Covid-19 in Central America
The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have left no region of the world unscathed. Central America and Mexico have certainly felt the wrath of this virus. Recent outbreaks in the region threaten to compound upon other humanitarian struggles. The U.S. has recognized this challenge and taken action to provide aid, despite facing its own issues fighting the coronavirus — the difficulties of COVID-19 in Central America and Mexico are vast.

An Issue in Central America & Mexico Before COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a health and economic challenge to Central America and Mexico. Yet, before the pandemic, the region was already suffering from poverty. As such, the pandemic has hit this area particularly hard. Our World in Data projected that the extreme poverty rate was about 8.12% in Guatemala, 14.24% in Honduras, 2.79% in El Salvador and 1.96% in Mexico in 2019. The full economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known.

Apart from facing extreme poverty — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico also suffer from high crime rates. In 2017, Guatemala had an intentional homicide rate of about 26.1 per 100,000, Honduras had 41.7, El Salvador had 61.8 and Mexico had 24.8.

Providing sustainable assistance to Central America is particularly important for the national security in the U.S. As of July 2019, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition explained that there is a correlation between children seeking refuge in the U.S. and murders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Aid to these three countries could reduce poverty and crime. Consequently, the number of people searching for safety in the U.S. may potentially decrease.

The US Steps Up

The U.S. has committed to providing more than $22 million for Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The aid focuses on key areas of need. For example, the U.S. committed $850,000 in Migration and Refugee Assistance funding in Mexico. This includes funding for the dissemination of hygiene products and assistance creating a remote program to register asylum seekers and hold interviews.

The U.S. also committed to providing almost $6.6 million in aid to El Salvador, more than $8.4 million to Guatemala and more than $5.4 million to Honduras. Notably, these aid packages contain International Disaster Assistance for each country. The assistance also focuses on immediate and long-term health needs.

In recent months, the U.S. has also provided other forms of support to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Notable aid includes investments in critical infrastructures, such as energy programs. This is an important step in reducing poverty in the region. However, continued aid and investment are necessary to fight COVID-19 in Central America, save lives, reduce poverty and protect U.S. national security.

Global Help

This aid is a substantial sum targeted in areas that most need money to help fight COVID-19. However, there is more than the U.S. could do to protect global health. Global health spending has remained mostly constant for the past 10 years. Now, the future of U.S. global health aid is at-risk. The federal government’s spending on global health could reduce to its lowest point in 13 years if the proposed budget for the 2021 Fiscal Year receives approval. This could exacerbate outbreaks of other diseases that the U.S. has historically fought against. Without aid from the U.S., other nations such as China will have to step in as a global leader during this crisis.

Kayleigh Crabb
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in BelizeGovernment efforts have begun to reduce extreme poverty and hunger in Belize. However, a lack of focus on the wellbeing of the nation’s poor has rendered this aid ineffective. Thus, widespread poverty and poor nutrition remain pressing issues in a country whose GDP has grown steadily for nearly two decades. Since the year 2000, the government of Belize has participated in working toward eight Millennium Development Goals concerned with improving the quality of life and bolstering economic stability throughout the world. While Belize is making headway in numerous other categories, such as in providing universal education and promoting gender equality, a lack of attention given to the needs of vulnerable groups hurts this progress. In particular, hunger in Belize continues to be an issue for many marginalized groups.

The Impact of Gender Inequality on Hunger in Belize

Gendered differences in economic opportunity contribute directly to poor nutrition and hunger in Belize. Though the country has made efforts to improve equal participation of men and women in the economy, the women of Belize continue to suffer from employment discrimination. This makes many statistics concerning the nation’s economic condition somewhat inaccurate.

While Belize’s economy may seem to be flourishing based on statistics like GDP, the nation suffers from a high national unemployment rate of about 8%. Gender inequality exacerbates this for the women of Belize, whose unemployment rate is nearly three times higher than the national average.

Women in Belize participate in the labor force at a rate of only 62.5% to that of their male counterparts. As a result, gender inequality has deprived mothers of the resources necessary for raising healthy children. On top of the disproportionate difficulty of finding work as a woman in Belize, women also lack education about proper diet and exercise. Perhaps more importantly, they lack access to healthy food options, which tend to be more expensive than foods high in sugar and salt. Thus, women’s inequality exacerbates hunger in Belize.

Children’s Hunger in Belize

Belize’s economy depends directly on seasonal agricultural exports, such as rum, to support the economy. This means that fruits, vegetables and other natural products are among the most expensive in the nation’s domestic marketplace. The result of this limited access to healthy food has been a high rate of stunted growth and poor nutrition among children. This is particularly important as this demographic has grown the last two decades.

A Selective Humanitarian Response

The government of Belize has helped some of its more vulnerable demographics. The Belize Social Security Board, for example, has helped many elderly people avoid poverty. Additionally, programs like the Conditional Cash Transfer Program provide vulnerable communities in Belize with monetary security.

A reduction in the poverty rate amongst elderly Belizeans indicates that these programs have achieved some success. However, the government of Belize issues this aid on a selective basis. It therefore leaves women, children and members of the LGBT population without relief. This makes hunger in Belize a serious issue among these populations, lacking the financial means to secure access to nutritious food.

Though the Belizean government has helped some groups overcome hunger, discrimination has left some of the most vulnerable groups of Belizeans poor and hungry. Marginalized groups in Belize continue to suffer from the weakness of their nation’s economy. However, they are often those most excluded from relief. If hunger in Belize is to be eradicated, the government must first address social inequality in the population.

Anthony Lyon
Photo: Pixabay

Viral Outbreaks During COVID-19While COVID-19 has received much attention in the global health discussion, many developing countries continue to fight other viral outbreaks. This highlights why foreign aid is so crucial. Although COVID-19 has affected every nation, some countries will suffer more than others. This article will highlight three of the deadliest viral outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic that have been announced by the WHO in 2020 and the current, global efforts to combat them.

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Since the largest Ebola outbreak killed 11,000 people in West Africa during 2014–2016, the virus has been successfully contained in most countries. This, thanks to the efforts of front-line workers and organizations, such as the WHO.

However, the DRC has been fighting its 10th outbreak since August 2018. As of June 2020, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has infected 3,470 and killed 2,280 people. In 2019, the WHO named the viral outbreak a global health emergency. Then, in April 2020, just as the Ministry of Health neared the end of the countdown to end EVD, there was a new outbreak in the city of Mbandaka.

In the DRC, EVD has a current fatality rate of more than 60%, which is more than five times that of the new coronavirus or influenza. However, the transmission rate is much lower. Advancements in vaccines and “CUBE” containment rooms have helped stop the spread of the Ebola virus. By vaccinating more than 14,000 health workers in neighboring countries, the WHO contained the disease in the DRC. Yet notably, the organization stresses that controlling the epidemic requires more international collaboration and support.

Measles in Africa, South and Central America and Beyond

In addition to COVID-19 and Ebola, the DRC is also battling the world’s largest measles epidemic. Another of the viral outbreaks, which started during COVID-19 (in 2019) and infected around 300,000 people. Since then, the numbers are fewer in the DRC. In 2020 however, more measles outbreaks surfaced in Burundi and the Central African Republic. Additionally, new outbreaks resurfaced in Mexico, while Brazil still recovered from an outbreak of measles in 2019 that infected over 50,000 people in Sao Paulo. The virus has also emerged in Asia and Eastern Europe in 2019.

Similar to the new coronavirus, the measles virus has a high transmission rate and causes complications in a minority of infected individuals. War and displacement also contribute to the spread of the disease. In Burundi, the outbreak started in a refugee camp where refugees from the DRC were thought to have carried it into the country. Other factors such as malnutrition also contributed to the increased mortality rate of measles in these areas.

Yellow Fever in Africa

This mosquito-spread disease is endemic to tropical parts of Africa as well as South and Central America. However, the majority of outbreaks occur in sub-Saharan Africa where 610 million people are at risk of contracting the virus. Yellow fever has long been a challenge in these areas where it infects around 200,000 and kills 30,000 — every year. For instance, in 2020 alone, reports indicated new viral outbreaks of yellow fever in five African countries.

A safe and effective vaccine has been developed and helped reduce outbreaks in the 20th century. However, due to shortages of the vaccine and poor government implementation, the majority of the population does not receive it. Alternatively, it is usually only compulsory for travelers. Furthermore, since the virus is re-occurring, more research is required to keep adapting the vaccine to different strains of yellow fever.

The Takeaway

As evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, viral outbreaks are disruptive and have major economic and social consequences. Poor health reduces the life-span, productivity and life satisfaction of any population. These effects usually fall hardest on the world’s poor — who have less access to treatments or safe water access and sanitation.

Due to the commoditization of the pharmaceutical industry, the populations that need medical intervention most receive it the least. This is simply because they can not afford such expensive treatment. Specific antiviral treatments rarely exist. The best method to reduce the impact of viral outbreaks in impoverished countries is by building better healthcare systems and reducing poverty. As stated by Tedros Adhanom, director of the WHO, “Unless we address [the] root causes – the weak health system, the insecurity and the political instability – there will be another outbreak.”

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in NicaraguaIn Nicaragua, 30% of people live below the poverty line, making it the poorest nation in Central America. Not surprisingly, the risk of major infectious diseases in the nation was labeled as high in 2020. Therefore, a major step towards fighting poverty is to fight disease in Nicaragua.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), Project Hope, and AMOS Health and Hope all fight disease in Nicaragua with different approaches. All of these organizations have similar health-related missions and make a considerable impact on the lives of those in need. Both FIMRC and AMOS focus their efforts on the youth impacted by diseases rather than the entirety of communities. Project Hope can assist a wider range of ages as it focuses its efforts on a smaller region than the other organizations.

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children is a nonprofit working to create sustainable health services for those in need. For almost two decades, the organization has been helping vulnerable health communities through three areas of pediatric clinical services, health education and special initiatives.

The organization’s Nicaragua program Project Limón illustrates its success. Limón is popular for tourists; however, the surrounding areas are considered vulnerable as many locals are left without health services. For instance, 17% of children 5 years and younger in Nicaragua are impacted by chronic malnutrition. FIMRC is working to lower this percentage and disease in Nicaragua in general by catering its program around community needs. After assessing their needs, the organization began to build clinics and provide medical care.

Project Hope

Project Hope focuses its health services on those suffering from diabetes. It also stands out as it concentrates on supporting health professionals. For instance, the organization trains and assists health care workers to maximize the number of people they can help. It places a large emphasis on education rather than aid.

Project Hope began fighting disease in Nicaragua through its partnership with the University of León. Through the partnership, the organization began to establish itself in the nation and support the health infrastructure. For instance, with the help of one of its partners, it administered over a million vaccines of Pneumovax to the population. Also, one of its successful programs benefitted nearly 9,000 women and children through “health education as well as micro-lending training.”

AMOS Health and Hope

AMOS Health and Hope has a broader plan of action compared to the other two groups. The group’s mission statement is to ensure children are not dying from preventable diseases. Similar to FIMRC, it works directly with the community it aims to help to develop long-term health solutions. Its solutions to fight disease in Nicaragua are based around three main pillars: treat, prevent and strengthen.

Although its mission statement is broad, AMOS only works within Nicaragua, catering towards those in vulnerable communities. Within the nation, its efforts help 24 different communities in need. Thus far, it has trained 670 health services workers in those communities and has helped 74,600 individuals.

Overall, although groups have different approaches to fighting disease in Nicaragua, their efforts all work to assist those in need of health services. Supporting the health workers and those in need ensures that both sides of the issue are met.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Reforming Education in NicaraguaReforming education in Nicaragua has been a major focus of rehabilitation efforts over the past few years. Prior to 2015, there were over 800,000 people who were unable to read or write in Nicaragua. Because of the educational barriers that exist in the country, many students were kept from remaining enrolled at their schools or building the necessary confidence to pursue an education. However, over the past five years, Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education (MINED) has worked hard to create superior learning institutions so that Nicaraguan children can have a more accessible, comfortable and innovative education.

The Public Education System

Nicaragua is considered the most impoverished country in Central America. With the unemployment rate rising over 3% in the past five years, the government decided to implement concrete policies that could create enough incentives to keep people enrolled in school and pull them out of poverty.

In Nicaragua, education is not equally accessible to all, even though primary education is compulsory. The government has not yet found the necessary tools to instigate accessible community action and counter the factors that keep students from enrolling in primary or secondary education. Moreover, the struggle to enroll students is not the only obstacle the government faces as over 70% of Nicaraguan children drop out of school before they reach the sixth grade.

Un Ministerio en la Comunidad

The Ministry of Education has been working to improve its participation in society. The ministry’s motto is “un ministerio en la comunidad”, which is Spanish for “a ministry in the community”. The language employed suggests the active role MINED wants to establish in Nicaraguan society, including reforming education in Nicaragua.

In 2017, the government redirected approximately 4% of the entire national GDP to MINED. The repairs that have been done since then directly benefit countless public schools, especially in terms of providing better study conditions to the many children that go to these.

In 2020 alone there have been four reform initiatives focusing on infrastructure reconstruction, student hygiene and health, drug awareness and increasing disability awareness within school institutions and curriculum.

 Initiatives Taken by MINED

  1. Special Education Curriculum Strengthening: For many students with mental and physical disabilities, the traditional classroom setting and curriculum can be overly challenging and discouraging. Because of that many students are left hopeless and unable to learn, making it nearly impossible for them to get a job that pays a livable wage in the future. In February of 2020,  special education directors from Managua to Chontales met and discussed how to implement styling, cooking and music courses into their school curriculum so that disabled students can better adapt to school and to the job market.
  2. My Life Without Drugs Program: Drug use and addiction are one of the leading culprits of high school dropouts, leading many young Nicaraguans to stay in poverty for their entire lives. The Miguel Ramírez Goyena Institute held a drug awareness discussion in March of 2020 for grades nine to eleven, covering the kinds of drugs that are prominent in their community and teaching the students points of prevention.
  3. COVID-19 Health and Hygiene: MINED started as early as March 30 with COVID-19-focused prevention workshops. There have been several health and hygiene panels held to reinforce the awareness of COVID-19 and how to prevent it by washing hands, wearing facial coverings and social distancing students and staff. In addition to that, the Ministry put effort into bringing the digital wave to Nicaragua. According to the official data released, MINED created 23 mobile digital classrooms that help low-income students and educators alike have access to equipment such as tablets, printers, projectors and printers.
  4. Bertha Díaz Educational Center: On July 10, the reconstruction of the Bertha Díaz Educational Center in Managua advanced by 60%. The improved space exhibits a new roof, electrical system and 12 reworked classrooms. The project has taken five million córdobas or $143,856. MINED hopes to have the entire project done by the end of the summer so that the center is up and running for students in the fall.

What’s the Next Step?

The Nicaraguan government has a powerful Ministry of Education that is taking the broken Nicaraguan infrastructure by the horns and pushing full force for a brighter future for the young population. Out of the 6.1 million people living in Nicaragua, 40% of citizens are under the age of 15. Children are the future of Nicaragua and MINED knows that. Each week, new efforts are pushed by those in power towards reforming education in Nicaragua to help bring students to the top of their educational and mental potential. Additional financial support from outside nations will only help bolster the potential for Nicaragua’s students and allow the country to work its way out of poverty.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Nicaragua, although having made tremendous progress in recent years, is still one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. According to the World Bank, 24.9% of Nicaraguans lived in poverty as of 2016. Of those people, 200,000 lived in extreme poverty making less than $1.90 a day. As a result of poverty and harsh climate conditions, hunger in Nicaragua is a prominent issue. Even though approximately 70% of the population works in agriculture, 300,000 people still require food aid. Located in what’s known as the Dry Corridor, Nicaragua faces erratic weather patterns prone to climate shocks that are consistent threats to stable food production. However, in spite of the unfavorable conditions, many organizations and programs are on the ground working to fight hunger in Nicaragua.

5 Initiatives to Fight Hunger in Nicaragua

  1. The World Food Program (WFP) offers various programs and services to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua. Since 1971, WFP has implemented strategies to improve food security. By supporting the National School Meal Program, the organization helped provide meals to more than 182,000 schoolchildren in April of 2020. Following a five-year plan that spans from 2019 to 2023, WFP aims to find long-term solutions to hunger in Nicaragua. Along with direct food assistance, WFP promotes creating efficient and sustainable agricultural practices by providing technical assistance in implementing weather-resilient farming methods, improving degraded ecosystems and developing technology for accurate climate information.
  2. The organization Food for the Hungry believes that chickens can be a catalyst for solving hunger. Food for the Hungry stated that chickens rank close to the top of its annual gift catalog because of their uses in decreasing hunger. The nonprofit sponsored a program in El Porvenir, Nicaragua called “Happy Chicks”. This initiative taught the locals skills related to running a poultry farm, which is a creative and sustainable way to provide daily meals to the community and, especially, children. These skills help communities learn to operate self-sufficiently.
  3. Indigenous women have a history of banding together to develop more sustainable agricultural practices. Slow Food is an organization that values the protection of food culture and understands the importance of responsible food production. The organization partnered with communities of indigenous women in Nicaragua to encourage cooperation in improving the quality of agricultural systems. Women in the organization shared ideas about planting and harvesting crops, while also promoting economic autonomy through marketing and commercializing excess products.
  4. The Caribbean Coast Food Security Project (PAIPSAN) is collaborating with communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to fight hunger. The organization provides assistance to those who would normally not have access to adequate technology or resources to engage in sustainable agricultural practices. PAIPSAN encourages farmers to utilize climate-resistant seeds and organic fertilizers, while also promoting innovative and environmentally friendly pest and disease control practices. The program also provides educational services to increase awareness of improving nutrition.
  5. Food assistance programs are a popular way of directly fighting hunger in Nicaragua. Food assistance programs generally provide a stable source of food for those in need. Hope Road Nicaragua works alongside other organizations, such as the Orphan Network and Rise Against Hunger, to provide 3,000 children with meals that include vitamin-dense rice and soy packs, beans, vegetables, chicken and tortillas.  The Rainbow Network is another food assistance program. It has set up 489 feeding centers, reaching approximately 13,581 people. The Rainbow Network also works with The American Nicaraguan Foundation to train community members on how to cook and operate the feeding centers. The American Nicaraguan Foundation itself is an organization that has provided more than 297.3 million meals to Nicaragua’s most vulnerable in the past 25 years. Along with its network of more than 700 partners, the foundation coordinates a variety of programs and allocates resources dedicated to poverty relief.

Nicaragua has made progress in recent years. However, vulnerable groups still need assistance with fighting hunger, a direct result of poverty in the country. In order to address this, many organizations are working to foster the idea of food sovereignty and fight hunger in Nicaragua. 

Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

Financial Literacy in Costa Rica to Reduce Poverty
Costa Rica is a country in Central America with a population of roughly 5 million. Although Costa Rica is the Central American country with the lowest poverty rate, that does not mean there is no cause for concern. The poverty rate in Costa Rica was 21% as of April 2020 and is only anticipated to worsen in the coming year due to the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19. Because of the global economic slowdown, inequality in Costa Rica can exacerbate as industries contract and unemployment rises.

Financial Literacy and Poverty

In the face of this global economic catastrophe, it is vital to educate the population on financial matters to prevent higher poverty rates. Personal financial literacy is an effective and fundamental tool used to lower national poverty rates. It also helps individuals better manage their finances and business dealings to maximize fiscal stability and growth.

Financial literacy programs have also assisted women in rising out of poverty. Women have a systemic relegation to domestic duties and patriarchal repression in many developing nations. As a result, they are a demographic that have historically been the most vulnerable to global poverty. Financial literacy programs teach women how to manage their own money in order to manage their own businesses. Women can also become more financially independent as opposed to being indebted to others in their family or industry.

Costa Rica’s Position

Costa Rica and Latin America as a region is considered one of the most unequal regions in the world according to the United Nations. One of the most effective strategies to reduce wealth inequality is by implementing education strategies that inhibit intergenerational wealth retention within families. Keeping money in the family and investing in future generations helps children escape the cycle of poverty. It also decreases their likelihood of experiencing marginalization and oppression in society, particularly among women. These tactics justify the use of financial education and programs about financial literacy in Costa Rica.

Solutions

One prominent organization focusing on education regarding financial literacy in Costa Rica is Coopenae. It began as a cooperative of educators in 1966 to give aid to schools and teachers. Now, Coopenae has grown into one of the country’s leading financial institutions to focus on service and education.

Individuals in Costa Rica have had very little education in financial instruments such as mutual funds, pensions and various other commonplace financial strategies. The ability of Costa Ricans to make better financial decisions is a simple matter of informing individuals about how they can access these instruments. Costa Ricans can then begin on the path out of poverty towards financial independence and prosperity. Coopenae plans to assist upwards of 12,000 people within the next two years. It aims at people from primarily low-income and disadvantaged communities.

 

Overall, financial literacy and education programs are extremely effective at reducing poverty rates. They are also effective at giving citizens the ability to properly manage their finances. They also open up the opportunity to start businesses or save for retirement. Therefore, financial literacy in Costa Rica is a smart and effective strategy to diminish poverty and foster a culture of financial responsibility and security.

 

Ian Hawthorne

Photo: Enchanting Costa Rica

Women-Owned BusinessesNonprofit organization Mary’s Pence is working towards a world of empowered women making changes in their communities. To get there, Mary’s Pence partners with grassroots organizations in Canada, the U.S. and Central America to provide funding and development programs for women-owned businesses.

Executive director Katherine Wojtan believes Mary’s Pence is different from other nonprofits because the organization not only cares for the individual women, but also oversees the sustainment of their small businesses. Mary’s Pence also values the idea of “accompaniment,” explained by Wojtan as utilizing the abilities of everyone to accomplish a long-term shared vision. This concept is applied to the organization’s execution of both the programs in the states and in Central America, focusing on improving the whole rather than the individual.

ESPERA

The program in Central America called ESPERA, or Economical Systems Providing Equitable Resources for All, was created almost 12 years ago. “Espera” is the Spanish word for hope, a fitting name for the life-changing program working with women in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

“This is very intentional, it is not about making individual women rich, but about ensuring all women have access to resources and skills to make their way in the world and earn what they need for a good life,” Wojtan said.

ESPERA aids women who were victims of domestic or gang violence or are single mothers struggling to make ends meet. By giving grants to grassroots organizations in struggling communities, Mary’s Pence creates community-lending pools which women can take loans from to start local women-owned businesses that generate income. To ensure success, the staff of Mary’s Pence teach the community loan management and help elect leaders to track the lending.

Gilda Larios, ESPERA team lead, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and worked with Central American refugees before starting work with Mary’s Pence. ESPERA funding gives back to the whole community, not just the women receiving aid. Instead of focusing on building credit, women realize the importance of circulating money and products.

“Their confidence grew – first they asked for a very small loan, and over time they asked for larger loans and grew their businesses,” Larios told The Borgen Project. “With their strength, they are role models for new leadership in the community.”

ESPERA and COVID-19

ESPERA has helped develop many small women-owned businesses that create jobs for their communities and generate income for struggling women. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these businesses at risk as workers feared for their lives, but the ESPERA team responded fast, changing their focus from long-term development to responding immediately to the needs of the women.

As some women panicked about their businesses and the effects of the pandemic, the ESPERA team responded with a 12-week emotional wellness series, delivered via WhatsApp, and supported stores so they could keep reasonable prices for the communities. For women in the midst of paying back loans to the community-lending pool, their status is put on hold until they have the income to continue their payment.

Despite the support network ESPERA provides, the pandemic revealed some gaps in the system. It was challenging to ensure the safety of women experiencing domestic violence. The lack of access to phones and the internet made communication between communities and ESPERA leaders challenging. However, this time of crisis also brought the communities closer and proved the importance of working together through local businesses.

In her interview with The Borgen Project, Larios told of a woman named Aminta, who is in the ESPERA program in San Salvador, El Salvador. She transitioned from working in a “maquila,” or factory, to starting her own business sewing uniforms for local sports teams. During COVID-19, she also began sewing masks to help keep her community healthy. Success stories of women-owned businesses like this one propel communities into further financial security and empower other women to do the same.

Confidence and Creating Futures

Above all, ESPERA and Mary’s Pence hope to give women confidence in their own abilities to create the future they want for themselves and for their families. For Larios, the most rewarding part of working with ESPERA women is the “feeling of satisfaction and joy to see them embrace their possibilities and capacities that before they thought they didn’t have.”

Through ESPERA and their role in the creation of women-owned businesses, Mary’s Pence continues to change women’s lives by showing them the power they already had within themselves.

– Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Google Images

renewable energy in NicaraguaLocated in Central America, between Honduras to the north, and Costa Rica to the south lies Nicaragua. Over the past few years, the country has taken steps to further its already growing renewable energy sector. In 2015 alone, the country was able to produce 54% of its electricity from renewable energy sources. Growth in this sector is notable and is expected to continue.

The Emergence of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua’s government has turned to renewable energy for a few key reasons. One is the country’s natural abundance of renewable resources. Nicaragua experiences powerful winds and large amounts of sunlight on a regular basis. The country is also home to 19 volcanoes—a reliable source of geothermic heat.

The second reason for turning to renewable energy resources is to become energy independent. Nicaragua itself does not produce oil. As a result, Nicaragua has historically relied on imports of fossil fuel resources. While the country still imports foreign oil, the increased production of renewable energy, like geothermal energy from Nicaragua’s volcanoes, has reduced that dependency.

These two reasons have led Nicaragua to increase its consumption of renewable resources over the past few years. Much of the renewable energy that is produced in Nicaragua is sugarcane biofuel, which accounts for 33.2% of the renewable energy sector. The second most used form of renewable energy is geothermal, which comes in at 24.6%, followed by wind energy at 22.5%. The least used forms of renewable energy are solar energy at 0.5% and hydroelectric energy at 0.25%. As the percentages show, Nicaragua is using more renewable energy leading to a diversification of its energy sector. Nicaragua also has the potential to expand the amount of renewable energy produced, particularly from wind. Wind alone produces over 1,000 megawatts.

Benefits of Renewable Energy in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is an extremely poor country with high poverty rates, especially in rural areas. Fortunately, renewable energy has the potential to help the impoverished people of Nicaragua and provide a model for other impoverished nations.

People who live in poverty tend to have a harder time gaining access to electricity because of their inability to afford it. Some forms of renewable energy are becoming more affordable than fossil fuels. Take geothermal energy for example—the second largest form of renewable energy in Nicaragua. This form of energy is 80% cheaper than fossil fuels. Solar energy is on its way to becoming cheaper than fossil fuels as well. While installation of the technology needed to produce renewable energy is initially expensive, once installed, it lowers the cost and increases the accessibility of electricity for impoverished people.

Nicaragua is continuing to develop its renewable energy sector. The reward of this action will be a cleaner environment and cheaper electricity for its impoverished citizens.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Wikimedia

homelessness in El Salvador
In 2001, a major earthquake struck El Salvador leaving many helpless and on the streets. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America despite having a dense population of 6 million people. Now, homelessness in El Salvador is at an all-time high. Currently, over 40% of the population live in run-down homes with dirt for floors. This roughly translates to upwards of 2 million people living in disheveled and decrepit homes. Luckily, there are organizations working towards rebuilding El Salvador.

3 Organizations Combatting Homelessness in El Salvador

  1. Habitat for Humanity: Through two large-scale community projects, Habitat for Humanity has helped homelessness in El Salvador by building homes and making improvements to current houses. Juntos Construyendo mi Casa (Building my House Together), is a project that primarily focuses on constructing new homes for those who are currently in inadequate living situations. It also helps to improve existing homes by replacing dirt floors with tile or wooden flooring. Its second project, Construyendo Empoderamiento con Mujeres (Building Empowerment with Women), works on building new homes while also teaching women about their rights. This project teaches women to perform in jobs typical for males, thus providing career opportunities as well. Around 97,760 Salvadorans have received help through Habitat for Humanity’s programs.
  2. New Story Charity: In 2018, New Story Charity printed its first 3D house in Austin, Texas in under 24 hours. New Story partnered with the robotics construction company, ICON. Together, they began working to expand this construction to countries that need it most, such as El Salvador. Currently, a 3D house costs around $10,000, but New Story Charity’s goal is to reduce that price to $4,000. New Story is raising $1 million to be able to begin the construction of more homes. Though the introduction of 3D homes is new, New Story Charity has constructed over 850 non-3D homes in Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico and Bolivia. 3D homes in Tabasco, Mexico have already created an entire community of these low-cost homes. In the upcoming years, New Story Charity will begin bringing 3D homes to El Salvador. Through the development of 3D homes, homelessness in El Salvador could drastically reduce.
  3. La Carpa: Tim Ross and Erica Olson founded La Carpa, meaning “The Tent,” in the summer of 2018. Though being a Christian based organization, Ross welcomes any religious backgrounds. La Carpa provides food for many of the homeless in the community. It began with distributing coffee, food and water, but is now expanding to creating hospitality houses with the hopes of building a better and closer community. On average, 30 people visit La Carpa daily to receive coffee and a meal. La Carpa aims at not only provide food and housing to the most vulnerable but also friendship and a sense of belonging.

Though El Salvador faced great destruction in the past, it is working towards rebuilding. Through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, New Story Charity and La Carpa, homelessness in El Salvador is reducing and many of the displaced are moving off the streets and into homes.

– Erin Henderson 
Photo: Flickr