Drought threatens more than 500,000 in Honduras: Red Cross

TEGUCIGALPA - A severe drought is endangering more than half a million people in Honduras, ramping up pressure on them to migrate, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Wednesday.

Honduras, the nation with the world's highest murder rate, is already reeling after a deadly fungus devastated output of coffee, the main cash crop, and a severe regional drought left nearly 3 million people struggling to feed themselves across Central America.

In a statement, the IFRC said some 571,710 people were affected by the drought in Honduras, which had left them in danger of hunger due to dying crops, higher food prices and less work for agricultural day laborers.

"Some families are selling their belongings and livestock to secure food for survival, while others are migrating to escape the effects of the drought," the IFRC said, adding that children and poor households were particularly vulnerable.

Tens of thousands of Central American children have made the dangerous trek north to the United States over the last year, overwhelming border resources and igniting a fierce political debate over how to handle the influx.

The biggest number have been Honduran, U.S data show.

The IFRC said 22.6 per cent of Honduras' roughly 8.5 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition, while 42.5 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty.

Jose Alvarado, the country's commissioner on emergency services, said he hoped the upcoming harvest at the start of next month should begin to alleviate the vulnerable 122,000 families who live on subsistence farming.

Another 30,000 families would still require help for up to three months after the harvest, he added.

"We've presented a plan to cooperating agencies and the international community for US$13.2 million (S$16.8 million) to give emergency attention to these families. These people have serious problems gaining access to food, but they also need help in the areas of healthcare, hygiene and water," he said.