Honduras is a Central American country undergoing a demographic transition that has had a democratic government for 26 years. More than 1 million Hondurans of indigenous or African ancestry remain highly marginalized, with limited access to basic services and low levels of social participation. More than half the population lives in poverty, with black and indigenous populations suffering from marked economic and educational inequality and inequality in access to services.

In 2000, the foreign debt represented 68% of the gross national income (approximately US$ 5000 million). Unemployment rose substantially between 1999 and 2004, with an increase in hidden underemployment. Under the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO Strategic Plan 2003-2007 Honduras is designated a priority country, being one of the four poorest highly indebted countries in the Region of the Americas. This implies intensified technical cooperation to bridge the health gaps both inside the country and with other countries of the Region.


The Republic of Panama is a country of dichotomies. From the lush tropical jungle to the urban sprawl of the capital city, Panama's contrasting nature presents itself repeatedly.  In the city, tall skyscrapers and flashy billboards populate the skyline while many of the city’s poorest live nearby, in crumbling houses.  The Panama Canal symbolizes the economic might of this small Central American nation, with its impressive 9 percent annual GDP growth. However, Panama's extremely unequal wealth distribution can be seen from its Gini coefficient of 52. The countryside houses the majority of Panama’s poor populations, who are often beyond the coverage of basic health, water, and educational services.  The abundance of natural resources clashes with the harsh economic poverty of many rural communities.  

Around 30% of the Panamanian population lives in poverty; the majority of these citizens live in rural communities, beyond basic health, water and educational services found in cities. Economic isolationism remains common in communities with poor transportation infrastructure. This isolation coupled with the perception that Panama City boasts adbundant employment opportunity, fosters urban migration, a trend with many social repercussions.


Ghana is a successful blend of old and new.  Considered to be one of the most successful democracies in Africa, Ghana has managed to create a democratic system, yet remain authentic by melding it with their traditional system of chiefs.  In the capital Accra lies a modern city, but scattered throughout the country are old military fortresses built by European colonists.  Ghana also is a place of great natural wonder from the Sahel desert to the tropical rainforests.  The traditional belief of protecting and revering the amazing variety of animals coincides with the popularity of eco-tourism.

Like many modern states of West Africa, Ghana is fundamentally a creation of European colonial influence, thus prior to the colonial era, the territory of the Gold Coast was not a cohesive ethnic or political entity. A significant aspect of modern-day Ghana’s history was its role in the global slave trade, which in reality was long in existence prior to the arrival of Europeans to West Africa's coast. Human slaves were traded from the earliest days of the trans-Saharan caravans in the form of captives taken from inter-tribal warfare, and well through the height of the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade as the most lucrative Colonial export. 

In a movement led by Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve independence on March 6, 1957, taking its name from its ancestral African empire. Ghana's post-independence economic story has been a difficult one, but over the last 20 years, political stability and economic growth has been the long-term trend. Ghana is on track to meet the Millennium Development goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015. Real GDP growth averaged 4% in the mid-1980s and has increased to about 5% over the past decade. Ghana's national economy has shown resilience and growth in recent years, yet the distribution of these benefits throughout Ghanaian society and particularly its lower-income, rural communities remains stagnant. 


Source: Global Brigades, www.globalbrigades.org