Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a truly unique place; it contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity and people categorize it as one of the happiest countries in the world. Its economy is stable, showing a little more than a 3 percent yearly growth rate. Costa Rica has had some challenges with sanitation but is working to improve it throughout the country. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica

  1. Around 99 percent of the population has access to a water source, but only 82 percent have continued access to a reliable water drinking source. This number has improved since 2015 when only 92.4 percent of people had access to a clean water source. Moreover, clean water access is continuing to improve with community and public-based programs such as Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA), an organization that works to raise funding to expedite current projects to provide nationwide access to water.
  2. Costa Rica’s unpredictable climate and susceptibility to natural disasters are its biggest hurdles to developing better infrastructure for water sanitation. For example, a drought in Costa Rica from 2014 to 2016 caused by El Niño drastically hindered the construction of new infrastructure to expand water access in the country. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank predicts that Costa Rica’s water supply will reduce by half by 2050, despite increasing demand.
  3. The Integrated Water Supply Programme for Guanacaste (PIAAG) works with other organizations to implement fixed and long-lasting solutions to water sanitation. Proposed solutions to improving water sanitation include irrigation, drainage and drinking water projects. More institutions developed a plan from 2018-2030 to maintain ecosystems while improving water sanitation and access.
  4. Pollution of water sources, mainly through human activity and inefficient land usage, also drastically affects the availability of water to citizens. In order to fix the problem of water pollution, Costa Rica provides incentives to clean up water sources. The National Water Laboratory monitors the use of agricultural pesticides and their runoff.
  5. Costa Rica currently treats only 14 percent of wastewater before releasing it to the public, but Costa Rica is trying to fix this problem. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan emerged in 2017, and it hopes to safely manage all wastewater by the year 2045. The organization allocated $3.6 million to expand access to water in urban areas and $2.5 million to increase water access and quality in rural areas. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan became public policy in 2017.
  6. Across the country, several projects to clean sewage are taking place, including eight projects in tourist areas and 10 to improve the conditions of existing sewage plants. For example, the Administrations Associations of the Systems of the Aqueducts and Communal Sewers (ASADAS) works to build, monitor, operate and maintain rural water aqueducts. Water sanitation projects in Costa Rica receive funding from inside the country and from foreign countries, like Germany, which funded eight coastal projects.
  7. The fast population growth and desire of citizens to live in urban areas of the country, rather than rural areas, has further complicated the sewage problem. This, in some cases, leaves inadequate sewage in the overcrowded cities. In the most populated cities, only 19.4 percent of sewage receives treatment. Many regulations in Costa Rica, such as “Ley General de Salud” (General Health Law), have emerged to establish basic requirements for water sewage in Costa Rica.
  8. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health is an important organization that works to provide people improved access to sanitation. For example, the Ministry of Health controls the National Observatory of Human Resources in Health. It establishes academic and research institutions to study the causes and effects of poor sanitation, along with social government organizations that advocate for government action through public policy.
  9. During Hurricane Otto in 2016, waterborne viruses such as Zika and dengue spread among the population, and the Ministry of Health sent workers to help control the outbreak. Soon after, President Luis Guillermo Solís stated that the government would build more toilets, showers and water fountains for residents. The Ministry of Health also sends garbage trucks to pick up trash around especially populated urban areas.
  10. The last of the 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica discusses child mortality in Costa Rica, which has decreased greatly over the past few decades, going from 68 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to about 8.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018. One can attribute the decrease to an extension of health care programs to rural and communal areas.

While Costa Rica still has far to go in improving its sanitation, the overall sanitation of the country has improved greatly over the past few decades. These 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica demonstrate Costa Rica’s planned pathway to improving sanitation, and overall, Costa Rica’s future is looking bright.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica
Located in the heart of Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Costa Rica is famous for its thriving wildlife, but what many may not realize is that Costa Rica prides itself as one of the greenest countries in the world. Here are 10 facts about renewable energy in Costa Rica.

10 Facts about Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

  1. Most of Costa Rica’s energy comes from renewable sources. More than 99 percent of the energy in Costa Rica was generated from renewable sources in 2019. According to the country’s National Center for Energy Control, Costa Rica has been running on more than 98 percent renewable energy since 2014. The majority of this energy, 67.5 percent, comes from hydropower. Additionally, wind power generates 17 percent, geothermal sources make up 13.5 percent and biomass and solar panels comprise 0.84 percent. The remaining 1.16 percent is from backup plants.
  2. Costa Rica has universal access to electricity. Costa Rica has an estimated population of 5.05 million people. In 2018, at least 79 percent of the population lived in urban areas, and 20 percent lived in rural areas. Both rural and urban populations benefit from renewable energy in Costa Rica, as 100 percent of the households have access to electricity generated from renewable sources.
  3. Costa Rica lasted 300 consecutive days on renewable energy alone. Costa Rica set the record in 2017 for most consecutive days with renewable energy. The previous record for this feat was in 2015 when Costa Rica lasted 299 consecutive days on pure, clean energy.
  4. Deforestation has successfully been reversed in Costa Rica. Deforestation is detrimental to both civilization and wildlife. It can make agricultural practices and maintaining food supply difficult as it can lead to climate change, desertification, soil erosion and increased greenhouse gases. Beginning in the 1980s, the government of Costa Rica implemented policies to protect its natural forests. By 2016, the amount of land covered by forest has doubled to more than 50 percent of the country’s total landmass.
  5. Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program. Costa Rica created the PES program in the 1990s as part of protective policies put in place to combat deforestation. The success of renewable energy in Costa Rica is partially due to the pioneering of this program. Through it, landowners receive direct payments for ecological services when they adopt techniques that do not negatively impact the environment and maintain quality of life. The ecological services that can be provided include clean water, irrigation, energy production, biodiversity and scenic beauty. This allows for landowners, especially farmers, to earn an extra income even during unprofitable seasons.
  6. Costa Rica is producing so much energy that it can be sold. The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) began selling its energy surplus to Central America’s Regional Electricity Market in 2015. The electricity helps power Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and El Salvador. By 2019, Costa Rica has earned more than $180 million in sales of surplus energy.
  7. Costa Rica has committed to eliminating fossil fuels. In 2018, Costa Rica’s new president, Carlos Alvarado, announced at his inauguration that he plans to ban all fossil fuels and become the world’s first decarbonized country. The plan will begin in 2021 and features ideas that tackle problems in the transportation sector, such as implementing fully electric trains by 2050.
  8. There’s a roadblock in Costa Rica’s green vision. The transportation sector is one of Costa Rica’s weakest links. Much of the infrastructure, even in cities, is in poor condition. This leads to more people relying on cars than on public transportation. Costa Rica’s State of the Region reports that there are 287 cars per 1,000 people. Fewer than 2 percent of these cars are hybrids or electric cars. This generates a demand for fossil fuels (oil) with gas spending on the rise.
  9. Additionally, 82 percent of the population has access to clean drinking water. Nearly all households in Costa Rica have access to an improved water source. An improved water source includes piped water in a home or from another source, such as a public tap, wells or rainwater collection. However, this doesn’t mean that all households have water safe for drinking. Even though most of Costa Rica’s renewable energy comes from hydropower, the water supply is not very clean. About 18 percent of Costa Rica’s population lacks access to drinking water due to a shortage of infrastructure and government support. Unfortunately, minority groups make up this 18 percent, including people who are indigenous, impoverished, Afro-descendants and migrant workers.
  10. People in Costa Rica live healthier, longer lives. In a 2015 study by Bloomberg, Costa Rica was ranked as the healthiest country in Latin America and 24th in the world. Additionally, Costa Rica has one of the highest average life expectancy at 80 years. In fact, according to a study in 2016, Costa Rica’s poor live longer than the poor in the United States. Further, the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S. could be part of the reason why. This could also be due to psychosocial factors. Costa Rica’s unofficial slogan is Pura Vida, meaning “pure life.” Pura Vida is about slowing down and relaxing to enjoy what life has to offer.

Costa Rica is by no means perfect. As the government devotes much of its efforts to environmental sustainability, it takes away from maintaining infrastructure throughout the country. However, it is clear that Costa Rica is doing something right. The majority of the population has access to clean water and electricity, which is due to the enormous production of renewable energy. “Pura Vida” may just be a saying in Costa Rica, but it certainly connects to the country’s commitment to relying on what nature has to offer.

Emily Young 
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Fisheries in Costa Rica
The world knows Costa Rica, a country in Central America, for its fishery practices. Tourism and recreational fishing produces about $331 million yearly and has also created more than 60,000 work opportunities. Fisheries in Costa Rica are notorious for the increasing number of women that manage the nation’s industry; only 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs in Costa Rica.

Women’s Work in Fisheries

Jeannette Pérez, a business leader, began working at a local fishery after moving to Costa Rica a few years prior. In 2018, Pérez began taking part in the Action Plan of the National Platform of Sustainable Large Pelagic Fisheries, organized by UNDP through its Green Commodities Programme. The Green Commodities Programme’s goal is to discover modern solutions to progress the environmental, economic and social operations of pelagic species such as tuna, mahi-mahi and swordfish, which are all fish that have suffered a recent decline.

Pérez has nearly 30 years of experience in the recreational fishing industry. She is also the main leader in Costa Rica’s mission to implement sustainable practices as per the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Pérez is also the first female to serve on the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Pérez feels that the organization, National Platform for Sustainable Large Pelagics Fisheries, is necessary for the fisheries in Costa Rica to maintain their fishing practices and to conquer the current issue involving a limited supply of fish.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, which oversees the fishing industry in conjunction with the Ministry of Environment and Energy, runs the organization. The United Nations Development Program developed it with funds from the Global Environment Fund.

National Plan for Sustainable Practices

Costa Rica is also the first country across the globe that has implemented a National Plan for Sustainable Pelagic Fisheries. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock oversees it with the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Ministry of Environment and Energy. The Global Environment Facility also provides support and funds.

In 2018, the nation introduced legislation that would ensure the expansion of the traditional fishing department of fisheries in Costa Rica and also serve the community.

A Community Based Approach

The Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) establishes a plan for the essential conduct of small-scale fisheries in Costa Rica by incorporating suitable resolutions, increasing government support and advancing economic resources. In conjunction with this bill, the nation highlighted the importance of acknowledging the efforts of smaller fisheries in providing a supply of food as well as nutrition security, which has the potential to decrease poverty, particularly in regard to employing women in local fisheries.

Altogether, Costa Rica plans to develop a foundation for the fisheries based on human rights, such as satisfactory labor, economic opportunities, gender equity and climate change. It also intends to continue to focus on safe fishing practices along with market promotions.

Costa Rica has begun making progress by collaborating with federal officials, other fishermen, the community and other organizations along with higher education research. It is doing this by learning about how other countries manage their fisheries across the globe.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Max Pixel

Environmental Justice
When thinking about reducing poverty, environmental protection may not come to mind as something to be put in the same category. However, environmental protection and poverty reduction go hand in hand and achieving environmental justice is a vital step in fully ending global poverty.

Preserving the environment means protecting air quality and water sanitation, as well as land to produce food. Additionally, it means preserving the health of both humans and animals. Yet according to DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction, the poorest countries and people in the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. DAC Guidelines say that the key to reducing poverty is integrating “sustainable development, including environmental concerns, into strategic frameworks for reducing poverty.” Therefore, protecting the environment can reduce poverty if people take the correct steps.

Countries Taking a Stand

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 20 percent of the total loss of life expectancy in developing countries is due to environmental causes, compared to only 4 percent in advanced countries. In addition, 99 percent of deaths related to using unsafe water or having limited access to clean water occurs in developing countries.

Countries around the world are aware of the impact that environmental degradation has on poor communities specifically, and programs and leaders are taking action in order to protect the environment and make safe living spaces for the poor. Specifically, researchers in Costa Rica are working to show exactly how protecting the environment can reduce poverty in poorer countries and communities.

Costa Rica’s researchers’ ultimate goal was to show the effect that environmental issues have on poor communities and how environmental protection can reduce poverty. Two professors, Paul J. Ferraro and Merlin M. Hanauer, found that Costa Rican poverty reduced by 16 percent by protecting natural areas and that around  “two-thirds of the poverty reduction associated with the establishment of Costa Rican protected areas is causally attributed to opportunities afforded by tourism.”

In turn, Ferraro’s and Hanauer’s findings have demonstrated that improved conservation programs and policies are necessary to reduce poverty in poor communities even further. The goal of conserving wild areas for the purpose of ecotourism could potentially lead to more job creation, a growing economy, the reduction of deforestation and a refuge for wildlife in poor areas and developing countries. Costa Rica is taking the initiative to clean up the environment and create a healthier living space for citizens, yet most countries still face day-to-day environmental justice. For this reason, the world must take further steps to allow every person to have environmental justice.

The Truth About Environmental Justice

The EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” The EPA emphasizes that the goal of environmental justice will only be met once every person around the world has both the same accessibility to protection from natural disasters and environmental/health hazards and the equal right to partake in community and country decision-making about environmental health.

While environmental justice is a goal of a lot of different communities, countries and organizations, environmental injustice is very prevalent around the world. The result is that the most vulnerable and financially unstable people on earth feel the global impact of environmental degradation the most severely. Although developed nations like the United States and those of Europe emit larger quantities of greenhouse gases per capita, developing nations often experience the worst effects of environmental degradation and air pollutants. This is because people living in developing countries often do not have the financial support to be able to move to less polluted areas, and usually have inadequate housing and limited resources, which makes it nearly impossible to adapt to environmental disasters.

Ways to Support Environmental Justice for All Humans

Protecting the environment can reduce poverty, but poverty reduction is also just as important in order to protect the environment. UNICEF states that girls in poor communities often do not go to school because they have to fetch water for their families. As a result, they often do not know the importance of conserving the environment and natural resources because they have not had the opportunity to learn about it.

According to 1 Million Women, 70 percent of the world’s people that live below the poverty line depend solely on natural resources for survival. Yet without clean water or proper waste and garbage disposal systems, escaping pollution is almost impossible. Therefore, supporting and donating to nonprofit organizations that help to provide resources for the world’s poorest and aim to stop environmental degradation is vital. In addition, taking small steps like eating more a plant-based diet, buying sustainable products, volunteering for community cleanups and educating others can make an enormous difference in protecting the environment, and in turn, reducing poverty.

These steps are crucial in supporting not only the environment but also the communities and developing nations around the world that battle environmental justice every day of their lives. In addition to small changes that every person can make to help the most vulnerable against environmental degradation and health hazards, organizations and federal agencies are also helping drastically. Specifically, the EPA started EJSCREEN in 2015, which creates data that shows the environmental demographics across the country and also assists federal agencies in allowing the public to view the impacts of environmental injustice in every area open to new development. By opening up this information to the public, people may be more cautious before blindly living in an area in which they may feel the effects of environmental injustice. With more and more companies and organizations supporting sustainability and environmental justice every day, these trends could increase and start to make an even bigger difference.

Change Starts with Individuals

The link between environmental protection and poverty reduction is clear, and it is imperative that nations and communities continuously work towards a healthier environment in order to secure the well-being of future generations. Protecting the environment can reduce poverty while the smallest changes to one’s life can make a huge difference to the globe.

Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica
While Costa Rica is a country filled with natural beauty and vibrant culture, the small Central American nation is not immune to poverty and other issues that involve human rights and living conditions. Approximately 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and Costa Rica continues to be a source and destination for human trafficking and forced labor. Costa Rica is currently classified as a Tier 2 Watchlist country according to the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning that its government does not fully comply with anti-trafficking regulations and NGOs complete more progressive work than the government itself. That said, the government has taken an alternative approach by attempting to combine the issues of poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica, one that it hopes will assist in both the conservation of Costa Rica’s rich ecosystems while simultaneously reducing its poverty levels.

Environmentally-Conscious Poverty Initiatives

Costa Rica’s government has made a concerted effort to combat its poverty and modernize its economy without harming its most important resource: its vibrant environment. From instituting cleaner industrial and agricultural practices to creating more jobs by embracing its growing tourism industry, Costa Rica has eclipsed the impoverished fate of its Central American neighbors and will continue to develop into an efficient and comfortable society.

Costa Rica has implemented programs that aim to benefit the economy, the environment and the nation’s individuals and families. For example, the government has instituted a system centered around payments for environmental services (PES) that incentivizes greener practices for industries like agriculture in exchange for payments from the government. PES works especially well for farmers and other landowners because it gives them the opportunity to receive financial rewards for assisting or maintaining environmental services that benefit other Costa Ricans and the environment.

Most of the advantages come in the form of tax compensation and write-offs, which helps poorer farmers by decreasing their tax burdens. The system’s environmental impact has been large too, as nearly one million hectares of forested Costa Rican land has been a part of PES since its start in 1997. This means that more Costa Rican land and wildlife are receiving protection, thus also allowing for agriculture and tourism industries to thrive and provide job opportunities for Costa Ricans.

Agricultural Cooperatives

Another way in which the Costa Rican government has aimed to combat poverty while simultaneously helping the environment is through the encouragement of the formation of more agricultural cooperatives. From coffee beans to pineapples, Costa Rican farmers are continuing to form more organized cooperatives to ensure that they see a more bountiful financial return on the production of their respective crops. For instance, a cooperative called CoopeTarrazú has grown to over 400 coffee farmers, all of whom process and market their crops as part of the cooperative. Cooperatives like these not only give farmers the opportunity to make more money, but they also become valuable consultation resources for the government and NGOs interested in implementing any sort of programs involving crops like coffee.

Ecotourism

Aside from specific initiatives and organizations, Costa Rica has also been investing in its ecotourism industry as one of the country’s biggest assets. Many people from around the world travel to Costa Rica to take in the nation’s natural beauty and diverse wildlife, so the government knows that increasing the quality of its tourist attractions and facilities will allow it to attract and take in more tourists. This creates a positive cycle that creates many jobs (such as tour guides), keeps tourists coming to the country and maintains protection of the environment. The government began efforts to protect the environment in the 1990s, and since then, it has instituted many laws and regulations that protect this asset. In fact, Costa Rica outlawed hunting for sport in 2012, a move that protects the balance of the ecosystem, forests and fertile farmland.

Protection for the Future

Like many other countries, Costa Rica experiences an urban-rural poverty divide. Approximately 30 percent of rural homes fall below the poverty line compared to more than 19 percent of urban homes. That said, Costa Rica has made progress in terms of combatting rural poverty while also pushing and incentivizing greener practices for poorer farmers and landowners. Though many issues require solving, the government has clearly found an effective way to address both poverty and environmentalism in Costa Rica at the same time, thus creating a sustainable economic climate with more opportunities for farmers and rural landowners to emerge from poverty.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

When people think of the country of Costa Rica, they often picture its lush and beautiful terrain. Each year, approximately 1.7 million people visit the country. That is almost a third of their total population. Although many people visit Costa Rica for its natural beauty, there is another side of tourism that may be less familiar. Medical tourism in Costa Rica is thriving. This type of tourism involves patients traveling to receive faster or more cost-effective medical care.

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica: Fast Facts

Healthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has socialized healthcare. The basis for their nearly universal coverage comes from CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security Administration) legislation. The constitution of Costa Rica does not protect healthcare. However, social security is guaranteed. Article 21 of their constitution provides a basis, although not explicit, for the right to healthcare.

Costa Rica has three levels of healthcare: primary care, regional hospitals, and national hospitals. The primary care tier focuses on testing and a smaller percentage of the population. The second tier centers around emergency services and deeper diagnostics. Finally, the third tier serves those with serious health complications.

The country has been cited as a leader in healthcare of the region. With reforms in place, infant mortality swiftly decreased by 69 percent. Shockingly, the percent of deaths as a result of infectious disease fell by 98 percent.

Following the initial reforms, funding for healthcare grew dismal and economic crisis began in the 1980s. Throughout this period of economic decline, foreign aid helped the population of Costa Rica and kept public health steady.

Even with the contributions of other countries, the CCSS was still struggling financially. Policy changes have since been implemented with the goal of providing financial stability for the CCSS, with varied results.

Despite some complications with the execution of CCSS, it is still impressive that Costa Rica ranks 36th in overall efficiency. This is out of 191 countries as evaluated by the WHO.

Improved Healthcare Increases Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

Overall, health in Costa Rica has improved over time. As of 2017, the under-five mortality rate, logged by UNICEF, has been in continuous decline since 1990. Additionally, the percentage of children receiving all of the doses for DTP and measles are both above 90 percent. The health of mother and child are generally above average compared to the neighboring countries.

Due to the reduced cost and increased quality of healthcare, medical tourism in Costa Rica is a growing industry. Along with the boost for the economy in the medical sector, medical tourists also spend money on recreational activities. In Costa Rica, medical tourism is a new facet of tourism and is expected to expand in the future.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Measles in Costa RicaThe ninth century marked the first diagnosed case of measles globally. Since then, innumerable cases of measles have been reported across the world, including Costa Rica.

What is Measles?

Measles is viral and highly contagious. An issue surrounding the spread of measles is the length of time between contraction of the virus and the first signs of symptoms. After infection, symptoms are not necessarily present for an additional week or two. Astonishingly, the virus can survive in the air for two to four hours after a cough or sneeze by someone infected by it. Thus, the transmission of measles is enabled in places even when the person is no longer there.

At first, many of the symptoms of measles could be mistaken for a cold: fever, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes. However, running an especially high fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is an indicator of measles. Additionally, the associated rash is incredibly troublesome. Fevers spike according to the severity of the rash.

Over many years, measles has been problematic for countries across the globe. One such country that has faced an ongoing battle with measles is Costa Rica.

History of Measles in Costa Rica

  • In 1967, Costa Rica implemented its first measles vaccination program. For approximately 10 years, the number of diagnosed cases of measles decreased. However, in 1977 there was an outbreak of the disease.
  • Following the 1977 epidemic, further programs were instituted with the goal of preventing another outbreak. Yet, another outbreak occurred in 1979. These new cases were primarily found in children too young to receive the vaccine in accordance with the program; they were under the age of 1.
  • In 1983, 90 percent of children over the age of 2 were vaccinated for measles. The country continued in its mission to eradicate measles in Costa Rica.
  • The last native case of measles was in 2006. Since 2014, when the last imported case was diagnosed, there had been no new cases of measles.
  • Concern arose during 2018 that imported cases of measles would arise, due to the number of cases in Europe and the United States. Due to travel and tourism, the number of reported cases of measles in Latin America had increased. Luckily, no new cases were reported for five years. However, 2019 has seen the reintroduction of measles to Costa Rica.

Recent Cases of Measles in Costa Rica

As of January 2019, Costa Rica continued providing vaccinations for children ranging from 15 months old to 9 years old. However, this vaccination program did not prove wholly successful.

On February 18, 2019 measles was reintroduced to Costa Rica. A young child from France, with classmates that had measles, came to Costa Rica on vacation with his family. The boy developed a rash and was seen by a local doctor. He tested positive for measles.

The Costa Rican Ministry of Health is taking preventative measures to ensure that this possible outbreak is contained. The family was placed in isolation at a hospital because neither the mother nor son had been vaccinated for measles. Additionally, the Costa Rican Ministry of Health has contacted those who were on the same inbound flight and in the same hotels as the family to hinder the spread of measles.

Hopefully, with such plans in place and the measures taken to protect others, measles will be contained. Due to fast action by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, the spread of measles is likely to be reduced with this new, introduced case.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is home to 4.98 million people, with the second-highest per capita income in Central America, after Panama. Innovative initiatives like CCSS, a national health care system, not supporting a military since 1949, relying heavily on renewable energy and preserving natural land sets the country apart. Costa Rica’s spends almost 20 percent of GDP on social programs in an effort to meet their goals established in the 1970s of universal education, health care, clean water, sanitation and electricity.

The consistent political stability also distinguishes Costa Rica from neighbors in Central America. This context has produced measurable growth in health outcomes and reduced mortality. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Costa Rica highlight the impacts of Costa Rica’s policies.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Costa Rica

  1. On average, life expectancy is slightly greater for Costa Ricans (79.8 years) than for U.S. citizens (78.6 years). In addition, Costa Rica ranks 29th in terms of longevity in the world.
  2. In Costa Rica, women live longer than men. According to WHO data published in 2018, Costa Rican men live on average to 77, while women on average to 82.2. Costa Rican women edge out men in terms of lung cancer and heart disease mortality but are at greater risk of stroke, external injuries and chronic respiratory diseases.
  3. Infant mortality has fallen since the 1960s.Primary health care—especially in rural and community programs — seems to be responsible for 40 percent of the reduction…” from 68/1,000 to 20/1.000 in the 1970s to 5.7/1,000 in 2018.
  4. The top 10 causes of death in Costa Rica mirror wealthier countries. These are as follows:
    • Cancer – 20 percent
    • Heart Disease – 16 percent
    • Stroke – 7 percent
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – 5 percent
    • Chronic Kidney Disease – 4 percent
    • Road Injuries – 4 percent
    • Cirrhosis – 4 percent
    • Lower Respiratory Infections – 3 percent
    • Diabetes -3 percent
    • Interpersonal Violence – 2 percent
  5. Road traffic fatalities are an epidemic in Costa Rica. According to 2017 WHO data, 13.9 per thousand people die in traffic accidents. Epidemiological data suggests that younger drivers, faster roads, motorcycle lane changing and the growing pains that occur as rural people struggle to walk to work and school on faster, newly-paved roads—are all contributing factors. Although international NGO’s concerned with road safety recommend systemic approach uniting business, education and policy approaches, Costa Rica is working toward greater road safety with policies like requiring reflective tape on garments and state-sponsored vehicle insurance.
  6. Increases in life expectancy at birth between 1990 and 2015 grew, but unevenly across the 79 counties. Socioeconomic growth and decreasing fertility have contributed to increasing life expectancy. Average births per mother have fallen from about seven in the 1960s to 3.5 in the early 1980s to below replacement level (2) today. Access to medical care varies from rural to urban locations.
  7. Physicians are fairly accessible in Costa Rica with 1.15 physicians per thousand people—among the highest in Central America. Only Panama (1.59) and El Salvador (1.92) have higher ratios. The overall high-quality medical infrastructure in Costa Rica has birthed a growing, medical tourism industry, providing more low- and high-skilled jobs.
  8. Caja Costarrisence Seguro Social (CCSS) is the national health care agency. Funded by a 15 percent payroll tax, luxury goods taxes and retirement savings, the CCSS mandates free health service to all categories of citizens: wage-earners, mothers, children, indigenous people, the elderly and people living with disabilities, regardless of insurance coverage.
  9. Incidents of parasite-borne diseases like Malaria Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus, Chagas Disease and Zika rise seasonally but generally are on the decline. Vaccinations, insect eradication programs and education in how to avoid getting sick are working to stem the growth of arboviruses. The International Emerging Infections Program in Central America and Panama (IEIP-CAR) begun a program in 2007 to respond to new infectious disease threats by supporting the Ministries of Health (MoHs). Communicable-disease mortality declined from 65 per 100,000 in 1990 to 4.2 per 100,000 in 2010.
  10. The Nicoya Peninsula in western Costa Rica boasts some of the highest life expectancy rates for men in the world. “For a 60-year-old Nicoyan male, the probability of becoming centenarian is seven times that of a Japanese male, and his life expectancy is 2.2 years greater.” This advantage is not the case for women. Lower levels of cardiovascular risk, being lean and tall, eating an abundant diet of traditional foods low in the glycemic index but high in fiber and accessible health care are all possible contributing factors.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Costa Rica paint the government as a nimble in its ability to enact policies that meet needs and consistently build better health outcomes for their people.

– Heather Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s 4.8 million citizens enjoy a front-row view of the country’s picturesque coastal views and scenic landscapes. However, more recently, the country has been attracting more than just people looking to relocate for retirement and eco-tourists, as Costa Rica has been expanding a number of government programs in order to boost economy. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Costa Rica are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Costa Rica

  1. The most thought-provoking fact about living conditions in Costa Rica is that it has one of the longest life expectancy rates in modern Southern America, prevalent among the poorest of Costa Rica’s citizens. On average, Costa Ricans live to be 77 years old, similar to people in the U.S. that live 77.4 years on average. Although there is a large development gap between these two countries, the long expectancy rate in Costa Rica has been attributed to the country’s health care system.
  2. Costa Rica’s universal health care system, known to many as the “Caja”, provides health care to 86 percent of Costa Ricans for a small monthly payment, which is based on monthly income. Under “Caja”, those covered enjoy a wide array of medical services offered in one of the network’s 30 hospitals and 250 clinics around the country. Even those who are not covered by “Caja”, services remain relatively low in cost.
  3. Compared to other civilized Central and Latin American nations, Costa Rica has one of the most developed economies and has one of the highest standards of living. It also has one of the lowest percentages of people in poverty compared to neighboring countries, being at 16 percent. Poverty is more common among those living in rural areas, those indignant to the nation and one-parent households.
  4. Around 24 percent of the country’s population is comprised of children under the age of 14. With an estimated one out of four children living below the poverty line, many of these children are put at risk for poverty conditions due to family and income instability. As a result, 36,000 children are left orphaned in Costa Rica.
  5. By defunding its military in 1948, Costa Rica was able to develop a high-quality public education system. Many benefit from the public institutions and it has even generated a higher rate of literacy among children. However, 30 percent of school-aged children do not attend school because of financial situations or low access in rural areas.
  6. Child labor serves a societal and cultural need in Costa Rica. In older rural societies, it is customary to find children working to support the overall need of the family, especially in the agricultural sector. In larger households, income must be earned more than one earner in order to survive. This is done by the males in the family where 9 percent of boys sacrifice education for the greater good of the family. Overall, 8 percent of school-aged children have no education.
  7. The coffee bean agriculture in Costa Rica is a large source of income for many, so much so that many abandon educational pursuits every year to participate in its profitable harvest. In order to pay for school supplies, teachers and students alike wake in the early morning hours to work the fields, exposing themselves to serious health conditions that pose a risk to still-developing bodies.
  8. Although there is no known cause or reason, there has been an outbreak of HIV and AIDS-related illness among children and teens. Costa Rica has the highest number of HIV and AIDS cases in Latin America. Experts suspect that the spread of the illness could be prevented with proper education and prevention methods.
  9. Costa Rican government has taken a proactive role in decreasing the number of people living in poverty. By implementing health care, job and environmental policies along with reducing inflation costs and seeking opportunities to grow the economy, the government was able to significantly decrease the number of people living in poverty. In the 1990s, 11 percent of the population was living on $1.90 a day. That number has now been reduced to 2 percent of the total population.
  10. The average American wage earner makes $12,900 a year while the poorest 20 percent of Costa Ricans earn $100 a month. In order to meet the nutritional value someone needs for a healthy life, a person must spend an average of $90 on food per month. Costa Ricans spend 30 percent of their yearly earnings on food and drink, which is roughly around $300 a year, or $780 less than they should be spending on adequate nutrition.

While poverty is still an issue that many Costa Ricans are facing, the policy makers of Costa Rica are taking an active role in trying to alleviate this issue and improving the living conditions of citizens. With life-changing initiatives, the number of people living in poverty has gone down drastically while setting an example for others to do the same.

– Catherine Wilson

Photo: Flickr