Working in the midst of a military coup brings unexpected hardships. The Honduran government has shut off power across the entire country on numerous occasions, trying to squelch any outgoing or incoming information on Manuel Zelaya, the ousted president. One power outage lasted nearly 24 hours, preceded by a series of five brief outages. Interestingly enough, as I sit here and write this, the power has once again been shut off.
Earlier in the week, I observed patients at Shoulder to Shoulder's dental clinic. Doctor Belkis Lorena Mejia Milla consulted with two younger patients who both needed teeth pulled due to their sugary diet and poor hygiene. Brayan Noel Garcia Amaya, 6, had his decayed front tooth pulled, leaving a gaping hole next to another rotting tooth. Wendi Yulisa Amaya, 7, had a cavity filled on one tooth, and a molar removed due to decay. This was clearly not her first visit to the dentist, as multiple other silver fillings covered the majority of her teeth.
Afterward, Milla showed me a pamphlet that they show their patients, with pictures of fruit circled in red, and pictures of candy crossed out in black. She said that no matter what they advise their patients, the children will only buy candy with the few lempira that their parents give them to spend during their breaks at school.
"Eating too much candy and not brushing their teeth cause the majority of the cases I see," she said.
I witnessed this firsthand Thursday as I was waiting to conduct an interview with the mayor of Santa Lucia. I ran into a nearby store as six school girls entered, excitedly talking after finishing an exam. Each picked out several small candies to enjoy while they sat in the town square. Cases of candy were displayed in the front of the store, with the more expensive breads, fruit and vegetables stocked on the back shelves.
Dr. Peggy Bentley also noticed this sugar obsession while she was here monitoring the progress of the nutrition project.
"If you go to the stores here in Honduras, in these small villages, what do you see? Coca-cola, Pepsi, Tang, fritos, all kinds of sweets and candies," she said. "So at the same time the children don't have access to a high quality diet, they do have access to very cheap, inexpensive junk food."