In November 2020, Honduras was severely affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota within two weeks. These two Category 4 hurricanes caused significant destruction affecting almost 4 million people, including those in departments with high shares of Indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities.

In the aftermath of a disaster, the recovery process usually presents risks of excluding vulnerable populations and groups whose interests are traditionally underrepresented—such as women, elders, youth, persons with disabilities, and sexual and gender minorities—if targeted strategies to ensure their engagement are not incorporated into the design of the World Bank–financed projects. Moreover, there is a risk of inadequate management of gender-based violence, which may severely intensify during disaster contexts.

Honduras was not an exception. La Mosquitia, home to the Miskito people, was severely impacted by storm surge and river flooding induced by Eta; other departments were also impacted by severe floods. Colón, Atlántida, Cortés, and Santa Barbara departments, home to such Indigenous Peoples (IPs) as the Lencas, Maya Chorti, and Tolupán groups, suffered direct impacts. Some entire communities were destroyed. Major damages were also reported for crops and livestock, affecting food security and livelihoods in areas with a large presence of IPs and Afro-descendants (ADs). Communities of Garifuna people in Colón, Atlántida, Cortés also experienced extreme flooding, damage to housing, and loss of crops, as well as to tourism-oriented community-built infrastructure, which is their main source of income.

In December 2020, a six-year $150 million emergency recovery investing project financing was approved to support Honduras’s response and recovery needs and strengthen its institutional capacity to manage a resilient and inclusive recovery and reconstruction. With the support of a GFDRR Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) grant, the project incorporates inclusive and gender-sensitive participatory processes to define priority investments and throughout project implementation.

The project focuses on selected communities affected by Hurricanes Eta and Iota. The livelihoods of approximately 300,000 people have already benefited from the government’s emergency response and relief services through the project. Additionally, the communities of the country’s most affected departments are benefiting from the restoration and improvement of public services and the resilient reconstruction of critical infrastructure; these communities comprise an estimated 800,000 inhabitants or more, of whom approximately 50 percent are women, including communities of IPs and ADs.

The project also incorporates inclusive and gender-sensitive participatory processes to define priority investments. Such processes are expected to involve, among others, local authorities and local/municipal risk management committees and will be tailored for cultural, social, and geographic specificities in affected Indigenous and Afro-Honduran communities, as outlined within the Project’s Indigenous Peoples and Afro-descendant Plan. An inclusive design will contribute throughout project implementation to strengthen the links between communities and local government for an inclusive and resilient recovery. These activities will also endeavor to support high-intensity local labor operations to boost employment and adopt efficient engineering techniques— such as the use of bailey or modular bridges—to ensure that vital connections are rapidly restored. The project’s social assessment may identify potential community groups that would benefit from labor and short-term training that they may need prior to the construction. Moreover, principles of universal design that allow access for persons with disabilities will be followed in all rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The project will also support the development of social management procedures/codes of practice, which will specifically cover gender-based violence and sexual exploitation as well as abuse risk management procedures; it will also include a workers’ code of conduct.

Lessons Learned

Although the design of emergency recovery operations should be kept relatively simple and flexible, it is critical that it reflect the priorities of the affected area and communities and the specific needs of women, the elderly, and other vulnerable groups such as IPs and ADs. The design of emergency recovery projects should not focus on the identification and selection of beneficiaries, but rather on developing recovery priorities based on broad consultations with vulnerable groups. Empowering citizens and communities, particularly those most excluded, and supporting community participation can improve resilience to disasters, better development outcomes, and more sustainable interventions.

Post-disaster recovery presents a tangible opportunity to build back better and reduce the underlying factors that contribute to the disproportionate risks faced by the poorest and most vulnerable. Honduras’s overall exposure and its vulnerability to adverse natural events remain very high. However, its post-disaster response to Hurricanes Eta and Iota shows, when looking 14 years back after Hurricane Mitch, that it has gradually transitioned from a reactive disaster-focused approach to a more integrated, inclusive, and resilient recovery.

By promoting an inclusive design, the emergency recovery project considers the different needs of vulnerable populations including IPs, ADs, and women. It includes them to define priority investments and in other recovery activities that will benefit the most vulnerable communities, ultimately improving the development outcomes of the project and slowly building more inclusive and resilient societies for all.