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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 54-58

Hurricane Mitch and Honduras: An illustration of population vulnerability

The Pennsylvania State University, Education Policy Studies, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence Address:
William C Smith
Education Policy Studies, The Pennsylvania State University, 300 Rackley Building, University Park, Pennsylvania - 16823
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2347-9019.122460

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In 1998, Hurricane Mitch, the fourth strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane in recorded history, destroyed much of Honduras. Hardest hit were more vulnerable populations of the rural hillside and the urban shanty towns. In the 20 years prior to Hurricane Mitch, a series of neoliberal policies shifted the tax burden to the poor and focused resources on export crops, forcing subsistence farmers to the less arable hillside and leading to deforestation. These moves left the already marginalized in a precarious position when Hurricane Mitch struck as topsoil was washed away and mudslides destroyed hillside farms. Additionally, gendered patterns of privilege were obvious. Men were encouraged to migrate to work leaving women to restore the farm, care for the children, and tend to the elderly. As disaster management is centered on preparation multiple lessons can be learned. First, in preparation multiway information systems need to include actors from the local level and embrace those marginalized by society. Second, women need to be seen as assets not victims and their well-being need to be taken into consideration outside of the family construct. And third, reconstruction effort need to be about building better not faster.

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