Prison Reform
Prison reform is a global imperative. According to the World Prison Brief,
26,734 people are incarcerated in the Dominican Republic as of 2018, and 30 percent of the Dominican Republic’s population of 10.6 million are below the poverty line. The Centre of Excellence on Prison Reform and Drug Demand Reduction in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic was created by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to strengthen criminal justice in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Prison Reform in Central America

This prison reformation focuses on training programs for previously incarcerated people and promotes effective policies regarding healthcare and prison conditions. Many incarcerated people suffer from poverty, which leads to homelessness, crime, drugs and violence.

Prison reform by the Centre includes social reintegration programs post-release, and job and educational resources as well. The Centre will also place more focus on women, juveniles, youth with incarcerated mothers, drug-dependent prisoners and mental health. Since many prisoners cannot afford the Centre’s reformation, the UNODC aims to make these resources within the current prison system affordable. In the Najayo prison, classrooms are built to reach goals of zero percent illiteracy and the provision of college-level courses. Prisoners here are treated more humanely with a bed, desk in classroom and medical attention.

The prison system had to be reformed in the Dominican Republic due to how: previous imprisonment disrupted families, overcrowding promoted the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and prison time encouraged poverty rather than reduced it. The Centre has been so successful in prison reform in the Dominican Republic that inmates’ rate of returning has reduced from 50 percent prior to the Centre to less than 5 percent where facilities have adopted reformation programs.

UNODC’s Global Efforts

The UNODC has also reformed the prison system in Panama by focusing on the health and safety of prisoners in order to properly reintegrate inmates back into society. Panama has a high rate of incarceration, with 400 per 100,000 people as prisoners and a remand rate of 70 percent. Prison reform in Panama looks like IntegrArte, which is a fashion program that rehabilitates female prisoners in Panama by turning their crafts (hand-sewn bags, clothing, etc) into sellable profit.

Participants in the program are very appreciative of such efforts, and say that sewing and IntegreArte as a reformation program in prison helps greatly with the transition back into society. These programs open up micro-financing and housing opportunities and help people escape the confines of poverty.

Costa Rica also undergoes prison reform with WOLA, Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas. In 2013, Costa Rica had the third highest percentage of prisoners in Central American, and now the nation’s prison reform focuses on education, drug decriminalization and rehabilitation.

In 2016, the Ministry of Justice and Peace reduced prison terms for women who smuggled drugs into prisons to a minimum of three to eight years, if they met certain conditions. The result? One hundred and twenty female prisoners were released immediately in Costa Rica, and have since sought health services.

In fact, Costa Rica just passed a law in 2017 for eliminating criminal records for released people who have served sentences under certain conditions. It is still early to conduct studies of the results of this law, but one can assume that this action can reduce poverty of former inmates by providing jobs.

Mexico, El Salvador and Efforts at Rehabilitation

Mexico and El Salvador are also trying to adopt drug decriminalization and reduce gang crime and violence of poverty-ridden areas by using education and business development to build and strengthen communities. Prison reformation programs by the government  — such as drug rehabilitation and mandatory work trainings — have reduced the number of El Salvador’s homicides from 6,071 to 4,881 between 2015 and 2016.

In addition, rehabilitation and work trainings have reduced Mexico’s incarceration rate dramatically, with 37 percent fewer inmates in 2016 than 2015. A report by WOLF concluded that strict drug legislation and its aggressive implementation are key factors in rising incarceration rates and extreme prison overcrowding.

Prison reform is essential to reduce crime, violence, inhumane prison living conditions and poverty. UNODC prison reform programs such as the Centre are very important in Central America as it helps combat crime, drug trade and poverty for high-crime, low-income neighborhoods.

– Areina Ismail
Photo: Flickr

The Green Dream: Sustainability in Central America Eradicates Poverty
Despite being home to more than 40 million people, Central America harbors many cities yet to be touched by electrical grids. Currently, one in 10 Central Americans lives quite literally in the dark, with no access to electricity. But through the Regional Clean Energy Initiative (RCEI) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and regulated by Tetra Tech and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), more Central American areas will have power and sustainable means to produce it.

Why Sustainable Energy Is The Future

The Central American economy is developing and generates a growth rate of more than 3 percent annually. The biggest barrier to a further increase in this rate comes from the lack of productivity in most regions after sunset. Due to the absence of natural light and electricity, residents cannot do any manual labor; as a result, there is an abrupt halt in business outputs after a certain time of day.

Lack of power also prevents children from studying in the evenings, which makes it more difficult for their education to progress at a regular pace; the electricity absence often leads to incomplete homework and inadequate revision of material. Finally, the lack of electricity also introduces the risk of health hazards for those who work in the dark.

Creating Sustainability

Most might claim that the simple introduction of a power source can eradicate these problems, but it is actually more imperative to create sustainability in Central America. Currently, the estimated 7 million people who do not have access to electricity live far from the cities and their well-established grids.

To ensure that power reaches these members of the population, IRENA and the Central American governments are working towards moving away from fossil fuel dependence and towards the development of identified renewable energy sources. This works in their favor because these rural areas have larger spaces to channel energy from natural phenomena (such as sunlight and wind) and cultivate it for use.

Renewable sources of energy can also effectively satiate the high demand for electricity in these regions. Worldwatch Institute revealed that geothermal energy alone has the potential to meet twice the predicted regional electricity demand till 2020.

Currently, only 1 percent of the available resources are used to install windmills to produce energy, leaving enough for developing solar and biomass sources too. Improving sustainability in Central America is thus the most affordable and optimum way to equip deserving rural communities with electricity.

The Implementation

The RCEI is currently implemented in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Tetra Tech plays an important role in this by implementing a joint regulatory and trade policy to strengthen the regional electricity market and make it more accommodating to sustainable energy.

This is supported by the Central America Regional Regulator (CRIE) and the regional market operator (EOR), who are both in charge of proposing mechanisms for sustainable energy use and frameworks that entail the burden of implementation shared by local operators and other market stakeholders.

Tetra Tech has also been successful in developing standards and quality-checks for equipment and energy efficiency. These standards ensure that the renewable resources are optimally utilized for the best possible results.

Thanks to these equipment standards, the city of Zacatecoluca in El Salvador now has a five-mile stretch of streets powered by quality LED streetlights. Not only are they illuminating the city in the night, they are also making it a safer place for its 40,000 residents.

The Way Forward

The introduction of electricity to these regions mitigates the risk of health hazards and economic stagnation. As systems continue to power the countries even in the dark, people can work longer hours and accomplish more every day.

Inhabitants will also begin to feel safer at night and become motivated to work after the sun sets in order to earn more. More importantly, the setup of a regional framework of sustainable energy allows improved transport and communication links between the participating countries, which can lead to more trade and a higher national output.

As electricity is slowly introduced, people become healthier, safer and equipped with higher incomes to fight poverty. Sustainability in Central America is hence the affordable green dream its people need today.

– Sanjana Subramanian
Photo: Flickr

causes of poverty in Central America
Central America links North and South America and includes countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador and Panama. Tropical and evergreen rainforests bring a wealth of biodiversity and beauty to the region; however, these countries face high infant mortality, low life expectancies and especially devastating poverty. Here is an analysis of the main causes of poverty in Central America.

 

Oppressive Histories

The Central American countries have histories which involve changes in power to those who wish to conquer them. This began with Columbus and the Spanish conquest of the region, where oppression was the norm as the years went on and the region was ruled by different European elites who put down the indigenous people.

This treatment and “status quo” continued until independence reached the region in the 19th Century. By this point, though, a classist system had already been put in place, and the effects of which can still be seen in modern times. Many attribute Costa Rica’s relative success to the fact that there was only a small indigenous population when the Spaniards conquered the region, the numbers allowing them to avoid the tiered class system that developed in neighboring countries.

 

Unequal Distribution of Wealth

Of the main causes of poverty in Central America, unequal distribution of wealth is by far the most consistent. The region has seen periods of boom and bust since the end of World War II, yet the vast difference in wealth distribution remained unchanged for decades. If wealth inequality remains the same, the only way to reduce poverty is by raising incomes.

In this region, industry remains limited due to a lack of mineral and energy resources making factory jobs scarce while agriculture still dominates. These factors make it increasingly difficult for citizens to gain increased incomes; however, an adjustment to wealth inequality may not increase incomes, but it does reduce poverty.

From 2008 to 2014, there was a period of decreasing wealth inequality due to a rise in minimum wage. This change led to an almost doubling of the middle class, and with formal employment, millions were able to ascend classes and overall statistics improved, including a 65 percent decrease in infant mortality. Yet, despite these promising changes, the region remains the most unequal region in the world for prohibiting the decline of poverty.

 

Gangs and Drug Violence

One of the largest setbacks faced by Central America is the success of gangs and the drug trade. Many of the Central American countries are referred to as “transit countries” as they transport cocaine and other drugs from South to North America. With the increase of drug trafficking, there has also been an increase in organized crime brought about by competition between trafficking groups as well as the governments of the countries they operate within.

Instead of putting money into social programs which could alleviate poverty, the government must use resources to fight against these illegal activities and violence. The effects of the drug trade and organized violence can be seen in the number of children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador found in Mexico attempting to flee their home countries. This number reached 16,000 in the first few months of 2016.

These main causes of poverty in Central America are certainly problematic, but all hope is not lost. These countries have made significant improvements in different areas in recent years and will continue to do so in the address of the most pressing problems. With foreign aid and government cooperation, these countries can move past these issues and put the lives of their citizens first.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Panama
To understand poverty in Panama, the economic dichotomy between the country’s urban and rural regions must be brought to attention. Many residents of Panama’s larger cities currently experience the monetary benefits of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. This is largely due to international trade being introduced through the newly expanded Panama Canal. However, many Panamanians living away from these cities experience a vastly different economic reality. Poor infrastructure and little opportunity for agricultural growth constitute the primary reasons for the causes of poverty in Panama.

The country’s poor infrastructure is one of its main causes of poverty. Per a New York University report, roads “remain poor in rural parts of the country.” The report goes on to state that, “in total, only about 34 percent of the roads are paved”.

Roads that are unpaved and dangerous to use make it difficult for rural farmers to transport their goods to market. In turn, this means that many of these families have a much more difficult time selling goods and services to a broader market than people who have access to proper infrastructure. This has led to a crisis in Panamanian agricultural output, which is now a little over two percent of the country’s GDP, a low number for a country that has heavily relied on this form of trade in the past. This is one of the causes of poverty in Panama and is found mainly in the country’s rural areas in which agriculture is the primary source of livelihood.

Drought is another one of the main causes of poverty in Panama. Much of the time, growing food in rural Panama is a matter of life or death and a necessity to feed one’s family. Rural Panamanians not only sell agricultural goods, they often sustain themselves from what they grow. This is a practice called subsistence farming — feeding oneself entirely from the food one produces personally. Unfortunately, much of Central America has been experiencing a drought since 2014, leading to a decrease in food production.

“The lack of rain since the middle of 2014 has resulted in the loss of staple grain crops and death of thousands of cattle in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and, to a lesser extent, in areas of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama,” states a report by the U.N.‘s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The World Bank has cited that a proper educational system installed in rural Panama could diminish much of its poverty. The World Bank report states that families led by a member who has received some level of education are less likely to be poor than families that are not. Educational systems brought to rural Panama have the potential to increase social mobility for the uneducated. Perhaps programs such as this could not only decrease the financial gap between urban and rural Panama but also reduce poverty in Panama in general.

Michael Carmack

Hunger in Central AmericaCentral America is famous in many parts of the world for its coffee production, however, the region must also cultivate other crops and livestock to feed its population. As of 2014, the UN had declared much of Central America to be in a drought zone – one affecting over 2.8 million peoples’ food sources and financial security. Fortunately, ancient drought-resistant seeds could prevent impoverishment and hunger for many Central American farmers.

Drought instigates hunger in Central America and other places through a persistent lack of rainfall. The shortage of precipitation does not allow crops to grow, preventing farmers from eating or selling their yields. The National Drought Mitigation Center calls drought “a creeping phenomenon.” Many areas of the world go through shorter, less intense droughts; however, Central America’s has been dire.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has overviewed the situation by stating “The lack of rain since the middle of 2014 has resulted in the loss of staple grain crops and death of thousands of cattle in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and to a lesser extent in areas of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.”

Reversing the drought over an area as large as Central America seems to be an immense or even impossible undertaking, given that the drought has already affected millions of people. However, the answer to the area’s low food output and the growing hunger problem in Central America could lie within a specific type of seed – preserved ancient seeds.

The organization, Native Seeds/SEARCH, located in Tucson, Arizona, is a nonprofit dedicated to conserving local biodiversity. Many of the seeds protected and cultivated by the organization are anciently local to the dry and arid environment. This quality marks the seeds as well-suited to areas experiencing chronic drought, such as Central America. Moreover, the kernels that Native Seeds/SEARCH have protected have already been successfully used to provide the Tohono O’odham Nation of American Indians with a sustainable food source.

Because the seeds have been used for thousands of years in the dry environment of southwestern U.S., they have a natural propensity to thrive in drought-ridden areas. The seeds were not only cultivated in this region, but are also naturally native. This means that the seeds have a genetic predisposition to grow in nearly waterless environments.

Native Seeds/SEARCH calls their organization a “seed bank” and uses new freezing technologies to store their seeds. “What began as a humble operation with seeds stored in chest freezers has grown to a state-of-the art conservation facility,” states Native Seeds/SEARCH on their methodology.

Although no effort has been made directly by the organization to alleviate hunger in Central America specifically, Gary Nabhan, co-founder of the Native Seeds/SEARCH project, has expressed his enthusiasm for sowing his seeds on a grander scale. “We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by distributing seeds to traditional communities and to gardeners worldwide.”

This endeavor could lead to a large reduction in hunger and poverty in drought-affected areas, which could possibly alleviate hunger in Central America as well, as it is most certainly affected by drought and in dire need of aid.

Michael Carmack

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Central America
Since mid-2014, the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica have been victims of a severe drought. The El Niño conditions that began in March of 2015 have caused staple crops to wither and thousands of cattle to die. These El Niño conditions worsened, and, by the end of June 2016, there were 3.5 million people affected by the drought and 1.6 million at the mercy of hunger in Central America.

This crisis, while dire, has been a rare outlier in the largely successful efforts to ease the pangs of hunger in Central America. Among the major problems contributing to the food shortages of Central America has been widespread poverty. Extreme poverty in Central America was reduced by 50 percent between 1995 and 2011.

The same can be said for hunger itself. Between 1992 and 2014, the number of people affected by hunger in Central America was reduced from 68.5 million to 37 million. While success this resounding is encouraging, it does not by any means imply that the fight to end hunger in Central America is over.

The El Niño drought was one of the worst in recent memory. Though its severity was extreme, it remains indicative of a problem which Central American farmers must face constantly. Droughts devastate Central America with shocking regularity, whether caused by El Niño or other malignant weather patterns.

In order to address the droughts, which, alongside endemic poverty, have been the biggest contributors to the problem of hunger in Central America, the U.N. has begun working with the governments of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in order to better construct strategies that will allow the countries to remain independent in cases of severe drought. The U.N. has instructed farmers to plant crops that are both less water-dependent and more flood-resistant.

The problem of hunger in Central America is not one which will solve itself, but continuing to allow the countries hit hardest by droughts and poverty to rely on foreign aid and intervention a strategy that will not work in the future. The pattern the U.N. and forward-thinking governments like those of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have established is one that must be followed. Countries such as these can utilize the ingenuity of their people alongside the expertise of foreign aid to alleviate both poverty and hunger, creating a prosperous cycle that will benefit themselves both now and in the future.

Connor S. Keowen


Belize is perhaps best known internationally as a country of refuge for people fleeing the violence of The Northern Triangle, the area with the highest homicide rate in the world. The Northern Triangle is composed of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

It is for its welcoming and accommodating demeanor that the country of Belize has been dubbed Central America’s Sanctuary, but deep within the sanctuary lies a problem which threatens to disrupt local and international stability: hunger.

Hunger in Belize is not a new issue. Since the early 2000s, Belize has had trouble ensuring adequate nutrition for its people. With the recent spikes in violent crime in surrounding countries, Belize’s food problems are predicted to grow in response to increased immigration rates.

While the gratuitous violence of The Northern Triangle tends to dominate the Central American media stage, hunger in Belize poses a real threat to the stability of the nation and its propensity for economic growth and expansion. Below are 10 facts which provide a quick, illustrative snapshot of how hunger is more than a physical pain: it is also an inhibitor of progress and a force unparalleled in its pervasive destructiveness.

  1. The Depth of Hunger Index for Belize jumped from 150 calories to over 400 calories in 2007. (Depth of Hunger is measured as a deficit, meaning that, in 2007, individuals in Belize were lacking on average 400 calories of nutrition every day). For reference, a depth of hunger index score of 200 is cause for concern, demonstrating that a 400-calorie deficit is a cause for alarm.
  2. Food quality is also poor in Belize. Thirty-five percent of children under the age of five in Belize are anemic, which means that their red blood cell count is low. A low red blood cell count can lead to fatigue, which may seem trivial, but can have serious repercussions on a child’s early brain development.
  3. Hunger is not only a physical pain; it is also a social ailment. Over eight percent of Belizean women surveyed in a 2013 study said a husband has the right to beat his wife for burning the food, neglecting the children or arguing with their husband. While spousal disagreements and child neglect are not synonymous with hunger, there are potential overlaps between the above-listed categories. For example, a domestic assault may arise from an argument about how to ration food, exemplifying how hunger can permeate every sphere of social life and fuel social unrest.
  4. The Depth of Hunger in Belize is currently at 170 calories per person per day, which shows that overall hunger has decreased in recent years. However, whether or not the Depth of Hunger in Belize will continue to improve is a source of great debate among nutrition experts. Prevailing sentiments suggest that Belize’s hunger problems stem from the tumultuous political states of its neighboring countries, which means that stability must be restored in Belize’s neighboring countries in order for the Belizean government to shift its focus from providing protection to refugees to reducing hunger.
  5. The Depth of the Food Deficit is another hunger unit of measurement that indicates how many calories would be needed to improve the nutritional health of a country’s population from one hunger bracket to the next. For example, in Belize, the Depth of the Food Deficit is 40 calories per person per day, which means that the severely malnourished need 40 calories more per day in order to be considered only moderately malnourished.
  6. The food inflation rate in Belize is -1.7 percent, which means that food is currently relatively cheap. However, an extended food deflation rate could cause the agricultural economy to collapse leaving families to fend for themselves on small farms. Sustenance farming is somewhat common among rural families, but for those without arable land, deflating food prices are a bad omen.
  7. Because of inadequate nutrition, 19.3 percent of children ages 12 and under are stunted in growth or suffer from moderate malnutrition, which could leave them predisposed to illnesses in later life.
  8. Funds to minimize Belizean hunger are frequently funneled into border security programs in order to reduce violent crimes. Often times, however, these programs are ineffectual and serve solely as a sieve on limited national funds.
  9. Social safety net programs like the Food Pantry and Conditional Cash Transfer programs are new initiatives to reduce poverty and hunger in Belize. While the initiatives themselves purport huge successes, the tangible benefits of these programs have yet to be seen.
  10. While hunger in Belize has been on the decline since 2007, it remains an ominous threat to the continued development of Belize’s economy. Many school nutritional programs have been introduced in order to ensure that children have the energy to succeed in school and thus secure a fruitful professional career.

Belize is known as the refuge for the violence which plagues The Northern Triangle of Central America, and there is little doubt that the influx of crime and nefarious activities has augmented the country’s struggle to establish universal nutrition for its people. However, with the unveiling of a number of food and poverty programs in 2016, hunger in Belize seems well on its way to being satiated.

Spencer Linford

Photo: Flickr


Belize, located south of Mexico in Central America, was the center of the Mayan civilization thousands of years ago. Since then, Belize has developed into an independent, democratic country with English as its official language. The Belizean economy remains small, depending mainly on agriculture, merchandising and tourism. The sugar and banana industries make up two of the biggest sources of economic production. The developing nation has become an attractive travel destination for people around the world, but the rate of poverty in Belize remains very high.

As of September 2016, the rate of poverty in Belize stood at 41.3 percent, which meant that 380,010 people lived in conditions below the poverty line. People living in rural areas suffer more from poverty than those living in Belize City. This occurs because federal revenue is distributed to all the districts disproportionately.

When compared to other countries in the Caribbean, the rate of poverty in Belize ranks second-highest after Haiti. Reducing this statistic has proven to be a challenge for the Belizean government, as poverty in Belize often results from many factors, including lack of access to education, sanitary drinking water and medical attention.

While poverty in Belize cannot be eradicated overnight, the government of Belize has made significant steps in recent years. Belizean politicians have pursued legislation and programs to tackle the challenges faced by the people living below the poverty rate. The Belize Social Investment Fund, established in 1996, assists groups within communities in their efforts to help the poor.

The National Integrated Water Resources Act, approved by the government in 2010, will eventually result in access to clean water. When safe drinking water is brought in, communities see increased economic growth without fail, and Belize has been no exception.

Other pushes towards a decrease in poverty include the Quality School Initiative, resulting in increased school enrollment. Gender equality has also increased, with access to education, literacy rates and employment rates rising over the past 10 years. In 2015, the infant mortality rate had decreased by two-thirds. With increased efforts to attack the roots of poverty in Belize, the nation is sure to see a decrease in the poverty rate.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr


Nicaragua is a Central American nation with a population of more than six million people. While Latin America is not the center of the current refugee crisis, there is a long history of asylum seekers in the region. Here are 10 facts about Nicaraguan refugees.

  1. Many who decide to flee one of Latin America’s many countries attempt to head north to the United States. However, most Nicaraguans who leave their home country head south instead because visas are often cheaper, there’s more work and the pay is good.
  2. The United States has a long history of involvement in the politics of Central and Latin America. Nicaragua is no exception. Because of civil war and a U.S. trade embargo in the 1980s, many Nicaraguans sought refuge at that time.
  3. In 1983, more than 2,400 Nicaraguans were in refugee camps in Costa Rica, and around 1,750 more followed in 1984.
  4. In addition, more than 100,000 undocumented Nicaraguan refugees were likely to have crossed the border into Costa Rica in the 1980s because of the military draft, economic reasons or other dangers.
  5. Today, not many Nicaraguan migrants live in the U.S. compared to migrants of other Central American nationalities. The majority of Nicaraguans in the United States live in Miami and northern California.
  6. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, and almost half the population lives on less than two dollars a day. However, Nicaragua has a low rate of crime and violence, two large factors in migration.
  7. According to the Huffington Post, polls indicate that more than half of Nicaraguans would prefer to migrate.
  8. Costa Rica is the place to go for Nicaraguan refugees. Costa Rica is close, has no language barrier and the education system is good.
  9. Many Nicaraguans who flee to Costa Rica face discrimination, exclusion and tough legal processes once they arrive.
  10. Nicaraguan refugees make up most of Costa Rica’s immigrants–around 75 percent of Costa Rica’s immigrants are Nicaraguan.

The refugee crisis is not limited to any one region in the world. These 10 facts about Nicaraguan refugees illustrate the need to think about the refugee crisis on a global scale.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

8 Things to Know About Poverty in El Salvador
El Salvador is the most densely populated country in Central America. After a 12 year civil war and years of unstable leadership, poverty in El Salvador is a concern that greatly affects the over 6 million people living there.

 

Top 8 Facts on Poverty in El Salvador

 

Over 25 percent of children below the age of 5 experience extreme poverty in El Salvador and 36 percent of the rural population lives in poverty. Urbanization is a problem developing countries face as cities grow and become a hub for economic, medical and commercial activity. This causes problems for those in rural areas as they have less and less access to resources. Currently, 60.3 percent of citizens live in urban areas, which results in greater poverty for the remaining people outside of cities.

The people of El Salvador are also constantly at risk of facing greater challenges due to natural disasters. World Vision reports that the country “experiences frequent earthquakes and volcanic activity, making it known as the ‘land of volcanoes.” In December of 2013, the Chaparrastique volcano in eastern El Salvador erupted and caused the evacuation of 5,000 people.

Leaf rust has caused problems for the coffee industry in El Salvador, which is an important source of income for the country’s economy. Heavy rain and wind carry rust spores from plantations to other plantations miles away. Bloomberg reports that the 2015 coffee season projections fell from 920,000 to 613,333 60-kilogram bags.

Ninety percent of the population has access to safe water and 96 percent of children are enrolled in school, though this education may not be effective in preparing children for their future. The U.S. Agency for International Development reports, “Many children and adolescents living in El Salvador face enormous vulnerabilities associated with high rates of crime and gang violence including poor quality education.”

El Salvador has the highest homicide rate in the world for youth under 19, reports USAID. InSight Crime cites progress in El Salvador’s mission to reduce the number of violent deaths to a rate more in line with international statistics. In September of 2016, 13.3 percent fewer homicides occurred than the previous year. USAID launched programs whose focus is to stimulate and increase productivity in areas that are at risk, such as rural populations.

The national strategy entitled Plan El Salvador Seguro “addresses security and education opportunities in high crime municipalities.” The strategy involves programs such as Education for Children and Youth at Risk, as well as USAID Bridges to Employment to care for those who are not enrolled in education but need to provide for themselves and their families.

UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and former professional soccer player David Beckham’s new fund “7” launched a campaign in 2015 to end violence against children and poverty in El Salvador. This program is Beckham’s commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable children globally.

Beckham said, “Every day, violence affects thousands of children and adolescents in El Salvador. It’s an outrage – violence in their homes, schools and streets. El Salvador has the highest rate in the world of homicides of children and adolescents and, together, we can change this.”

Rebecca Causey

Photo: Flickr