Welcome to Roatan!

The view from my front porch!

I just made it to Roatan so here’s my first post!

Some background: Roatan is an island off the north east coast of Honduras with a population of ~60,000 people. It is surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world, making it a prime tourist destination. Though the resorts and beaches are beautiful, the deteriorating health status and poverty of its natives tell a very different story.

Over 65% of residents are living in poverty, with approximately 1 in 4 making less than $1 a day. On top of that, about 40% are unemployed.

The Honduran government has done little to help. There is one public hospital on the island that asks for a 8 L (~50 cents) fee to see the doctor, plus the cost of any medications and special supplies they may need. Though it seems like a small amount in America, that could be half a day’s work or more for many Roatan residents.

Besides the public hospital, there are a few privately run clinics around the island, many of which are staffed and run entirely by volunteers. Because it is such a beautiful island, many doctors come to do a short rotation where they can work in the mornings and enjoy the beaches/snorkeling/scuba diving in the afternoons.

My project will be a basic needs assessment of stove quality in one small community called La Colonia, located in Sandy Bay where I’m living. Stoves can pose a significant health risk especially to women and children, putting them at elevated risk of acute respiratory illnesses, school absences, and chronic aches and pains. The WHO estimates that 1.6 million deaths each year are attributable to indoor air pollution, many of which are the result of using biomass burning stoves in developing countries.

That said, there is hope- several stove types have been shown to be effective and efficient at improving quality of life on multiple levels. First, the use of a chimney diverts smoke and harmful particulate matter outside. Second, newer models generally require much less wood, with some using only 25% of that of a traditional model.

I’m hoping to get out to La Colonia tomorrow as I’m going to spend most of today getting settled and finalizing details for the project. Hopefully by next week the study will be well under way!