A new kind of violence
Humanitarian and political background
In the 1980s and 1990s, Latin America left behind decades of military rule, civil war and human rights violations. Yet peace was short lived as a new kind of violence emerged, perpetuated by gangs and drug cartels.
Changes in drug smuggling routes are the key reasons behind this upsurge of violence in the Northern Triangle, affecting Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
One of the most violent countries in the world
With 58 murders per 100,000 people each year, Honduras is one of the world's most violent countries outside of regular war zones. The brutality of the gangs can be illustrated by the fact that Honduras' second largest city, San Pedro Sula, has the second highest murder rate in the world with 171 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Honduras has one the highest levels of economic inequality in Latin America and faces major
challenges, with more than 66 percent of the population living in poverty in 2016, according to
official data. Nearly one in five Hondurans lives on less than US$1.90 per day.
The opposition has very limited space for manoeuvre. Honduras remains one of the most
dangerous countries in Latin America for human rights defenders, especially for environmental and
On the brink
In Honduras, the intense and widespread nature of the violence has driven population movements in a
variety of ways. Some people move in response to direct coercion and physical threats and others
because of a general erosion of their day-to-day quality of life and livelihood opportunities. Many flee
after refusing to sell their land to drug traffickers and receiving death threats as a result, to keep their
children safe from gang recruitment and violence, or as a consequence of sexual abuse.
There are 190,000 internally displaced in Honduras, according to The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). The internal displacement takes place mainly in urban areas.
To avoid further violence, people fleeing often want to remain anonymous. This makes it difficult to identify and reach them. Many live in slums or informal shelters in areas controlled by gangs, where they lack basic services, education, and income opportunities. Overrepresented among Honduras' displaced are children, who are targeted by gangs as potential recruits or enemies.
Fleeing to neighbouring countries
The violence and the government's inability to protect the population makes many choose to flee the
country. Most flee north to Mexico and the United States, or to Costa Rica and Panama. Number of
asylum request from Honduras has increased in recent years. Many of those fleeing are children and young people - often unaccompanied. The US government recorded more than 10,468 cases of unaccompanied Honduran children between October 2015 and September of 2016 – nearly double the 2015 figure and more than six times 2013 statistics. The United States and Mexico have tightened border controls in recent years. This has led many people to cross the border illegally and to expose
themselves to greater dangers than in the past. Many are being detained and deported. Those who are sent back to their home country, are subject to considerable risks and some of them are killed. The lack of protection upon return to Honduras, forces many to leave the country again.
NRC in Honduras
We began activities in Honduras in December 2014, under our NRC Colombia programme. To read more about NRC Colombia, please visit Our Country Programme in Colombia page.
We operate from our office in Panama City.
To protect Hondurans displaced by violence, we provide information and legal counselling. We also work towards ensuring children and youth can receive an education. We prioritise helping children, youth and women.
In Honduras, we aim to ensure children and youth have access to:
- safe education opportunities
- job and life skills trainings
- community outreach centres
We also identify out-of-school children and youth, and establish study groups for those who want to continue their education.
Information, Counselling and Legal Assistance
To protect Hondurans who had to flee their homes, we:
- provide information and counselling on housing, land and property rights.
- support to the Honduran Government at local and national level to develop a legal framework to protect the rights of the forcibly displaced.
A safe place to go
In urban areas of Honduras, criminal gangs are forcing people to flee their neighbourhoods. Many are not able to find safety.