demand for child rightsWith 25% of Latin America’s population being under the age of 15, an increased demand for child rights is inevitable. As a result, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen gradual implementations of protection for children under the law. Countries in these regions have seen improvements spanning from a growing economy to quality health care.

Health Improvements for Children

One immediate causes for the demand in children’s rights is because of the abuse that many children in impoverished countries endure. Some issues that exemplify the need for child rights are sexual abuse, drug and alcohol consumption and child labor. The health care systems in Latin American countries are responding.

For example, increased demand for child rights in places such as Argentina and Peru has resulted in more representation for children in health care services. Argentina has had children’s rights written in law since 1994. Now, with children included in health plans, child mortality rates have decreased to 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, compared to 12.6 just five years earlier.

Strengthening Written Law

Previously, many children in these countries were not seen as separate individuals until they reached adult age. However, increased children’s rights in certain Latin American and Caribbean countries have improved the livelihoods of the underaged. Children’s rights in Latin America and all across the world have moved to the forefront of many political agendas thanks to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and active citizens.

Countries such as El Salvador have shown that the demand for child rights have proved their international leadership on the issue. There are more than 15 comprehensive laws within the country protecting children and almost 20 international laws protecting El Salvadoran children.

Though the numerous laws, in theory, protect the children, it is not as easy to enforce the laws. A large discrepancy still remains between the sentiment and enforcement of law for the protection of children. Legislature rendered ineffective through lack of enforcement “allows perpetrators of violence against children and adolescents to continue committing the same crimes with no fear of prosecution or punishment.

The BiCE

One organization that has made child rights in Latin America a priority is BiCE, the International Catholic Child Bureau. The organization’s main goal is the preservation of child rights in different countries in Latin American and around the world. Current field projects take place in countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. Most of the projects focus on fighting sexual abuse of children.

BiCE’s projects have many goals that ensure the safety of a child. For the programs fighting sexual abuse, they offer therapy services for recovery. They also train people to learn advocacy techniques for children’s rights. Over 1,000 children in Peru have received help from BiCE and the organization continues to do more in other countries in Latin America.

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have written laws and statutes that protect children. However, this has not proved to be enough for the safety of children in these countries. There have been health improvements and decreased poverty rates, but more still needs to be done to enforce the written laws.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr

Hunger Crisis in Latin America
Latin American countries and the Caribbean are on the verge of confronting the deadly combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and a hunger crisis. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) report that an estimated 83.4 million people will live in extreme poverty in 2020, potentially leading to a hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. This number will be 16 million more people than in the previous year. Latin America and the Caribbean’s seven years of slow growth could experience a historic drop in regional GDP (-5.2%).

Ways to Prevent a Hunger Crisis in Latin American and the Caribbean

As part of an initiative, ECLAC and FAO suggest 10 measures to prevent a hunger crisis in both Latin America and the Caribbean. They are as follows:

  • Provide an anti-hunger grant which could take the form of cash transfers, food baskets or vouchers to the entire population living in extreme poverty for a six-month period. It would amount to an estimated cost of $23.5 billion.
  • Support school-based food programs for children and adolescents.
  • Support local and global humanitarian organizations like Action Against Hunger and World Food Program.
  • Financially support agricultural companies with credit and subsidies.
  • Enforce sanitary and health protocols for food production, transportation and food markets.
  • Expand and ensure the functioning of programs to support local production.
  • Support artisanal fishermen and family farmers who contribute a large portion of food in national markets with funding, technical assistance and access to inputs and labor.
  • Maintain and add agile mechanisms for consultation and public-private interaction within all aspects of the food system (production, supply, distribution and access to food).
  • Prevent wholesale and retail markets and agro-industries from closing or reducing their operations.
  • Continue with policies that until now have kept the world food trade open.

Food Prices and Imports

As food systems weaken and unemployment increases, domestic food prices rise and people resort to purchasing cheaper, less nutritional options. The most vulnerable populations are the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, the Dry Corridor in Central America, Haiti and Venezuela.

The Caribbean depends heavily on food imports from the United States and the United Kingdom. The area is also at high risk of supply chain disruption and impacts from hurricane season. The ports in the Dominican Republic did not reopen until a month after Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm, devastated the island in 2017. Anticipating the season in 2020, organizations are subject to balancing the impacts of storms and maintaining measures against COVID-19.

Challenges in Tourism

The pandemic has also placed a strain on tourism in the Caribbean islands as travelers from all around the world had to cancel their trips due to government-issued orders. The Bahamas alone generates 75% to 80% of its GDP from tourism. These small island economies that often find themselves at odds against natural disasters face a decline in tourism by 60% to 70% between April and December.

The Situation with Remittances

Mexico and Central America face high extreme poverty, and undernourishment, especially among decreases in remittances. El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are small countries with economies that rely on remittances. In 2016, the remittances that Salvadoreans received amounted to about 17% of the country’s GDP. During the worst of the pandemic, those countries suffered the most as people lost jobs globally, especially the U.S. where people send most remittances from. These countries are also at risk of border closures during the pandemic which is an obstacle for imports and exports.

Poverty and Food Insecurity

South America has a high proportion of poor, indigenous farming families who are already at a disadvantage from COVID-19, lacking proper treatment and medical equipment. In Peru, the country with the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases, millions are struggling with food security. About 20% of the population lived in poverty and survived through informal employment before the pandemic. Now struggling to find work and afford food, many are going days without food or relying on “community pots” for food.

The global pandemic and hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean could have serious implications if ignored. With a widespread hunger crisis, the world could experience “increased social unrest and protests, a rise in migration, deepening conflict and widespread under-nutrition,” said the U.N. World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley.

 Understanding the severity of this situation, it is imperative to pass legislation aimed at protecting the International Affairs Budget and increase international funding in the next emergency supplemental. With no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future, the most vulnerable populations need guaranteed access to food.

The ECLAC and FAO’s initiative and their 10 measures are crucial points in preventing a hunger crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean. The pandemic may have set these nations back, but the fight is not over. In fact, 83.4 million people are at risk and their future depends on these measures.

– Johana Vazquez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis has collectively only had 17 reported cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. However, the pandemic has severely affected the economy because tourism primarily supports it. As of 2019, about 4,000 people were registered as making less than 3,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars a month, making them eligible for government aid. When the government of Saint Kitts and Nevis implemented extensive COVID-19 safety measures, it negatively impacted the tourism sector causing many to fall below the poverty line indicated above. Poverty in Saint Kitts and Nevis remains a major issue, especially during the challenging time of COVID-19. However, there are some measures for poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

In April 2020, the Governor-General of the two islands used his emergency powers to create regulations such as closing all ports and airports, closing non-essential businesses and suspending the liquor license of many businesses. While these extreme measures have kept the island relatively safe from COVID-19, the country and its citizens are in need of economic stimulation.

Massive Economic Stimulation

The country’s government has made the decision to extend its Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP) to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis. It instituted the program in 2018 as a monthly, $500 stipend for the country’s poorest citizens. It will give $80 million in aid to those who have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic. It will also allow an additional $40 million to stimulate the economy.

This massive aid program is the largest per capita response to the COVID-19 economic losses so far. Saint Kitts and Nevis is also giving $1,000 in Social Security benefits and increasing the amount of PAP stipends distributed. Lastly, it will suspend water and electricity fees as well as mortgage collections until January 2021 in an effort to support poverty eradication in Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Funding COVID-19 Economic Plan

Interestingly, Saint Kitts and Nevis is relying on its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) program to fund these COVID-19 relief efforts. This program allows a person to gain a Saint Kitts and Nevis passport by donating or investing in the country’s real estate.

The CBI program makes up 20% to 30% of Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ income annually. In an effort to entice new donors and investors, the government is offering a COVID-19 discount. Therefore, people wishing to donate have to pay $150,000 and those who wish to make a real estate investment have to pay $200,000.

Additionally, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has become an important contributor to Saint Kitts’ and Nevis’ COVID-19 response efforts. It released an appeal to donors in March 2020 and began accepting financial aid. It has raised $52.7 million of its $94.8 million goals as of June 11, 2020. PAHO has provided equipment, access to health experts and individual safety gear to the two islands.

Re-Opening Borders

The latest Emergency Powers regulations expired on August 9, 2020, but Saint Kitts and Nevis government has yet to announce when its borders will reopen. However, the government worked to ensure that workers in the tourism sector would have the preparation to serve any incoming tourists safely with a training program that ran until August 27, 2020.

The government is also preparing to launch and adopt a contact tracing app. It will be mandatory for all visitors to utilize the app and respect all of the emergency regulations that are in effect. Additionally, it will provide health updates and uses geofencing technology to alert users when they enter certain boundaries.

While reopening Saint Kitts and Nevis’ borders is a daunting task, the Premier of Nevis believes that the country needs to find ways to restart its local economy because one can categorize COVID-19 as both a health and economic crisis. The $120 million economic stimulus package the islands are adopting should protect affected citizens from extreme poverty and allow them to survive until the tourism industry can reopen.

Olivia Welsh
Photo: Pixabay

Economic Development in Developing Island Nations
Island nations such as Fiji and Tonga are isolated paradises largely cut off from global markets. As tourism increases through the year however, these countries’ economies thrive. While ecotourism in developing island nations increases employment rates and the development of other important sectors, it has to be done with the land and its people in mind.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism in developing island nations is an economic development tool that involves bringing local communities and travelers together in an environmentally friendly way. The main benefits include the preservation of native lands, increases in local employment rates and increased funds for continued conservation. If not kept in check however, ecotourism has the potential to exploit an island’s natural resources and populations, so it must be implemented in the most sustainable way possible. Once nations see improvements in their tourism industry, they can easily become vulnerable to large corporations wanting to create new—and potentially damaging—markets there.

Why Tourism is Important to Developing Island Nations

The World Bank has identified 11 Pacific Islands (PIC 11) that will benefit immensely from increased tourism. These islands are: Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Palau, Marshall Islands (RMI), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Tuvalu. These countries received over 1.3 million visitors in 2014 and are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures and incredible natural resources. Of this group, countries with the highest tourism rates also have the highest employment rates. The industry employs 15% of the population in Tonga, 18% in Samoa, 50% in Palau.

The Caribbean is one of the most popular tourist destinations, with many of its nations’ economies heavily or completely reliant on tourism industries. The World Bank has started initiatives within the region to establish “blue economies” that take both economic development and environmental effects into consideration. Since 2010, the region’s GDP has increased alongside the growth of island tourism. Unfortunately, these changes have come with an increase in plastic marine debris and the destruction of coral reefs. The main focus of these “blue economies” is to establish a balance between the ocean and the economy so everyone benefits.

Ecotourism Efforts to Support

There are many organizations working to make ecotourism in developing island nations a reality. Ecotourism Belize hires local workers in the Toledo District as guides for tours through the Belizean jungle. They also have a group of bird specialists and traditional healers hired. All employees are of Mayan descent so they are able to give honest representation of ancient Mayan culture and convey how it has been passed down through generations. All of Ecotourism Belize’s profits fund conservation efforts within the Maya Golden Landscape.

In 2017, Palau became the first country to require an “Eco-Pledge” by visitors upon entering. Over the past several years it has seen tourist rates grow seven times larger than the region’s native population. Home to beautiful natural ecosystems, Palau knew it had to mitigate the rise in the destruction of its land due to increased tourism. The country’s government found this destruction was due to a lack of education. By introducing visitors to a localized way of thinking about the environment, the government has taken an important first step towards successful ecotourism.

Keeping Things Balanced

Ecotourism in developing island nations has the potential to help eradicate poverty in these regions. Done correctly, it allows locals to hold onto their culture while protecting their resources and ecosystems at the same time.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Trinidad and TobagoCitizens of Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation in the southeastern West Indies, have universal access to insurance through a national health insurance system as well as a low-cost network of hospitals and public clinics. However, healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago still faces some challenges.

Healthcare Successes

Trinidad and Tobago is a high-income developing nation. Its well-developed infrastructure limits the prevalence of infectious illness and facilitates effective medical care. According to the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health, more than 60% of deaths in Trinidad and Tobago are due to chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, cancer and cerebrovascular disease.

More than 95% of people in Trinidad and Tobago have access to improved water, although more than half of the population uses water from their own storage tanks rather than piped water. Healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago includes widespread vaccination access that has reduced the prevalence of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles. Both vaccination and clean water help people avoid infectious and waterborne illness.

More than 90% of the population has access to electricity, which supports population health by powering medical devices. Refrigerators, which are available to more than 80% of the population, help by refrigerating medications.

However, progress remains to be made in mitigating the common causes of death for each age group, including infants, children, teenagers, adults and elders.

Children’s Health

The most common causes of death and illness for children under 5 years old are infectious illness and acute respiratory disorders. Efforts to reduce the incidence of these illnesses through vaccination programs and other efforts have led to a decline in infant mortality, from 40 per 1,000 births in 1980 to 18.3 per 1000 births in 2018, though there is still room for improvement.

As children in Trinidad and Tobago get older, their risk for diabetes and obesity goes up, endangering their long term wellbeing. To help address that risk, the education ministry of Trinidad and Tobago introduced diabetes awareness education, promoting exercise, healthy nutrition and knowledge of the risks of diabetes. Research has found that the Trinidad and Tobago healthy schools initiative decreased consumption of soda and fried foods but does not seem to have affected rates of exercise. This shows both improvement in healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago and room for growth in pediatric obesity and diabetes mitigation.

Adult Health

Injuries are the leading cause of death for people from 18 to 40 years old due to workplace injuries, domestic violence, road accidents and accidents at home. According to a hospital surveillance study, men in Trinidad and Tobago are more likely to be injured than women. A more comprehensive study of the causes of workplace injuries and road accidents, as well as improved infrastructure for safeguarding survivors of domestic violence, may help lessen the impact of injuries in Trinidad and Tobago.

As people in Trinidad and Tobago get older, their risk of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, rises. The combination of an aging population and the increased prevalence of chronic illness in the elderly population makes maintaining and growing healthcare capacity essential in Trinidad and Tobago. Healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago faces a paradox, with both too few specialist doctors and also an oversupply of medical interns, indicating a need for more specialist medical training opportunities to keep up with the chronic illness treatment needs of an aging population.

Trinidad and Tobago succeeds in providing effective medical care for infectious illnesses due to its universal health care system and quality infrastructure. However, there is still room for growth in the prevention and management of chronic illnesses, which affect people of all ages in Trinidad and Tobago.

– Tamara Kamis
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. The country has a population of approximately 1.39 million people, with 20% of those people living below the poverty line. As a result, homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago is a common reality for many citizens. Homelessness does not only impact those who experience it directly, but it also harms the surrounding community and the overall Trinidadian economy.

The Effects of Homelessness and Poverty

According to Newsday, there are approximately 414 homeless people living on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. Behavioral health disorders, rising numbers of victims of assault and acute and chronic physical conditions are just some of the effects of homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago. Crimes against the homeless has risen drastically in the country. There has been a total of 1,437 assault cases against homeless individuals alone. With an unemployment rate of 4.9%, and rising drastically, conditions are made worse as more citizens fall below the poverty line and into homelessness. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted economies worldwide, and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. The pandemic has increased the number of vulnerable individuals and the percentage of people living in homelessness in the country. As a tourism-dependent country, the pandemic caused the closure of most touristic attractions, thus decreasing the amount of money going into Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, many people were laid off and fell below the minimum wage line.

The Good News

Despite the increasing numbers of people on the streets, many organizations have come together to help the homeless in Trinidad and Tobago. With the help of The Social Development Ministry, the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has worked rigorously to build temporary housing for the homeless. The facility aforementioned began construction in April of 2020 and provides homeless individuals with roofs over their heads, cots to sleep on, clean bathrooms and meals three times a day. To ensure the safety and health of those staying there, social distancing has been enforced and The Public Health Department has conducted inspections.

By raising funds to provide housing for those less fortunate, Habitat for Humanity has also made a positive impact in the country. The organization builds safe and clean habitats for those in need in Trinidad and Tobago. The non-profit began building in 1997 and has served more than 700 people since.

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago affects many people, especially during a time when homeless rates are rising drastically as more people lose their jobs. Assistance provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has helped decrease the number of people living on the street. As more shelters open, more homeless individuals begin receiving the help they need.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr 

homelessness in the virgin islandsIn many vacation hotspots, it’s easy to overlook the undeniable poverty, and this includes locations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2018, approximately 500 individuals were homeless. This may seem like a small number, but the population of the Virgin Islands is minimal, only 100,000 people. It’s time to shed some light on the struggles of the people who are easily overlooked by the beautiful beaches of the Virgin Islands. Here are five facts about homelessness in the Virgin Islands.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Virgin Islands

  1. Homelessness in Families: Homelessness in the Virgin Islands is seen in families, which directly affects children and their growth. To help low-income families, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, was created. However, it has faced a $3 million reduction causing 26 families to lose housing and government help. Moreover, “for every $1 million dollars cut from the program … 111 families could lose housing.”
  2. Homelessness in Children: Those who are 0-17 years old are in the age range leading homelessness in the Virgin Islands. These children are considered “youths without parents or unaccompanied youths” and these numbers are growing.
  3. Demographics: There are certain groups that are being directly affected by this homelessness, as shown above by the large number of homeless children. Other groups include Black citizens and men. Black citizens made up 90% of the homeless population in 2017. The majority of the homeless population, 96%, is comprised of men. Another group being directly targeted is those who struggle with mental illness or drug dependence.
  4. Economics: The Virgin Islands heavily rely on tourism to boost the economy and to help the average person’s income. Therefore, during off-seasons for travel, most have to pick up other jobs to stay afloat to prevent money from becoming tight. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, travel has been limited, creating more financially unstable families and individuals. The off-season for travel and COVID-19 greatly affects homelessness and the financial standing of persons in the Virgin Islands.
  5. Lack of Action: Most records of homelessness in the Virgin Islands were taken in 2017 or 2018. The most recent record of homelessness was taken in early 2020, showing that the issue has not gone away. In 2020, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. proposed major reforms to the mental health treatment systems in the Virgin Islands. However, the bill has yet to be passed due to a lack of attention in Congress.

Governor Bryan has submitted legislation in order to put an end to the chronic homelessness faced by the citizens of these islands, however, is has been greatly overlooked by Congress. To help the issue of homelessness in the Virgin Islands, constituents should email or call their representatives and senators.

A non-governmental organization that has worked to help the issue of homelessness among youth is the Jermain Defoe Foundation created by English football player Jermain Defoe. It strives to help youth who are poor or are suffering from illness or abuse. This organization was founded because of the lack of attention that was brought to the issues of homelessness and poverty faced by children. It has provided funding and support for the Holy Family Children’s Home, raised funds to build the Rainbow Children’s Home and opened a football academy — all in the Virgin Islands.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in NicaraguaNicaragua is a developing country in Latin America. After the successful expulsion of Spanish imperialists in 1821, the country began the arduous task of nation building. Domestic conflict and foreign intervention, however, has long inhibited its growth. Such obstacles have severely impaired the development of crucial institutions, including healthcare in Nicaragua.

The Rise and Fall of Socialism in Nicaragua

For decades, conflict and political disorganization have stunted the development of healthcare in Nicaragua. After the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, the installation of a revolutionary left-wing regime, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), gave Nicaraguans hope for social and economic advances.

Yet civil war, along with U.S. anti-socialist intervention, forced a weakening FSLN to neglect the development of necessary social programs in favor of national defense. After years of conflict, the FSLN finally lost power in 1990.

Healthcare in Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan healthcare system fell victim to this political instability. Preoccupied with bolstering the regime against its political opponents, the FSLN failed to bring their plans for universal healthcare to fruition. Instead, later regimes erected a fragmented, underdeveloped system that has left thousands of citizens without regular access to care.

Nicaragua’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) directs the country’s public health system through its regulation and provision of patient care. Under MINSA, Local Comprehensive Health Care Systems (SILAIS) lead health facilities such as departmental hospitals. SILAIS also oversees healthcare on the municipal level, which includes health centers and health posts. These public facilities provide affordable services to patients, including free emergency care.

Despite this sturdy framework, healthcare in Nicaragua faces significant challenges. Health education is shockingly low. Doctors and hospitals are in short supply. Millions lack any form of health insurance.

Moreover, public health services are disproportionately distributed. The rural Caribbean region of the country, home to roughly 40% of the population, is severely underserved. In 2011, only three of Nicaragua’s 32 public hospitals were located in the Caribbean region, an area that accounts for 55% of the country’s territory.

Without incentive for medical professionals to practice in remote areas, governmental neglect compounds the health issues of rural populations. In 2011, PATH, a nonprofit committed to health equity, reported these striking figures on rural populations’ health:

  • 70% of maternity-related deaths occurred in rural regions

  • 39.6% of children in rural areas were malnourished

  • Treatable diseases such as pneumonia posed a serious threat to children living in rural areas

Worse still, 35% of rural health facilities in 2011 lacked a reliable electricity source, making it more difficult for medical workers to treat these conditions.

Brigadistas, Midwives and Voluntary Collaborators

Nicaragua’s community-based health network addresses this rural health crisis. Comprising over 4,000 in-home health facilities, this immense network of clinics is staffed entirely by volunteers, ‘brigadistas,’ midwives and volunteers.

MINSA trained these 26,000 “brigadistas,” midwives and voluntary collaborators to offer vital care to rural populations without pay. Brigadistas’ roles include identifying pregnancy and malnutrition, referring patients to local health centers and providing health education to the public. Additionally, midwives’ work in child delivery and family planning helps to alleviate Nicaragua’s severe maternal health crisis. Finally, voluntary collaborators administer malaria tests and medication to monitor and reduce its spread.

Impact

In a country laden with poverty, the community-based health network has found an innovative way to enhance healthcare in Nicaragua. Though much progress remains to be made, the incorporation of volunteers into the healthcare system ensures rural communities receive basic medical attention without wasting resources on sparsely populated areas.

As COVID-19 has hit Nicaragua, these individuals have become more essential than ever. The Nicaraguan government, led by Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, has understated the severity of the virus and continuously reported unrealistically low case numbers. When hundreds of doctors decried their lax response, Ortega’s government fired 25 of the whistleblowers, even as suspected cases among healthcare workers rose.

In the absence of a government-led COVID-19 response, thousands of volunteers have taken the lead in raising awareness and stopping the spread. In the course of the outbreak, brigadistas have completed 4.6 million home visits to educate the public about the virus. Such massive displays of proactivity and community action can be the difference between 1 million cases and 10,000.

Years of political instability and misaligned priorities have delayed the development of adequate healthcare in Nicaragua. Despite such disadvantages, however, the community-based healthcare system has begun to correct the gaping inequalities in the healthcare system. Its volunteers, through their service to rural populations, exhibit true, unbridled compassion.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Renewable Energy in the Caribbean
For years, nations around the world have derived electricity from centralized energy grids. These grids often originate from powerful political hubs such as the USA or the Middle East and incur substantial transportation costs due to the large geographic areas which they serve. These centralized grids are a product of industrial-era fossil fuel energy, harvested at specific locations such as coal mines or oil fields. The high delivery costs incurred by centralized grids create systemic fragility, especially when faced with natural disasters that can force the shutdown of large swaths of energy grids and prevent the delivery of resources.

The multiple island nations populating the Caribbean have depended on these imported energy sources for decades, often leading to high energy transportation costs and long blackout periods during natural disasters. Thus, the Caribbean has become a critical region for developing sustainable microgrids that generate and disseminate localized electricity harvested from abundant renewable resources such as sunlight and wind. Microgrids allow regions to be self-sufficient when it comes to electricity consumption and thus gain increased resilience when it comes to recovering from disasters such as hurricanes, making renewable energy in the Caribbean an attractive option.

The Rocky Mountain Institute

One significant company operating within the Caribbean is the Rocky Mountain Institute. The institute is a U.S.-based organization focused on sustainability research and aid. The company has many partnerships and projects in progress in the Caribbean, including building multiple solar panel arrays, microgrids generators and wind turbines throughout the islands.

The Rocky Mountain Institute primarily advises governments and utility providers on how to best build and maintain sustainable energy infrastructure. Throughout the Caribbean islands, the institute oversees projects ranging from microgrid development and electricity storage to sustainable streetlights and floating solar arrays.

Economic Impact

The shift to sustainable energy and decentralized microgrid architecture presents not only an environmental opportunity but an economic one as well. The rapid expansion of renewable infrastructure in the Caribbean can add a projected 1,750 jobs to the economy over five years by focusing on building solar and wind energy generators and refitting traditional cars into electric cars. The Rocky Mountain Institute is also projecting 80% energy cost savings with the implementation of energy-efficient updates to current buildings.

The introduction of sustainable energy can also lower electricity prices significantly within this region. The Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank have given $71.5 million in grants, distributed by the Sustainable Energy Facility, to eastern Caribbean countries in order to expand the geothermal infrastructure within the islands. Eastern Caribbean countries currently have an average electricity price of $0.34 per kilowatt-hour (for those using 100 kWh or less per month) with the highest prices existing in Grenada at $0.42 and the cheapest prices seen in St. Lucia at $0.34 per month.

Conclusion

The introduction of renewable energy in the Caribbean is increasing competition in regional electricity markets and driving down prices. The regional investments in renewable energy in the Caribbean, driven by the organizations described above, act to stimulate job creation and increase economic independence by generating energy cost savings, expanding local energy production and developing greater resilience to natural disasters by way of sustainable microgrids. With further adoption of this technology, the Caribbean could continue its strides toward sustainability.

Ian Hawthorne
Photo: Unsplash

Programs in the Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a country located in the West Indies where it occupies much of the eastern region of Hispaniola. As of 2020, the nation’s capital Santo Domingo had a population of 2.2 million with the entire country having a population of nearly 11 million people. Poverty has also victimized the Dominican Republic for generations. In fact, the Human Development Index (HDI) has ranked the nation 88 out of 177 countries around the world. With poverty still a widespread issue, more than 20 percent currently resides in shanty cabins. The majority of the Dominican Republic’s citizens have no access to clean drinking water, basic sanitation needs or fluid electricity. Despite these ongoing problems, a major decrease in poverty occurred, reducing from 54.70 percent in 1989 to 19.90 percent in 2016. Poverty relief through nonprofit organizations and education programs in the Dominican Republic has allowed for these results.

Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring

In 1995, a group of students from Dartmouth College traveled to the Dominican Republic. They volunteered at public schools in the small town of Cabarete for one semester. Spearheaded by Donald Rabinovich, his project DREAM, or Dominican Republic Education and Mentoring, became a rapid-fire success as the project began rebuilding the town’s local schools. DREAM focused on rebuilding classrooms, computer labs and libraries, as well as renovating bathrooms. The project soon evolved and planned new programs to offer children opportunities to further improve the Dominican Republic.

DREAM offers innovative education programs by adopting the Montessori learning system for its students to advance their learning ability. The system adopts self-directed activity where students decide how they learn and at what pace through experiential learning. The DREAM program boasted a 93 percent attendance rate for more than 450 students while 3-year olds developed better linguistic, socio-economic, kinesthetic and cognitive skills. Parents participated in weekly meetings to help foster their children’s education through the Montessori system at home.

Food for the Poor

Another of the many programs in the Dominican Republic that are improving living quality is Food for the Poor. The organization has helped alleviate poverty and provide fresh food and clean water to the Dominican Republic since 2000. One way it provides aid is by teaching dozens of families how to plant, grow and harvest fruits and vegetables through its greenhouse projects. On September 12, 2013, the city of Pedro Santana, located near the border east of Haiti, witnessed the building of its eighth greenhouse. This, along with the other seven, helps to increase food security and production in the Dominican Republic. The Church of the Nativity in Virginia provided funding for this project through its Operation Starfish program.

Operation Starfish

Operation Starfish began in 1998 with the aim of allowing families to engage in spiritual reflection and giving back to the less fortunate. The program encourages each family to donate at least 50 cents per day to aid the poor. Father Dick Martin came up with Operation Starfish to help others assist the poor at a minimal level while making a big difference. One year during Lent, more than 2,500 families donated 50 cents per day during the 40 days of Lent, resulting in the collection of over $67,000. This was more money than Fr. Martin initially predicted.

Community Development Projects

The Dominican Republic built almost 3,000 homes through its Community Development Projects. Additionally, the program also helped rebuild schools, clinics and community centers. Moreover, it assisted in building women’s human rights programs that teach independence, self-care and vocational training.

The greenhouse facility in Pedro Santana provides large stocks of produce thanks to efficient farming. The location, operated by local farmers, has performed beyond its expectations. A portion of profits from vegetable sales goes towards the greenhouses in the seven additional locations. Food for the Poor helped create a drip irrigation system that a water reservoir and underground supply lines feed.

With the progress that the Dominican Republic has made through education, mentoring and community rebuilding, the process of downsizing poverty and restoring its youth with innovative methods of developing skills and knowledge is improving the nation. These ways of poverty relief from nonprofits and pedagogical programs have been key factors in giving the Dominican Republic a fighting chance in becoming a future contributor to others in need itself.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr