How Costa Rica’s New Infrastructure Will Help Reduce PovertyOn May 4, 2021, President Carlos Alvarado addressed Costa Rica with the State of the Republic, a yearly analysis of the country’s accounts, progress and goals for the future. In his speech, he discussed the various infrastructure projects set to begin in Costa Rica. The projects will create opportunities for employment and reduce poverty across the country. President Alvarado’s plan for Costa Rica’s new infrastructure projects responds to the current economic crisis in the country. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty in Costa Rica has hit an all-time high since 1992, with 26.2% of families in the country experiencing household poverty.

New Infrastructure to Reduce Poverty in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s economy is sustained by tourism, a sector that hit a sharp decline as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, Costa Rica’s “economy shrank by 4.5%” while unemployment rose by 6%. The various infrastructure projects which President Alvarado discussed aim to decrease poverty in the country and help bring Costa Rica out of its economic slump.

  1. Road Infrastructure. In his address, President Alvarado emphasized the need for improving roads and bridges across Costa Rica. He remarked that the Government intends on accessing a loan in order to treat all roads in the country with an asphalt seal and improve bridges across Costa Rica. The transformation of Costa Rica’s road infrastructure is a considerable undertaking that would provide thousands of people with jobs. Improving roads will lead to decreased congestion and facilitate transportation throughout the country. This directly benefits Costa Ricans and increases their access to jobs, which would greatly decrease the country’s record-high levels of poverty.
  2. Educational Infrastructure. Another key subject that Alvarado touched upon is the need for equal education opportunities for Costa Ricans. Investing in education infrastructure will help achieve this goal. Education for all Costa Ricans is important because education breaks cycles of poverty. Educating impoverished people on nutrition, health and safety can help them improve their living conditions. Additionally, educating children will provide them with the knowledge and skills to secure future employment and lift their families out of poverty.
  3. Land for Indigenous Groups. President Alvarado has a special recovery plan for indigenous territories. In the State of the Republic, he pledged monetary funding to address the inequities indigenous Costa Ricans experience due to existing legislation. The indigenous groups in Costa Rica have historically been subjected to slavery, displacement and exclusion and are disproportionately affected by poverty. Ensuring indigenous land rights are protected and prioritizing aid for indigenous people’s development would help reduce poverty across Costa Rica.
  4. Public Transportation. President Alvarado discussed an initiative to transition to electric mobility. The President “requested the support of Congress to approve a project to modernize public bus transport.” Additionally, the Costa Rican President introduced the Greater Metropolitan Area Electric Passenger Train, which is expected to generate almost 2,670 jobs, ignite economic growth and attract investors to the country. Another railway project that the President presented to Costa Rica is the Limon Electric Freight Train (TELCA). The construction of public transportation projects will provide Costa Ricans throughout the country with jobs and facilitate transportation between communities in order to spur economic growth.

Costa Rica’s commitments directly benefit citizens and the economy. Costa Rica’s new infrastructure projects show the country’s commitment to developing Costa Rica and reducing poverty.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Costa Rica’s SuccessWhile numerous well-publicized problems plague many Latin American countries, especially in Central America, Costa Rica’s success as a nation stems from several factors. For decades, Costa Rica has had a more open political system and provided a better quality of life than its neighbors. Costa Rica is considered one of the happiest and most sustainable countries in the world. As news stories of Central America are often negative, Costa Rica provides a success story that inspires hope.

Political Stability and Representation

Since 1949, Costa Rica has maintained a stable and democratic government. Therefore, Costa Rica has avoided the political and gang violence that other Central American countries struggle with. Costa Rica has a strong constitution that enshrines many democratic rights, ensuring that rights are not eroded and that Costa Rican people are represented. Many people credit democratic values for Costa Rica’s success.

Costa Rica’s government has gained a reputation in Latin America for its socially progressive policies. Moreover, these politics led to much greater female representation in government than in many comparable countries. The nation has had a female president and has a very high proportion of women in its legislature. Women now comprise 45.6% of the legislature, which is the ninth-highest in the world.

The Economy, Education and Healthcare

Costa Rica has one of the most developed economies in Latin America. The economy is generally stable and had not experienced a significant downturn in decades until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The poverty rate halved in the past two decades and the country maintains a strong export economy. The country grows at an economic rate of 2.5%  annually. Costa Rica’s success in the economic realm is also because the government does not have an army, freeing up funds to spend on social programs and development.

Costa Rica is considered an upper-middle-income country with the lowest poverty rate in Central America. About 20% of the country earns less than $155 a month, pushing them into the poverty category. In terms of the international poverty line, less than 2% of Costa Ricans are considered impoverished —  an impressive accomplishment.

Costa Rica has a high-quality education system and its citizens have a high reputation for being well-educated. Education in the country is sufficiently accessible. Furthermore, according to the World Economic Forum, Costa Rica invested 8% of its GDP into education in 2019. Costa Rica has the second-highest life expectancy in North America, just behind Canada. Furthermore, the country’s robust healthcare system is considered to be one of the best in Latin America.

Happiness and Sustainability

Costa Rica was ranked the most sustainable and happy country on Earth by the Happy Planet Index. The country’s commitment to green energy and environmental sustainability can provide an example for the rest of the world. Costa Rica generates more than 99% of its energy from renewable sources, primarily relying on hydropower. It has also reversed deforestation and designated one-third of its land as protected natural reserves. This environmental protection preserves the country’s beauty and supports the tourism industry, a vital part of the economy.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Costa Rica
Known as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, Costa Rica is a place of beautiful scenery, tourist hotspots and lively culture. However, Costa Rica needs to address human trafficking. Human trafficking in Costa Rica is one of the only areas in which the country falls short in comparison to its Central American neighbors. When it comes to GDP, level of happiness, human development and corruption, Costa Rica performs quite well. Here is some insight into human trafficking in Costa Rica and why it is so prevalent.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 aids the U.S. government’s anti-trafficking efforts by providing the implements necessary to monitor and combat trafficking across the world and in the United States. The amended act authorized the establishment of The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (PITF) as well as the Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).

Every year, the Secretary of State submits a TIP report ranking a list of countries requiring special scrutiny. The Secretary of State ranks each country or territory in one out of four tiers.

  • Tier 1: Countries and territories that have governments that fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards.
  • Tier 2: Countries and territories that have governments that do not fully comply with the TVPAs minimum standards, but are taking significant steps to meet the requirements.
  • Tier 2 Watchlist: Countries and territories that are in Tier 2 and are increasing in the estimated number of trafficking victims without taking proportional actions or the country or territory’s government and failing to provide sufficient evidence of increasing efforts in combating human trafficking from the previous year.
  • Tier 3: Countries and territories that possess governments that do not fully comply with TVPAs minimum standards and are not making any efforts to do so.

The Situation in Costa Rica

In 2020, Costa Rica was in Tier 2 under the TVPA. If human trafficking in Costa Rica does not show increasing progress over the next few years, it could fall to Tier 3. Not only does Tier 3 mean international disrepute, but it has serious economic consequences in regards to foreign assistance. Efforts to decrease human trafficking in Costa Rica include:

  • Increasing victim identification.
  • Investigating and convicting more traffickers.
  • Making human trafficking cases among its top priorities.
  • Using a larger percentage of its anti-trafficking budget.

Prioritized Recommendations for the Costa Rican Government

Although these steps by the Costa Rican government are significant, the country is falling short in some areas. The TIP report for Costa Rica includes “Prioritized Recommendations.” Here are some recommendations that Costa Rica could undertake:

  • Increase anti-trafficking training for police, prosecutors and judges.
  • Intensify investigation efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses.
  • Fund and implement a judicial action plan for investigations and prosecutions.
  • Coordinate with civil society to increase victim identification.
  • Reduce the number of trafficking cases that are experiencing a backlog in the judicial system.
  • Strengthen efforts to convict child sex tourists.

Factors of Human Trafficking in Costa Rica

Due to a lack of resources and job opportunities, systematic inequality and poverty most frequently link to human trafficking. Even though Costa Rica is among the least poor countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, it has not seen much economic growth since 2010, and about 21% of its population lives in poverty.

Another factor contributing to human trafficking in Costa Rica is its prostitution laws. Although the facilitation and promotion of prostitution are illegal, the act of prostitution is not a crime. This makes Costa Rica reputable as a sex tourism destination. It is the number one destination in Central America for sex tourism. The legality of prostitution makes corruption easy in regards to trafficking minors as well as making sex establishments more accessible.

Behind drugs, human trafficking is the second-most profitable illegal industry. According to The International Labor Organization (ILO), profits from human trafficking are around $150 billion annually. The high earnings of the industry are another factor that promotes human trafficking in Costa Rica.

There are also cultural factors that affect human trafficking in Costa Rica. For instance, Costa Rica has a strong presence of masculinity. As a result, many men in Costa Rica view women as sexual objects. Factors such as traditional gender views, sexual harassment and domestic violence strengthen the systematic inequality in Costa Rica and put women at more risk for exploitation.

Taking Action

Multiple institutions are coordinating together to prevent human trafficking in Costa Rica. The National Coalition against Illicit Smuggling and Trafficking of Migrants (CONATT) coordinates short and long-term assistance to trafficking victims in the form of shelter, food and medical care. Chaired by Migration Authority, CONATT comprises 22 public institutions, key NGOs and international organizations. They meet periodically to review progression in areas such as research, prevention, protection and prosecution. They take action to raise awareness via workshops, fairs, advertisements and training on how to identify and prevent trafficking. As these preventative measures continue, Costa Rica could be on its way to Tier 1 placement under the TVPA.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Blue economy in Costa Rica According to the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC), poverty affects 26.2% of households in Costa Rica, representing more than 1.5 million people. This is the highest number since 1992. The Costa Rican poverty rate increased drastically because of the economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic development and improvement, through initiatives in creating a blue economy in Costa Rica, will help to reduce poverty and improve standards of living with sustainable development.

What is a Blue Economy?

According to the World Bank, a blue economy can be defined as the use of oceanic resources through sustainable methods in order to improve lives and job opportunities, while maintaining a clean marine ecosystem, which essentially stimulates economic growth. The main goal of a blue economy is to protect the health of the ocean and stimulate economic growth with increased opportunities in the areas of employment and innovation. A blue economy consists of several sectors that specialize in marine production like fisheries, aquaculture, renewable marine energy, marine biotechnology and maritime transport.

Establishing a Blue Economy in Costa Rica

Since Costa Rica is a coastal country that is rich in natural marine resources, the development of a blue economy will open new markets and result in economic growth. Costa Rica is abundant in offshore resources like tuna. Systems created by a blue economy can use these resources in sustainable ways. Another potential boost to the economy is the growth of sport fishing and ecotourism, which also results in increased job opportunities. The Instituto Costarricense de Pesca y Acuicultura (INCOPESCA) developed the $90 million Sustainable Fisheries Development Project to support the growth of a blue economy in Costa Rica through the development of sustainable fisheries and the support of fishing families.

Another project, the Oceans Economy and Trade Strategies (OETS) project, was implemented in Costa Rica in 2018 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United States Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS). The OETS project supports Costa Rica in the development of sustainable use of marine resources and maximizing potential economic benefits. Under the project, Costa Rica can develop sustainable fishing strategies to improve food security and health among citizens, which is characteristic of a blue economy.

Opportunities for Women

A blue economy in Costa Rica opens up more opportunities for women in the workforce. Gender inequality is a global issue that affects women in many areas, including jobs. If the gender gap is narrowed, the global GDP is estimated to grow by $13 trillion in 2030. Since women make up most of the workforce in fisheries and maritime tourism, blue economies benefit women the most in terms of poverty and health. Blue economies advance gender equality through an increase in technology and resources, which women oftentimes lack in the marine workforce. Increasing job opportunities for women in fisheries and marine tourism will diversify innovative aquaculture, which aids in further boosting the economy.

Additional Support

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) shows support for the strides made toward blue economies in Central America. The Central American project implemented by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) in 2019 aims to help regulate challenges in the blue economy. The GEF contributed $6.8 million from the GEF Trust Fund toward the development of blue economies in Central America. The contribution goes toward assessing challenges and opportunities in the blue economies of Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. The financing will go toward collaboration within Central America to create the best methods to flourish in a blue economy.

Conclusively, these efforts will not only eradicate poverty in Costa Rica but also lead to more food security. Furthermore, they boost and empower the economic opportunities of women.

– Simone Riggins
Photo: Flickr

Organizations in Costa RicaAs of March 2021, Costa Rica has seen more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases. In January 2021, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado announced a signed budget to allocate funding for COVID-19 vaccines to 3.7 million residents older than 18. At the same time, organizations in Costa Rica are working to alleviate poverty and support refugees and citizens affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HIAS Costa Rica

According to HIAS, a nonprofit that protects refugees worldwide, Costa Rica hosted 80,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Nicaragua and 20,000 from El Salvador, Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela. HIAS Costa Rica has focused on providing legal support and gender-based violence protection for asylum seekers since 2017. In an interview with The Borgen Project, HIAS Costa Rica’s country director, Gabriela Nunez, explains that the HIAS mission is to protect people seeking refuge in other countries.

Nunez states that the HIAS Costa Rica established the Supporting Economic Inclusion of Refugees and Asylum-Seeking Women Affected by COVID-19 project with the British Embassy. This project aided 20 Costa Rican women entrepreneurs affected by the pandemic by helping them develop skills to strengthen and innovate their businesses.

In late 2019, HIAS Costa Rica authorized an employment market study “to help design interventions that promote safe and sustainable livelihoods and help vulnerable people become self-reliant.” This study resulted in HIAS working on socioeconomic support projects including the Poverty Alleviation Coalition with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

HIAS Costa Rica’s collaboration with the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration helps with the Venezuelan refugee response on the R4V platform. R4V is a Venezuelan migrant and refugee coordination platform that has addressed Venezuelan migrant needs with partner organizations since 2018. R4V partner organizations helped 705 Venezuelans in Costa Rica acquire medical insurance in February 2021. Additionally, 16 Venezuelan homes obtained rental assistance in Costa Rica and 67 refugees received food.

The International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) began working with Costa Rica in 1954. The organization focuses on protecting immigrants in the country and improving the Costa Rican emigration process. IOM Costa Rica also collaborates with the government and partner organizations to address immigration challenges in Costa Rica.

The IOM supported the implementation of health protocols included in a binational agreement in which migrants work to harvest coffee in Los Santos, Costa Rica. The protocols called for the coffee companies to provide COVID-19 tests for 20% of the migrants entering Costa Rica, and on arrival, migrants must be quarantined for 14 days. Furthermore, in February 2021, the IOM donated emergency supplies to the Community Emergency Committee of Frailes in Desamparados, San José. The organization also opened a sixth migrant center in Limón, Costa Rica, in January 2021. The center focuses on integrating migrants into the workforce as a strategy to support Costa Rica.

Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children

The Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) has represented Alajuelita, Costa Rica, since 2004. In 2020, FIMRC established a virtual volunteer program. FIMRC developed Project Alajuelita to serve the 12,500 Nicaraguan refugees and low-income Costa Ricans in the area. The organization established a clinic near Alajuelita because refugees are often excluded from the national healthcare system.

FIMRC field operations manager for Costa Rica, Tatiana Blanco, told The Borgen Project that the WhatsApp health education campaign and telepsychology line was initiated to replace group clinical care and health education programs during COVID-19. FIMRC director of global operations, Madeleine Randolet, told The Borgen Project that the Alajuelita WhatsApp campaign reached 630 people. The WhatsApp communications with those people totaled more than 40,000 messages throughout the pandemic. Randolet also stated that almost 40% of primary care and 84% of psychology sessions in Project Alajuelita were offered through virtual consultations in 2020. FIMRC delivered medications and health education to patients while maintaining social distancing protocols.

The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CRHF) based in Santa Ana, Costa Rica, has helped indigenous and poverty-stricken populations since 1997. Its work recently focused on the 25,000 people living in La Carpio, Costa Rica. CRHF maintains its integral values of innovation, integrity, cooperation and cost-efficiency in all of its projects. CRHF executive director, Gail Nystrom, told The Borgen Project that the CRHF established two schools and programs relating to sports, refugees and women’s support in La Carpio. Nystrom reports that the CRHF fed 2,000 people per week with near-expired food. CRHF accomplished this through an Auto Mercado supermarket partnership that employed 10 people during COVID-19. Nystrom notes that the CRHF built five clinics in an indigenous area of Costa Rica. CRHF completed this task with help from a Japanese government grant in 2020.

Organizations in Costa Rica have focused on protecting vulnerable areas of Costa Rica during COVID-19. With assistance and aid from organizations, Costa Ricans can look toward a brighter tomorrow.

Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to healthcare, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old and children under the age of 18 make up the largest group of the poor. Additionally, many of the children who are impacted by child poverty in Costa Rica are indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory and many children have access to the education system. However, many children who come from poor families or rural areas miss out on education because they work to provide for their families. About 8% of children in Costa Rica are not educated and 9% of children from the ages of 5 to 14 are economically active as their families depend on the money their children generate. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in poor regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.

  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. About 36,000 children in Costa Rica are orphans and due to the lack of or dysfunction in their family structures, many of these children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.

  3. Although Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system, there are still issues regarding child mortality. Roughly, 10% of children in Costa Rica die before reaching the age of 5. These are often the children who are born into families living below the poverty line, indigenous families or rural families.

  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, there were over 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, though it is estimated that much more went unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure has serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica. The organization provides Costa Rican children with day-care, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. Children whose parents cannot take care of them are often taken in. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can be successfully alleviated.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Costa RicaThe country of Costa Rica has an abundance of natural resources available. The particularly abundant renewable resources that Costa Rica uses in great quantity is its wind and hydro energy. Costa Rica has embraced renewable energy and has benefitted from it in a multitude of ways but there are also some less obvious ways it has benefitted from renewable energy.

Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Renewable energy has helped small business owners and farmers. This would explain why so many of them are supportive of renewable energy. Since deforestation has been largely stopped because of renewable energy, the biodiversity in Costa Rica has been able to remain. Costa Rica’s mass only makes up 0.03% of the Earth. Nonetheless, 6% of the Earth’s natural wealth and biodiversity is located within Costa Rica.

It is this biodiversity that has become so useful to the farmers of Costa Rica. Biodiversity reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides that the farmers would normally use. Other natural resources can be used for farming as well. Cacao shells, for example, can be used for mulch and logs can be used to make the soil richer.

Renewable Energy Helps Tourism

Tourism has also benefitted from renewable energy in Costa Rica. Tourism is an extremely important part of Costa Rica’s economy. Tourism alone brings in about $1 billion to the country and employs around 155,000 people. This is a substantial amount of people in a country home to about four million people. Renewable energy indirectly helps protect tourism in Costa Rica, in particular, ecotourism. By protecting these natural resources, Costa Rica ensures that people will continue to visit the country to see the beauty of its natural and conserved environments.

The Los Santos Wind Power Project

Renewable energy has also helped small and local communities in many ways. Los Santos is one such area that has seen these positive impacts. Los Santos has particularly benefitted from the use of wind energy. The area is one of the windiest regions within Costa Rica. Currently, the Lost Santos Wind Power Project is installing wind turbines in the region.

The project has built enough windmills in the area that the region is able to generate 12.75 MW of wind energy, provide 50,000 inhabitants with the electricity they need and prevent around 15,000 tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year. The energy produced by the wind turbines can then be sold to the government. The money that is earned can be used to help the local community. For example, the money made from selling energy that is produced can be used for the construction of new schools. Additionally, the installation of wind turbines will also create new jobs for people. To keep turbines functioning and ensure they receive repairs when needed, technicians must be available to work on them.

Renewable Energy, Renewable Hope

Renewable energy in Costa Rica is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, as set out above. The money from the generation of renewable energy can be used to help small communities. The tourism industry in Costa Rica will continue to thrive and because the environment will remain undamaged so will the amount of biodiversity that helps farmers.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

help Nicaraguan RefugeesThe massive protests in Nicaragua, which began in April of 2018, has led to a humanitarian crisis. Thousands of Nicaraguans have left the country, the majority fleeing to neighboring Costa Rica. Civil unrest, poverty and COVID-19 have contributed to several issues Nicaraguan refugees are facing. Organizations have dedicated efforts to assist with the humanitarian crisis in Central America and help Nicaraguan refugees.

The Ortega Regime

In April 2018, Nicaraguan president, Daniel Ortega, announced pension cuts for his citizens. Following the announcement, protesters filled the streets of multiple Nicaraguan cities. The protesters demanded that pension cuts be canceled and requested an end to the years of corruption committed by the Ortega regime. The protesters were met with violence, with more than 300 dead and thousands injured or missing. Journalists covering the anti-government protests were harassed and attacked by authorities, ultimately silencing the free press. The government has been accused of using ‘weapons of war’ on its citizens and committing human rights violations. Consequently, the political unrest has created a push factor for migration out of the country.

Two-thirds of Nicaraguan refugees have fled to neighboring Costa Rica. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), 81,000 Nicaraguans have applied for asylum in Costa Rica. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees. The UNCHR found that since the pandemic, 14% of refugees eat once a day or less and 63% of Nicaraguan refugees eat only two meals a day. Moreover, many Nicaraguans have lost steady income, increasing the chances of falling deeper into poverty.

Humanitarian Aid: UNCHR

To handle the influx of refugees into Costa Rica, the country needed assistance from NGOs. In February 2020, the UNCHR granted Costa Rica $4.1 million to reduce poverty for Nicaraguan refugees. Furthermore, the UNCHR grant pays for legal assistance and civil organizations that help migrants. As much as 53% of Nicaraguan refugees had no health insurance, but with the help of the UNCHR, around 6,000 now have medical insurance through the Costa Rican Social Security System.

The IFRC Helps Nicaraguan Refugees

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is also actively partaking in addressing the humanitarian crisis for Nicaraguan refugees. The IFRC’s mission is to “meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.” Moreover, the IFRC is the largest humanitarian organization in the world,  assisting displaced people around the world with resources and relief. Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, called the migration crisis during a pandemic a “catastrophe.” Furthermore, Rocca has called the attention of government officials to take care of the most vulnerable, asylum seekers because they are most severely impacted by COVID-19.

Corner of Love Helps Migrants

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border restrictive, making it harder for migrants to cross. Additionally, the pandemic has created more uncertainty for the futures of Nicaraguan refugees. Despite these struggles, NGOs are not giving up on this vulnerable population. The NGO, Corner of Love, is assisting migrants at the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border. Corner of Love ensures migrants have access to food and hygiene products, thus contributing to the well-being of Nicaraguan refugees.

The efforts of organizations stepping in to help Nicaraguan refugees with the humanitarian crisis give struggling people hope for a brighter tomorrow.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

SDG 7 in Costa Rica
Costa Rica ranks 35th out of 193 countries in the United Nations 2020 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Report. This is quite an impressive feat for a Central American nation of just 5 million people. Especially when compared to its southern and northern neighbors — Panama and Nicaragua, which rank 81st and 85th, respectively. While challenges remain for many of Costa Rica’s sustainable development goals, the country is doing a remarkable job of achieving and maintaining SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy. SDG 7 aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” Costa Rica is often lauded as one of the greenest nations on Earth and is consistently viewed as a case study in the development and application of renewable energy. Below is a brief update on three components of SDG 7 in Costa Rica, i.e. affordable and clean energy.

Population with Access to Electricity

The latest U.N. estimate finds that 99.6% of Costa Ricans have access to electricity. This is great for not only the government (in their attempt to achieve the SDG 7) but for everyday Costa Ricans who have a steady stream of electricity. Costa Rica is ahead of the curve in the methods that it uses to generate power; 98% of its electricity comes from renewable energy sources. In breaking down this 98% figure into its parts — 72% is hydropower, 16% wind, 9% geothermal and 1% biomass/solar. This virtually universal access to electricity from renewable sources is the basis for providing affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica.

Access to Clean Fuels & Technology for Cooking

Clean cooking fuels and technology are classified by the SDG report as those that lead to fewer emissions and/or are more fuel-efficient. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), kerosene is not a clean fuel. The SDG panel (composed of experts from the WHO, International Energy Agency, World Bank and other prominent organizations) estimates that nearly 3 billion people use “traditional stoves and fuels” which pose risks to human health, the environment and the climate.

Additionally, estimates point to household air pollution as the cause of death for 4.3 million people per year. Costa Rica’s nearly universal access to electricity and its foundation in renewable energy sources affords more than 93% of households access to clean fuels and technology for cooking. In contrast, just over 50% of Nicaraguan homes have access to clean energy and technology for daily cooking. Among Central American nations, Costa Rica leads the way in terms of progressing towards this fully realized, key component of SDG 7.

CO₂ Emissions: Fuel Combustion for Electricity & Heating

Costa Rica is bested in this statistic by only two nations in all of North and South America (Paraguay and Uruguay). While the SDG report lists Costa Rica as “on track” toward reaching zero emissions in this category, Costa Rica’s CO₂ emissions from fuel combustion for electricity and heating are marginally higher than its emissions in 2000. In this regard, SDG 7 in Costa Rica has room for improvement. However, both numbers are still lower than about 90% of all U.N. nations.

A Commitment to Further Progress

Affordable and clean energy in Costa Rica is a shining example of the country’s progress and strengths within its annual SDG report. This is due to Costa Rica’s stunning foundation of renewable energy and its commitment to developing and providing access to cheap, clean and reliable energy to citizens. The Ticos (native Costa Ricans) recognize the need to go even further and are dedicating themselves towards becoming a net-zero emitter by 2050 — with their recent Decarbonization Plan. Costa Rica is a model for countries seeking a shift towards clean energy amid the stark realities of the 21st-century climate situation.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Flickr