foundation on migration issues, said, "When we're looking at Honduras, we're not looking at voluntary emigration but rather a kind of forced displacement, brought on by poverty, inequality and violence." Of the 800,000 Hondurans who fled north in 2019, 470,000 of them were women, reversing a previous male-dominated trend. "That's why we're talking about the feminization of migration. On the one hand it's the violence and on the other hand women have taken over the role of the main provider for their families," she said.
Last year Hondurans in the United States transferred more than $5 billion dollars in remittances, or "remesas," back to family members in Honduras. That's about one-fifth of the country's GDP. "Honduras wouldn't survive without remesas, and for the last 30 years they've essentially replaced the state," Ortega said. "Migration is sort of a life strategy for many families, and the economy would fall apart without remesas."