Latin America and the Caribbean

InterPress Service (IPS)
17 April 1995

Drugs-Honduras: Solvent Abuse,
Certain Death for Street Children
By Thelma Mejia

TEGUCIGALPA (IPS) - Honduran street children are increasingly turning to solvent abuse to escape from the cruel reality of their lives - a sure route to an early death.

The diminuitive fourteen-year-old Santos Ortez is one of these children.

His father abandonned the family when Santos was eight and he left home when living with his prostitute mother became impossible.

He soon began abusing solvents to escape from his harsh situation: ''When I was in the street I felt like I was in my family, because the other children had the same problems as me. We liked to dream sniffing Resistol, because then life was different.''

''Everything was very beautiful, there were no problems and noone rejected you. I saw myself talking and playing with my dad, like I used to before he left us,'' he said, ''we were all wearing clean clothes and people smiled at us and gave us food.''

Santos's six years of solvent abuse have now caused him permanent brain damage, paralyzing half his body and making it difficult for him to speak. The doctors say that nothing can be done.

His mother torments herself for not looking after him properly, but is powerless to help.

Members of Casa Alianza, a humanitarian organization working with street children, say Santos is only one of many street children who come to them in similar conditions.

The director, David Calvert, said the situation is serious, with conservative estimates of the number of solvent dependent street children standing at around 6,000.

Last week the organisation held a peaceful demonstration outside the Cathedral in Tegucigalpa to call for a ban on selling drugs, including solvents, to children.

Casa Alianza said the demonstration was particularly aimed at the government who have refused to approve the addition of mustard oil to resistol - a move which would prevent the children from dying as they would vomit before poisoning themselves.

''For the state the street children are not worthy citizens,'' said Calvert.

Health Minister Enrique Samayoa claimed the real motive behind not adding mustard oil was that this substance had caused rashes amongst factory workers.

''We are confronted with another problem. We know we must prohibit the sale of solvents to street children, but at the moment we have no magic formulas to solve everyone's problems,'' he said.

He added that the government is contacting other countries to find out how they had dealt with the issue - but in the meantime children continue to poison themselves openly on the streets of the Honduran capital. (END/IPS/tra-so/tm/dg/sm/95)

Origin: Montevideo/DRUGS-HONDURAS/

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