Alleviate Poverty in Latin AmericaArtificial intelligence (AI) is bound to increase global GDP by 14% in 2030, becoming one of the most prominent industries of the future. As the world sees an exponential increase in professionals who leverage artificial intelligence for social good in different fields, it will also witness a myriad of projects harnessing AI to help the poor in different areas of the world. Despite some pessimistic outlooks on AI for the future, it holds an intrinsic power to address Latin America’s most pressing issues. Here is some information about how AI can help alleviate poverty in Latin America.

fAIr LAC

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) advocates a shared vision of AI to alleviate social inequality in Latin America. The IDB has acted on this vision by creating the fAIr LAC initiative, a broad network of multisectoral AI experts and practitioners to promote the ethical and humanitarian use of artificial intelligence, to foster economic growth and income distribution and ultimately to change social policymaking in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Teams at fAIr LAC have adopted the principles of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on AI that include human-centered values, inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being of civilians. Principle 1.1 addresses “responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI in pursuit of beneficial outcomes for people and the planet . . . advancing inclusion of underrepresented populations, reducing economic, social, gender and other inequalities, and protecting natural environments . . . .”

To carry out its ambitious agenda, the IDB is collaborating with data-driven enterprises in the region to introduce digital tools to create AI of social value. In this way, both businesses and social development organizations can take advantage of this technology.

Algorithmic Justice

fAIrLAC’s diverse network of professionals has a commitment to creating algorithmic justice to address inequality in Latin American society, as policies are only as effective and non-biased as the algorithms on which they are based. Trustworthy and useful AI can take many forms. The network has developed pilot projects encompassing issues such as government response time, aid delivery, education and natural disaster warning. The fAIr LAC regional observatory maps and tracks AI projects in Latin America and it thus knows who is implementing AI in the region, and for what purposes.

Using AI for Social Welfare

The Sisben Welfare Index in Colombia is a system of surveys through which households are scored on four dimensions to determine the need for social assistance. Through fAIr LAC, it has managed to increase social assistance and efficiency and has improved resource allocation, rooting out possible biases through a more consistent assessment of eligibility.

The Costa Rican Household Poverty Level Prediction uses the Proxy Mean Test, an algorithm to verify whether a family can qualify for aid, as the poorest households in Latin America cannot usually provide records of their living conditions or salaries. The PMT uses alternative attributes to see if a family is fit for aid and whether it is currently looking for more attributes that AI can measure. For this purpose, IDB has developed a challenge—a data science competition to predict household poverty in Costa Rica.

AI to alleviate poverty in Latin America can be helpful in numerous ways. Through the efforts of the Sisben Welfare Index and the Proxy Mean Test, hopefully, Latin America will see a reduction in poverty over time.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Costa Rica, Pura Vida, Central America, Jungle, Green

In 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide Costa Rica with a $1.7 billion loan “to support Costa Rica’s recovery and stabilization from the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Although the Costa Rican government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was effective, economic improvements are stagnant. Costa Rica’s economy relies heavily on tourism and the COVID-19 pandemic created a significant halt in this sector. The IMF’s assistance in Costa Rica would help create jobs in high-demand areas and improve the resiliency of businesses.

Economic Challenges During COVID-19

The World Bank indicates that Costa Rica’s economy expanded over the last quarter of a century, with poverty rates lower than other Latin American countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the economy to decline by 4.6% in 2020. As a result, “one out of five workers” experienced unemployment by the last quarter of 2020 and the poverty rate in Costa Rica increased to 13%. As the situation improves, the economy expects to grow by 2.6% in 2021 and 3.3% in 2022.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports that besides the pandemic, Costa Rica’s increased budget deficits and debt could have played a role in the recent economic destruction. Since the Costa Rican government had to provide additional funding for social and health programs, the budget deficits would grow further. Therefore, a strong recovery plan is necessary to lower deficits and improve Costa Rica’s economic situation.

Tourism: A Struggling Industry

According to Reuters, Costa Rica’s economy struggled since “hotel and trade shrank by 40% last year.” The pandemic and tourism produced 8.5% of its gross domestic product. At the beginning of 2021, fewer tourists visited than in previous years, indicating that economic recovery could take a while. However, officials in the tourism industry remain optimistic for more tourists in the future since many attractions are outdoors and there are fewer concerns about the virus spreading in open areas.

However, the amount of COVID-19 cases in Costa Rica was at its highest point from the end of April 2021 into early May 2021, leading to decreased levels of tourism. The U.S. even issued a travel advisory warning for citizens planning to visit Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government attempted to help the tourism sector by indicating that industries such as tourism did not need to impose new COVID-19 restrictions. Nevertheless, several groups of international tourists canceled their plans to visit.

Officials aim to improve economic conditions by expanding sustainable tourism. This would benefit the environment and help small businesses. The Minister of Tourism explained that expanding this industry would increase employees’ incomes and allow tourists to see different attractions. Officials introduced this plan to the national bank to see if it could consider using additional recovery strategies such as credits or implementing changes in rates.

Overcoming the Economic Challenges

So far, the Costa Rican government has made several efforts to assist those most impacted by the pandemic. It distributed grants to at least 700,000 citizens who suffered the most during the pandemic. It also had businesses impose strict health precautions, preventing a massive spread of the virus and further economic downturn.

Al Jazeera states that the Costa Rican government began working with the IMF to obtain a loan that would go toward tax reform and selling assets. The IMF’s assistance would also help Costa Rica pay off part of the significant debt accumulated within the past few decades.

The IMF’s assistance expects to cover a three-year time frame to improve economic conditions and reduce poverty rates. The Costa Rican government also plans to put the loan toward strategies that could boost employment. The IMF reports that the majority of those facing unemployment are women and youths. Various career fields in Costa Rica need employees and many companies are struggling to hire due to the pandemic.

The Costa Rican government thinks increased spending on social services would allow more women to enter the workforce since these programs will ease the burden of many familial caretaking responsibilities often resting on the shoulders of women. In addition, the government wants to pass legislation that aims to improve the education system to increase the possibility of employment opportunities in higher-paying jobs.

Moving Forward

The IMF’s assistance in Costa Rica would mitigate the current economic situation by addressing the root causes of high unemployment rates and income inequality. This effort would contribute to further development and potentially allow Costa Rica’s economy to reach pre-pandemic rates of growth.

Cristina Velaz

Photo: Pixabay

Period Poverty in Costa RicaIn the 1980s, Costa Rica faced one of its worst economic downturns to date. Record high inflation and rising unemployment rates swiftly became a reality for the small country. In the years since, Costa Rica has pulled off an impressive recovery, but a recent trend of slowing growth rates may point to underlying socio-economic issues, particularly impacting women. In order to effectively close the gender gap, efforts must focus on alleviating period poverty in Costa Rica.

Poverty Response in Costa Rica

After its economic collapse, Costa Rica’s resilience shone through in the country’s determination to revive its economy. However, Costa Rica’s success as one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America comes along with a noticeable decline in its poverty rate over the last 20 years. In 2010, 2.2% of GDP was spent on almost 45 poverty programs, according to the CATO Institute. Although Costa Rica’s expenditure was one of the highest in comparison to other countries, the policies have stagnated in providing results. National poverty rates rose more than 1% between 2017 and 2018, with nearly 12,371 new households falling into extreme poverty.

Many economists point to income and labor inequality as the main factors behind this trend. The falling high school enrollment rates during the 1980s, as a result of families sending their children into the workforce, account for the generation of laborers in unskilled positions. In recent years, the increased demand for skilled workers has left this population struggling to make ends meet. Most notably, this labor inequality is directly linked to low labor force participation, particularly concentrated among impoverished groups.

The Presence of Gender Inequality

Costa Rica ranks fourth among Latin American countries with the lowest labor participation rate among women. The female population, who already make up a smaller percentage of the workforce overall, still experience entry barriers amid a period of job growth. Gender inequality remains rampant in Costa Rica as women find themselves not only distanced from receiving a proper education but also more likely to spend time on unpaid work. Forced into taking responsibility for the majority of household tasks involving cleaning, cooking and child-rearing prevent women from contributing to the labor market and carving out a stable financial situation for themselves.

While several initiatives promote gender equality, there remains an “apparent feminization of income poverty,” as explained by Professor Sylvia Chant. In a 2008 research paper, Chant explains that while Costa Rica has made considerable strides in overcoming poverty inequalities, women are much more likely to remain impoverished. Period poverty, though more of a consequence than a direct correlation, impacts impoverished women who also generally lack access to schooling, job opportunities and financial security.

Empowerment movements often fail to address how women in male-dominated households face negligence or violence in the case of failing to meet expectations. Not having an outlet in which they can make money of their own leaves them without assistance or the knowledge of how to tackle period poverty. This ultimately keeps women trapped in a cycle of helplessness. Single mother households, which have been on the rise in recent years, witness such inequality firsthand. Due to gender inequality, many single mothers are unable to find jobs and provide a stable household for their children, often feeding into the cycle of prioritizing survival over education.

A Brighter Future for Costa Rican Women

Community leader Ana López Ramírez hopes to empower Costa Rican women and address period poverty in Costa Rica. After noticing the disparities in her community, she began an organization focusing on empowering imprisoned women — a highly vulnerable group in Costa Rica. Along with other social justice organizations, she helps to provide reusable sanitation pads that women can use freely while incarcerated. Her organization now works on distributing products to women who have since been released, raising awareness on period poverty and menstrual health in Costa Rica.

These efforts have also made headway legislatively with the introduction of a bill in March 2021 surrounding the Menstruation and Justice project, which hopes to reduce the value-added tax on menstrual products. The bill aims to classify all menstrual products as part of the “Basic Priority Goods Basket.” This law will make sanitary products more accessible, reducing period poverty in Costa Rica. The initiative also pushes for increased menstrual education, urging the Ministry of Justice, the Costa Rican Social Security Fund and the Ministry of Health to include menstrual health education in public policies.

With continued commitment, individuals, organizations and the Costa Rican government can drastically reduce period poverty in Costa Rica while simultaneously empowering impoverished Costa Rican women.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

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