Friday, October 25, 2013

A Honduras aid program, a crushing crowd, a baby dead in her mother's arms

Santos Pineda: 'No one is to blame, it's what God wanted'
I had a blog post mostly done about the Bonos 10,000 progam, a Honduran government plan that is supposed to give $500 a year to the poorest families.
Then I read about Santos Pineda and his wife Aida Fajardo, and their four-day-old baby. The little girl died in a hugely overcrowded room where the family had waited in a disorganized crowd for two hours to get the Bono. She apparently suffocated in her mother’s arms in the crush of people.
The baby could have died anywhere, of course. She had spent three days in the hospital in an incubator after an early C-section delivery and just been released the day before, according to La Prensa. 
But the crush of people - 700 were crowded into a hall that is supposed to hold 200 - and the long wait to see if the family would be among the recipients would not be good for a sickly infant.
A Bono official said she had told Pineda not to bring his wife and the newborn, because the crowds would be dangerous. 
So why did Aida Fajardo and the baby - not named before she died - accompany him, while their three other children stayed in their neighbourhood? Who knows.
Maybe Aida Fajardo was more literate than her husband and needed to be there to read the forms. Maybe she didn’t want to be alone four days after giving birth.
Maybe they thought they would be more likely to make the Bono list with an infant in arms.
The internationally funded program is supposed to select recipients based on objective criteria - need, their commitment to have children attend school and health-care clinics, things like that. 
But there is only enough money to provide Bonos to half the poorest families. There are complaints of favoritism and political influence, with supporters of the governing National Party getting the Bonos while others are rejected. 
Elections are a month away, and candidates for the National Party were on hand  in La Casa de Cultura in Santa Barbara to help distribute the money. (The party, according to the polls, is in a close fight with the new leftish Libre Party.)
The crowds, the pushing, the struggle to find out if families are eligible have been repeated around the country, La Prensa reported.
That’s not surprising. The Bono provides 10,000 lempiras a year - about $500. It’s paid every four months, so the fortunate families were to get $166.
A labourer might get $5 or $6 a day in Honduras. About 40 per cent of the population have incomes under $1.50 a day. (People do grow their own corn and beans when they have access to land.) 
Police at family home
On average, the Bono represents a 20-per-cent increase in average income for the families. It can be the difference between hunger and enough to eat or a child who stays in school or gets needed medical care.
Fajardo checked her baby when they finally received the Bono, and found she wasn’t breathing. People cleared a path to the door, but the process of handing out the money continued.
"It's sad what happened to this girl,” Matias Pineda, one of the people waiting for a Bono, told La Prensa. “But you have to line up here because there is no work, no land to cultivate, the crime is brutal and you have to go to the politicians because they’re the ones who have the money.”
No one reported the baby’s death. The vice-mayor of Santa Barbara took them to buy a coffin and arranged a ride home. 
But police and prosecutors saw the news story and in today’s paper promised an investigation to see if anyone was negligent - the doctors who discharged the baby, the parents, the event organizers. Nothing will come of it.
Fajardo went back to the hospital to seek medical help. Pineda is looking after the other children, and chalks the whole thing up to God’s will. The Bono delivery program moves onto the next town, with a new set of politicians.
Just another Honduras story.

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