Heart Diseases in the CaribbeanHeart disease and related illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and stroke, are devastating illnesses that according to World Health Organization (WHO) are on the rise. According to the WHO, 17.9 million people die of cardiovascular-related deaths each year and over 75 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. A UN report in 2017 stated that Pacific and Caribbean regions had 14 of the top 25 obese countries in the world. “The Panorama” a report put out by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN cited that malnutrition and obesity heavily affect low-income families, women, indigenous communities, rural communities and people of African Descent. Studies have for decades indicated that people of Afro Caribbean descent are more likely to experience high blood pressure. However, recently heart disease in the Caribbean continues to rise at a fast pace.

Factors Contributing to Heart Disease

There are several risk factors that contribute to heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, reducing salt intake, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco, eating fruits and vegetables and getting physically active consistently can reduce cardiovascular disease. Low-income families are at risk because of a lack of proper health-care. The WHO stated that opportunities for early intervention are often missed because primary health care programs aren’t always available to low-income families. Late detections of cardiovascular diseases more often than not mean early deaths.

The Financial Impact of Cardiovascular Disease on Families

Caring for someone with cardiovascular disease can be time and energy-consuming, and without sufficient healthcare, paying for the bills out of pocket heavily impacts families. According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases further contribute to poverty. According to a Harvard study, by 2020 the Global cost of Heart Diseases will rise by 22 percent. The current global cost of cardiovascular diseases is $863 billion. As cardiovascular diseases rise countries must spend money on screening, primary and secondary prevention, hospital care, and lost productivity due to premature deaths.

Jamaica and Barbados Hit by The Risk of Heart Disease

Countries like Barbados and Jamaica demonstrate that heart disease in the Caribbean is becoming more prevalent. In 2015 Barbados reported spending $64 million treating cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and an economic loss of $145 million dollars. Surveys done in schools in Barbados found that 18 percent of students eat fast food more than twice a week and nearly three-quarters of students drink soda more than once a day.

Jamaica is also experiencing an alarming rise in cardiovascular-related diseases. In early 2018, a report found that in 2017 30,000 children in Jamaica between the ages of 10 and 19 had been diagnosed with hypertension. In Trinidad and Tobago, the situation is similar to one out of every four deaths being caused by a noncommunicable disease with heart disease as the leading cause.

The Reason Behind Cardiovascular Disease

The rise in heart disease in the Caribbean over the years is concerning. In Barbados, Sir Trevor Hassell, the President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition believes that an increase in processed foods and a decrease in “locally grown indigenous staples” are to blame. The director of George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill, Barbados, Professor Alafia Samuels said, “We do not eat the way our grandmothers used to eat. In the Caribbean, we have been importing more and more food and some of the main things that we are importing are the things that are leading to some of the challenges.”

Looking to the Future

Despite these harrowing statistics, there is hope. Expansive efforts to tackle cardiovascular disease in the Caribbean have been taken. In 2017 The Healthy Caribbean Coalition enacted the Civil Society Action Plan 2017-2021: Preventing Childhood Obesity in the Caribbean.The plan aims to bring the rising trend of obesity to a complete 360-turn by 2025. By collaborating with governments, civil society organizations, and other international partners, the HCC will tackle childhood obesity on a number of different levels. Some of the HCC’s top priorities are Trade and fiscal policies, nutrition literacy, early childhood nutrition, marketing of healthy and unhealthy foods and beverages to children, school-and-community based interventions, and resource mobilization. Upon providing assistance and education to the citizens and their governments alike, the HCC will positively impact the health conditions of the people in the Caribbean.

 Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Worst Hurricanes

Hurricanes represent an annual threat to the lives and livelihood of millions living in coastal or insular geographic regions. Throughout history, certain natural disasters have stood out as especially destructive. This is a compilation of the 10 worst hurricanes in modern history, with 10 being the worst.

The World’s 10 Worst Hurricanes

  1. Sandy
    • Death Toll: 186
    • Economic Losses: $65 Billion
    • Summary: In 2012, this massive, slow-moving storm wreaked havoc not only in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica but also on the United States East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Sandy caused devastating flooding, killing 80 people in the Caribbean and damaging 18,000 homes. Sandy hit especially hard in Haiti, where the storm execrated food insecurity, which Haiti had already been struggling with after Hurricane Isaac.
  2. David
    • Death Toll: 2,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.54 Billion
    • Summary: In 1979, Hurricane David, a powerful Category 5 storm, struck both the Dominican Republic and the East Coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, David killed at least 600 people and left over 150,000 homeless.
  3. Jeanne
    • Death Toll: 3,000
    • Economic Losses: $8 billion
    • Summary: Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane of the 2004 season. Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane, which caused devastation in the same region as the prior storms on this list, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States.
  4. Flora
    • Death Toll: 7,000
    • Economic Losses: $125 million
    • Summary: Flora struck in 1963, but it remains one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes of all time. The storm swept through Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, triggering massive landslides and destroying crops. Inland flooding caused by the storm surge was among the chief causes of crop destruction, especially in Haiti. In Tobago, crop destruction was so great that the agricultural backbone of the economy was abandoned in favor of a new emphasis on tourism as a means of revenue.
  5. Katrina
    • Death Toll: 1,800
    • Economic Losses: $125 billion.
    • Summary: Katrina is infamous for being one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States. Coastal flooding caused by Katrina completely devastated many communities on the gulf coast. Katrina nearly completely submerged New Orleans and destroyed around 800,000 homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. While it is not quite among the deadliest hurricanes of all time, the extensive destruction caused by Katrina makes it by far the costliest in terms of economic damages.
  6. Maria
    • Death Toll: 4,500
    • Economic Losses: $90 Billion
    • Summary: Maria is the most recent of the tropical storms featured on this list, and the devastation that it brought is still fresh in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Guadeloupe. The most severe effects of Maria were felt by Puerto Rico, where Maria severely damaged the infrastructure, leaving countless citizens without power for extended periods. Maria was also the most costly hurricane in modern history for the island territory. Fortunately, thanks to efforts funded by the federal government, Puerto Rico has seen a slow, but steady recovery, with power being entirely restored.
  7. Fifi
    • Death Toll: 8,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.8 Billion
    • Summary: Fifi was a catastrophic storm that struck Central America in 1974. Fifi triggered landslides and flash floods, which swept through crop fields and small towns throughout the region. Dozens of villages in Honduras were completely wiped out. Twenty-three hundred people were killed when a natural dam in Choloma gave way to the flooding and burst. The impact of Fifi sparked a series of reconstruction projects among the villages of Honduras, which succeeded in rebuilding housing and infrastructure across the nation.
  8. Galveston
    • Death Toll: 8,000-12,000
    • Economic Losses: $20 million
    • Summary: Galveston was a vibrant trading port, and the largest city in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Though Galveston had endured many tropical storms since its founding, the 1900 Hurricane was in a class of its own, and the ensuing 15-foot storm surge wiped out the city, destroying 3,600 buildings. Galveston was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States history at the time. Remarkably, despite the immense damages, and the loss of 20 percent of Galveston’s inhabitants, the people managed to rebuild and construct a new seawall to protect it from future catastrophes.
  9. Mitch
    • Death Toll: 10,000-20,000
    • Economic Losses: $6 billion
    • Summary: Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that predominantly affected Nicaragua and Honduras. Flash flooding and landslides caused by Mitch destroyed thousands of homes, rendering 20 percent of the population homeless. Mitch also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving numerous roads and bridges destroyed, which prevented the transport of much-needed aid. In Nicaragua, a mudslide off of La Casitas Volcano killed over 2,000, and over 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath of Mitch, countries around the globe donated billions to Central America, which the affected countries used to rebuild, constructing stronger foundations to withstand future disasters.
  10. The Great Hurricane of 1780
    • Death Toll: 22,000-27,000
    • Economic Losses: Unknown
    • Summary: The Great Hurricane of 1780 predates modern storm-tracking technology, but it is widely accepted to be the deadliest storm in history. Making landfall on Oct. 10, the Great Hurricane devastated Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, causing incalculable damage and claiming more lives than any other storm in recorded history. The Great Hurricane represents a disaster of unprecedented scale and truly belongs at the top of the 10 worst hurricanes of all time.

Hurricanes often serve as a bitter reminder of human vulnerability, however, even when in the path of the 10 worst hurricanes, people show an incredible capacity to adapt and recover from tragedy. The 10 worst hurricanes of all time illustrate not only the fierce violence of nature but also the ingenuity and tenacity of humanity.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr

Ecosystem mapping tools in the Caribbean

Ecosystems in the Caribbean act as more than just tourist attractions. Coral reefs and mangrove habitats provide protection from natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes and high sea levels. Natural flooding causes damage to property and endangers people’s lives. The following is a list of six ecosystem mapping tools that contribute as a solution to the 50-80 percent reduction of coral reefs in the region:

6 Ecosystem Mapping Tools in the Caribbean

  1. Real-Time Ocean Forecasting System: The Caribbean and the Cayman Islands have made the management of marine habitats a priority. The Caribbean Restoration Explorer uses NOAA’s Real Time Ocean Forecasting System to monitor coral larval reproduction. Understanding the transfer and expansion of these barrier reefs is essential in determining which habitats to locate and protect.

  2. Reef Rover: As coral reefs wane away in the Caribbean, 70 percent of the region’s beaches are deteriorating. For this reason, it is crucial to identify and nurture growing coral reefs. The “Reef Rover” is a developing ecosystem mapping tool that will capture underwater images. It is a drone positioned on a boat that can reveal the evolution of these reefs through regular tracking.

  3. Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO): Along with the drones, The Nature Conservancy reveals the CAO is another advancement in ecosystem mapping tools. The CAO aircraft has already launched projects in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic. The hyperspectral technology is able to distinguish stress levels recognized in chemical fingerprints and habitat composition.

  4. Satellites: What’s more impressive is the collection of over 200 satellites scoping elements, including small-scales of 10 feet. The data collected every day enables the scrutiny of any changes in marine habitats. The images of these ecosystems before and after natural disasters, such as the most recent 2017 hurricanes, will illustrate the essential function of coral reefs along coastlines.

  5. The Mapping Ocean Wealth Explorer: This online data resource helps in the determination of policies that concern natural resources. In the Caribbean, tourism yields more than $25 billion annually, $2 billion of which comes from coral reefs alone. The data provides the worth of coral reefs as shown in the amount of money received through tourists on coastal recreational activities such as diving or snorkeling. This ecosystem draws 60 percent of scuba divers around the world. Fisheries contribute $400 million and provide food security. This entire commercial operation grants around 50 percent of the region’s income by protecting the jobs of six million people.

  6. The Natural Capital Project’s Marine Integrated Valuation of Environmental Services and Tradeoffs (InVEST): InVEST computes the capacity marine ecosystems have to mitigate the height and force of waves and weaken the chance of erosion in coastal areas. A healthy coral reef can divert more than 90 percent of wave force before reaching the shore. This is a valuable asset for coastal communities.

Ecosystem mapping tools in the Caribbean output social and economic data so policymakers, conservation professionals and business investors can see which regions require their attention. Coral reefs not only attract tourists, which feed the region’s economy, but they also diminish the impact of wave force. Not only can systems of technology detect environmental calamity, but these tools can prepare coastal communities to withstand rather than react to their environment.

– Crystal Tabares
Photo: Pixabay

Florida Universities Waived Rules and Regulations for Caribbean ScholarsFollowing a request from Governor Rick Scott, Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars who have been left deprived and affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. State Education Commissioner, Pam Stewart was one of the signees of the order for students from Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other Caribbean nations.

In a public address, Stewart announced, “Entire communities were destroyed, and we do not know how long it will take to restore schools and other essential infrastructure…It is critical that these students and teachers have the opportunity to participate in our state’s outstanding public education system. We are pleased to remove barriers to enrollment and help these students and teachers return to the classroom.”

As of now, students from the islands are able to continue their classes and permeate into the Florida public school curriculums without their birth certificates, official transcripts and health forms that transfer students would traditionally be required to have. Also, those who are seeking teaching positions are being given the opportunity to apply without their health records and age verifications, along with proof of degree-attainment and subject-mastery documentation. The federal government has obliged school districts to label students affected by hurricanes as “homeless” to allow the students to be eligible for free meals and more accessible transportation.

Futhermore, some public colleges in Florida have agreed to offer in-state tuition to affected Caribbean students. These colleges include: Broward College, Hillsborough Community College, Miami Dade College, Palm Beach State College, Seminole State College of Florida, the University of Central Florida, Valencia College and St. Petersburg College.

In a statement made by Scott, the governor claimed he wanted to, “ensure students from Puerto Rico can more easily continue their education here in Florida and that teachers from Puerto Rico have every opportunity to continue to succeed in their careers.” He also pointed out that, “as families work to rebuild their lives following the unbelievable devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, we are doing everything we can to help them throughout this process.”

While their education is furthered in the U.S., many of the students wish for recovery for their respective homes. However, because these Florida schools have waived their rules and regulations for Caribbean scholars affected by the hurricanes, many students are able to continue following their dreams and their career paths. Without initiatives like these, many hurricane victims would have to be stuck on pause until the recovery of their homes.

Jalil Perry

Photo: Flickr

Online Gaming in the CaribbeanAfter receiving sovereign status from the U.S., a number of American Indian nations took advantage of the gaming industry as a means of increasing revenue. Similarly, many developing countries, those in the Caribbean in particular, have capitalized on technological advances to boost their economies via online gaming. Online gaming in the Caribbean has blossomed in recent years and may act as a promising source of employment.

Internet access is an incredible technological benefit to developing nations. Not only does the internet allow inhabitants of developing nations to engage with the world and access information previously unavailable to them, it also offers unique economic opportunities. Internet gaming has been one of the fastest growing brands of online commerce.

Casinos have played a part in the Caribbean’s tourist industry for decades, and online gaming is a profitable addition to gaming industries already there. Studies show that income plays a substantial role in the amount of money that a nation contributes to gambling. Most individuals living in the Caribbean earn small incomes that are insufficient for fuelling and sustaining a large gaming industry. The internet allows these nations to access individuals from wealthier countries beyond the foreign tourists visiting casinos in resorts.

The Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act, passed by the U.S. government in 2006, limits the income generated by Caribbean gaming websites by denying them access to U.S. patrons. In the past, the Caribbean nation Antigua and Barbuda took the U.S. to court at the World Trade Organization (and won) for similar interferences with their gaming industry.

Critics of the industry understandably question whether or not the GDP increase resulting from gaming correlates with betterment of citizens’ lives. Malta, a fellow tourist-popular island located in the Mediterranean, is the poster-child for how online gaming can nourish an economy. Twelve percent of Malta’s GDP comes from online gaming, and this industry supplies jobs to 8,000 employees, which is not insignificant on a small island nation such as Malta or those in the Caribbean.

Not only is the amount of jobs created by internet gaming important to developing Caribbean economies, but also the type of jobs. Online gaming in the Caribbean is beneficial because the technology involved requires more advanced education and special training, not typical of jobs in the developing world. Caribbean governments encourage gaming because it generates specialized jobs that provide employees with skills that increase the probability of future employment in higher-level jobs.

Further efforts must be made to foster growth in the Caribbean. While online gaming in the Caribbean may not be enough to elevate whole nations out of poverty, it is one example of the creative ways in which developing nations are utilizing technology to revolutionize and diversify the landscape of their job market and economy.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Montserrat

Located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, Montserrat is a tiny British overseas territory with a population of less than 6,000. After a series of volcanic eruptions in the late 1990s, the island became more difficult to reach. Even today, it is relatively isolated compared to other tourist-oriented Caribbean islands, but there are a growing number of tourists coming to see the “Caribbean Pompeii”.

The economy of Montserrat today is based mostly on service and construction due to the impact of both Hurricane Hugo and the severe volcanic eruptions that began in July 1995. The city of Plymouth was covered with ashes and boulders, and even though it is not completely reconstructed, it is still officially the capital of the island. Approximately two-thirds of the inhabitants fled the island to escape hunger and general insecurity in Plymouth area. Some of them still live in poor housing, struggling with their economic situation after the loss of their homes, incomes and family members.

The economic downturn after the hurricane increased unemployment, reduced working hours and increased pressure on household budgets. There is widespread criticism of the government’s performance, ranging from the failure to control prices or reduce taxes to the perception that administration only takes care of their own employees.

A 2007 study of poverty and hardship called “Montserrat Survey of Living Conditions” (MSLC) and research undertaken by the World Bank showed that economic factors are the main causes of poverty in Montserrat. According to the International Comparisons of Poverty table, 36 percent of the population is poor and 34 percent are food insecure. Children are the most vulnerable in general, and make up a third of the population affected by hunger in Montserrat.

Hunger in Montserrat is caused by high food prices, low wages and lack of employment opportunities. Many families are struggling to buy food every day and educate their children. This stress is made worse by high rates of criminal behavior, domestic violence and drug abuse. Because of the situation, many inhabitants have left the island to find work or to join their families in Britain.

Even though there are no opportunities for rapid economic growth in Montserrat, some government initiatives in the past few years, like the establishment of the Montserrat Development Corporation, promise to be beneficial for everyone.

The Department of Agriculture has several potential projects in the works, and there are plans to increase the number of small companies. The Ministry of Health and Wealth offers a number of services to the poor and vulnerable, including social assistance in cash and counseling for the poor.

Even though the general number of people affected by hunger in Montserrat remains high, some overall progress has been made in lowering the rate of extreme poverty. Most households have access to basic services and women are being empowered with educational programs. The government elected in 2014 is now investing in geothermal energy, tourism and sand mining. In an interview with The Guardian, premier Donaldson Romero declared that the “long, hopeless period” that started after the eruptions is finally over.

Edita Jakupovic

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in BelizeBelize is a small country on the Caribbean coast bordering Mexico and Guatemala. With a per capita income of $4,906, the World Bank considers Belize an upper-middle income country. Despite this status, however, poverty in Belize is high. Of the nearly 360,000 individuals in Belize, 43 percent live below the national poverty line. Of this percentage, 16 percent face extreme poverty.

The nation’s economy provides context for Belize’s poverty. However, it seems like Belize should not face such high rates of poverty. For example, Belize is integrated with global politics and trade. Since gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, Belize has become a member of organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Central American Integration System and the Caribbean Community.

Belize’s location and its membership in these organizations allow the country to serve as a bridge between Central America and the Caribbean. Regarding the domestic economy, Belize has a booming tourism industry, which employs 25 of working Belize citizens. Tourism has picked up because Belize possesses the largest living coral reef in the world, and this attracts many divers and marine enthusiasts. Furthermore, U.S. economic expansion has helped boost the tourism industry.

However, Belize still faces challenges to economic growth and stability. The country’s economy is dependent on agriculture, manufacture and tourism. Belize produces citrus, sugar, bananas and fisheries and manufactures petroleum. Profit from petroleum can fluctuate depending on world commodity prices for oil. Both agriculture and tourism in Belize, which account for 13 percent and 25 percent of the GDP respectively, are influenced by weather conditions.

Belize must also confront its high debt repayments. In 2005, Belize’s debt to GDP ratio was 93 percent. By 2014, this percentage decreased to 78.6 percent. However, this ratio is still high and restricts the government’s budget for development programming.

The current economy is not conducive to reducing poverty in Belize. Belize must accelerate national income growth and ameliorate the growing wealth disparity. The slow-growing economy and high debts prohibit spending on social services and investment in human capital. Furthermore, Belize’s resources and economic sectors alone will not resolve issues of poverty. Poverty in Belize can only be reduced with help from international donors.

Fortunately, Belize has received aid from Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Belize also receives aid and assistance from a number of countries and organizations including Cuba, Venezuela, the United States, the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

Though reducing poverty in Belize may have a long way to go, Belize is on the right track with the foreign aid they receive and their membership in development organizations.

Christiana Lano

Photo: Flickr


With a long history of providing insufficient schooling for children, the Caribbean education system is making progress in improving its conditions. According to former Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, Caribbean countries are in need of “a new kind of school.”

The 13th biennial conference of the Schools of Education of the University of the West Indies took place on June 20 to June 23. During this conference, educators from the United Kingdom, the United States and the Caribbean discussed the changes that are to be made to the Caribbean education system. The theme of the conference was “Envisioning Future Education: Cross-Disciplinary Synergy, Imperatives and Perspectives,” which addressed the importance of improving the state of the Caribbean education system for future generations.

In past years, governments throughout the Caribbean focused on increasing the enrollment rates of primary and secondary schools; however, this improvement in quantity did not have the same effect on the quality, making future education quality a main focus of development.

Caribbean governments are increasing funding for their education systems, as well as developing curriculums to better prepare students for issues facing the economy, climate change, food security and water conservation. They hope these efforts will help make the Caribbean more sustainable.

Also, parents throughout the Caribbean are being encouraged to put greater importance on their childrens’ education by preparing them well ahead of their school years and educating them on prominent concepts and defining features of the Caribbean.

The Caribbean education system has consistently lacked proper safety measures throughout its schools, so Caribbean governments are putting an emphasis on improving safety conditions. The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) has developed a toolkit to test vulnerabilities of schools throughout the Caribbean. Additionally, schools are implementing safety policies and hazard risk data assessments to understand how they might be at risk of damages due to natural disasters and other hazards. Thus, schools will be better prepared in the case of an emergency and staff and students will be aware of these potential threats and how to handle them.

With the precautions taken by CDEMA and the efforts being made by governments throughout the Caribbean, it is expected that the education system will soon see improvements. This “new kind of school” will provide students with a better understanding of the issues Caribbean countries are facing and ways to improve them for future generations.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Why Isn’t Aruba Poor
In 1985, a New York times article stated “Unlike most other Caribbean islands, there are few signs of poverty on Curaçao or Aruba.[…] Air-conditioned automobiles are everywhere, and shops are filled with new American and European products.” Today, Aruba continues to enjoy low crime and a high quality of life.

Defying the Odds

In 2010, Aruba’s unemployment rate was reportedly 10.6 percent. In 2011, the GDP per capita was $25,300, and its GDP growth rate was 1.2 percent in 2014. In 2015, its literacy rate was 97.5 percent. These statistics suggest rather positive economic and social structure compared to the rest of the Caribbean.

Knowing that the Caribbean has a history of extreme poverty and high crime rates in countries like the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, the question is worth asking: why isn’t Aruba poor?

Unlike most Caribbean nations, Aruba has little vegetation, arid heat and flat land. For this reason, Aruba’s economy could not rely on the typical cash-crop plantation model in the Caribbean during colonialism.

Countries with an economy heavily reliant on cash-crop plantations tended to experience extreme violence under slavery, and rigid social class systems intensified social inequality.

When numerous colonies became independent nations, many were left with a poor foundational political and economic structure, which perpetuated a pattern of unparalleled violence and poverty. In contrast, Aruba has had an entirely different relationship with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, which acquired the island from Spain in 1636, originally used Aruba as livestock farmland for Curaçao because aloe (being the only viable agricultural export) was not in high demand. However, once gold was discovered on the island and mines opened in 1836, Aruba prospered exceedingly until 1924. Why isn’t Aruba poor? Its unique colonial history defined a new path for the Caribbean nation.

Because its economy greatly depended on gold, the country faced economic doom as the mines depleted. Fortunately, the country’s close proximity to Venezuela, a major oil exporter at the time, prompted plans to open oil refineries. Soon, the Exxon oil refinery served as a new reliable source of profit, which became inextricable with community life for many decades.

Oil and its Impacts

However, when the Exxon company closed its refinery in 1985, Aruba faced an imminent economic crisis with an estimated rise of unemployment from 15 percent to 40 percent. Amidst peaceful protest and public outcry, the country would eventually need to find another industry to sustain its economy.

While dealing with the oil refinery crisis, Aruba also pushed for independence from the Antilles Netherlands due to political and economic power struggles with a neighboring nation, Curaçao (also a member of the Antilles). Previously colonized countries across the Caribbean were either newly independent or becoming independent nations at the time, but with independence came other economic and socio-political hardships.

Path to Independence 

After determining that full independence was a national security threat, the country lobbied to remain a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands instead of becoming fully independent (scheduled for 1996). This arrangement with the Netherlands secured a steady source of financing for developmental aid until 2009. Presently, the Dutch government continues to detail defense and foreign affairs while Aruba maintains complete internal independence.

Despite the benefits of its constituency status, no amount of financial and national support from the Netherlands would save Aruba from financial ruin without a new industry. So, why isn’t Aruba poor today? Aruba leveraged its beautiful beaches and perfect weather to promote tourism, which remains a sustainable primary source of income.

However, tourism isn’t the only industry that fuels Aruba’s economy. Other industries include petroleum, bunkering, hospitality and financial and business services. Aruba also exports agriculture products (mainly aloe, fish and livestock), art, machinery, electrical equipment and transport equipment. Aruba has been able to maintain economic security and peace throughout its history because of a beneficial relationship with the Netherlands and positive adaptability to the world economy.

Cassandra Mathelier

Photo: Pixabay


Barbados sits near the end of the Lesser Antilles arc of the Caribbean. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the country’s water source, which supplied the public via ponds, springs and wells in Barbados’ early days. Methods to provide water to the public developed from hauling well water up with buckets to steam-driven pumps to the first electric pump in 1944.

Water quality in Barbados is maintained by its two wastewater treatment plants: the Bridgetown Sewage Treatment System, commissioned in 1982 and the South Coast Sewage Treatment System, commissioned in 2003.

A brackish water reverse osmosis desalination plant in Spring Garden, Saint Michael also contributes to water quality in Barbados. It supplies potable water to 44,000 people.

Barbados now has a cultivated irrigation system. The Golden Ridge Reservoir, the Castle Grant Reservoir and the Spring System provide water to parishes including St. Andrew, St. John, St. Joseph and St. Thomas.

According to the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), these very parishes experience long-term reduced water supply.

In 2015 the Caribbean shifted the focus of its strategies and programs from storms and floods to droughts. Climate change and El Nino increased the severity and frequency of drought conditions in the Caribbean. As a result, Barbados is one of the top 10 water-stressed countries.

The drought caused the Barbadian cost of living to rise, increasing the number of kitchen gardens and water demands from local water systems. Agriculture is Barbados’ largest water user, and there are about 120 privately owned wells to contend with this heavy usage.

Consequently, the functionality of water in Barbadian homes changed. In early 2016, the BWA implemented a three-month water ban. The ban prohibits filling and supplying tanks, swimming pools, baths and ponds as well as washing roadways, pavements, paths, garages, out rooms and vehicles. It requires Barbadian domestic tanks be connected to their water supply and sewerage system.

In 2016 the BWA established long-term water management solutions to ameliorate water scarcity. The first goal is the installation of eight water tankers to provide water for residents of St. Joseph, St. Andrew and St. John. The second is rehabilitating a well in St. George to provide an additional 500,000 gallons of water to the Golden Ridge and Castle Grant systems. The third is completing the pumping station at the Lazaretto, St. Michael, pushing desalinated water into the St. Peter’s system for St. Peter and St. Lucy.

The final goal is the commencement of the St. Philip Water Augmentation Project. After conducting hydrogeological investigations in the St. Philip aquifer and constructing new wells, improved water quality in Barbados will be a reality for the people of St. Philip.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Flickr