Impacted by HurricanesOn November 2, 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. As a Category 4 hurricane, it was the strongest hurricane to hit the Central American region in many years. Shortly after, Hurricane Iota hit. Thousands have died and many have experienced displacement. Since Central America is one of the poorest areas of Latin America, the U.S. is in a position to help alleviate the crisis by providing foreign aid to those impacted by hurricanes.

Poverty in Central America

Nicaragua is the second-poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Moreover, Nicaragua’s poverty rate sits around 15.1%. Geographically, the poorest area of Nicaragua is the Atlantic Coast of the country. Similarly, Honduras is an impoverished nation located north of Nicaragua. Honduras is also one of the poorest countries in Central America. Furthermore, Honduras’ geographical location leaves it exposed to extreme weather such as heavy rainfall and droughts. The most vulnerable, oftentimes rural and coastal populations, are susceptible to these intense weather changes. Neighboring countries of El Salvador and Guatemala are also impoverished nations with vulnerable populations. The increased climate disasters leave these populations at risk of death, poverty and becoming climate refugees.

Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota

On the eve of Hurricane Eta’s landfall, the Nicaraguan government evacuated around 3,000 families living in the coastal area. According to UNICEF, more than a million Nicaraguans, which also includes half a million children, were endangered by the hurricane. El Salvador evacuated people as a precaution and many of Guatemala’s departments declared a state of emergency.

Hurricane Eta made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm destroyed houses, hospitals and businesses. Widespread flooding and mudslides were responsible for the casualties across the region. Unfortunately, Hurricane Eta was not the only storm blasting through Central America.

Weather forecasters predicted another strong storm, Hurricane Iota. Also a Category 4 hurricane, Iota made landfall 15 miles south of where Hurricane Eta did just days prior. The hurricane further stalled the rescue efforts of the region. In Honduras, the hurricanes impacted around 4 million people with more than 2 million losing access to health care. Moreover, Guatemala had more than 200,000 people seeking shelter after the two hurricanes.

Foreign Aid to Central America

The Central American region is impoverished and vulnerable to natural disasters. Furthermore, many Central American nations depend on foreign aid from the United States. The countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the Northern Triangle) rely on foreign aid from the U.S. to manage rural poverty, violence, food insecurity and natural disasters. Moreover, that aid has been reduced under the Trump administration. Since Donald Trump took office, the aid for these countries has reduced from $750 million to $530 million. In April 2019, Trump froze $450 million of foreign aid to the Northern Triangle, further diminishing the lives of many. Foreign aid keeps Central Americans from plummeting to extreme poverty and also curtails migration to the United States.

Congress Pleads for Foreign Aid

As Hurricane Eta ravaged through Central America, Rep. Norma Torres (CA-35) wrote a letter urging Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to increase foreign aid to Central America. Torres (CA-35) wrote, “Hurricane Eta was an unavoidable natural disaster, but its aftermath is a preventable humanitarian crisis in the making.” In addition, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), Eliot Engel (NY-16), also showed his support for increased aid to those Hurricane Eta impacted. Engel wrote, “a large-scale U.S. effort is needed to provide much-needed relief to those affected by Eta so that they are not forced to leave their countries and make the perilous journey north.”

USAID Provides Disaster Relief

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has agreed to increase aid by $17 million to the countries impacted by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. Studies have shown that foreign aid is a successful policy to reduce global poverty. Any aid given to these countries benefits the lives of those impacted by hurricanes in several significant ways.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Flickr

How Hurricanes Affect Poverty Around the WorldHurricanes are large storms that develop from warm ocean waters. As they reach land, they create a storm surge, pushing ocean water onto the land, causing extreme damage such as infrastructure loss and flooding. Hurricane season lasts from May to November and causes loss of life and property for coastal regions around the globe. This article will examine how hurricanes affect poverty around the globe and organizations that help combat their destruction.

Hurricanes And Poverty: The Cycle

Hurricanes affect global poverty as they slow development and cause a significant loss of money, pushing people and countries into poverty. Each year 26 million people fall into poverty due to natural disasters. In particular, hurricanes cause a decrease in development and a loss of GDP. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused 30 years of decreased development in Honduras and Nicaragua. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan led to losses of more than 200% of Grenada’s GDP.

Hurricanes disproportionately affect impoverished communities. Those with lower income have less access to technology, which leads to a lack of information and leaving them unprepared for a coming natural disaster. Additionally, disadvantaged populations live in less stable housing that does not fare well against natural disasters. For example, the Caribbean has a history of suffering a severe impact of hurricanes, and this is partly because 60-70% of the infrastructure is informal, meaning not professionally made or following safety protocol.

Impoverished communities also have less access to transportation and healthcare, leaving them with fewer resources after a hurricane. In Puerto Rico after the 2017 Hurricane Maria, 2975 people died as a result of not having the transportation to go to a hospital or sufficient life-sustaining medicine. Rebuilding also requires funds that many disadvantaged populations do not have. While the rich can often afford to move out of high-risk areas, impoverished households cannot. Developing countries also cannot afford to protect high-risk areas, by, for example, rebuilding structures with higher elevations and installing sea walls. Hurricanes affect those living in poverty the most and, as a result, hurricanes push them further into poverty.

The Red Cross

The Red Cross is one of many organizations that provide hurricane relief around the world. It has stations throughout the globe, so it can provide emergency services and life-saving materials quickly to those who need it in the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as hurricanes. Many people working with the Red Cross are disaster response specialists who can work quickly in a disaster zone and are trained in situations that may occur during and after a hurricane. The Red Cross also reconnects families separated in natural disasters. The Red Cross has helped in hurricanes around the globe, including Haiti after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Other organizations that help those living in poverty recover from hurricanes include Heart to Heart International, Convoy of Hope and Tourism Cares. By donating to any one of these organizations, one could help bring an impoverished person their livelihood back and help them recover from a hurricane, helping to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in terms of hurricane recovery.

– Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr 

Healthcare in the Virgin IslandsThe COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected healthcare in the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) but risks to public safety in the territory go beyond that. Since the beginning of 2020, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. has implemented mass healthcare reforms to help many people of the territory in several areas. Specifically, Governor Bryan and the government addressed long-term problems with healthcare for the region’s people such as emergency medical service regulations, access to healthcare for people of any race or income level, aiding individuals with disabilities and hospital facilities.

Previous Healthcare issues

Prior to the  COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many other things pointing towards issues with access to healthcare in the USVI. Three elements can describe issues the territory has had in providing good healthcare plans to its people: quality, cost and accessibility. Environmental concerns, such as lack of clean water, mismanagement of waste and overfishing, have also impacted peoples’ health negatively. Additionally, homicides have been a big issue as well.

Since March 2020, USVI has had three times as many deaths due to gun violence compared to deaths due to COVID-19. All these factors have put pressure on medical facilities and the resources to help those in need. The government has not always been a great help in funding its hospitals and health insurance has not been cost-friendly to individuals of the territory.

Hurricane and COVID-19 damages

Adding to the previous risk factors towards healthcare in the Virgin Islands, the recent hurricanes and the COVID-19 aftermath have made things much tougher. In 2017, hurricanes Irma and Maria cratered improvements in funding towards healthcare plans the territory put in place. Many nurses had to leave for work after heavily hit hospitals such as St. Thomas and the Schneider Regional Medical Center experienced damage. Many patients who were already recovering from their own illnesses or injuries had to be transferred or died as a result of these natural disasters. The most recent and well-known risk factor to public health and safety of the territory is COVID-19. As of September 1, 2020, there have been 1143 positive cases and 15 reported deaths.

Healthier Horizons

As the territory moves to address problems with healthcare in the Virgin Islands, positive plans have been put in place that will improve healthcare in the region. Governor Bryan and the USVI government have called the healthcare plan “Healthier Horizons.” This plan will directly focus on 11 parts of a good healthcare system:

  • Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities
  • Health Information Exchange
  • Telehealth
  • Medical Compacts
  • Virgin Islands Fire Service and Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • EMS regulation
  • Healthy Housing Initiative
  • Associated Health Plans
  • Improved Hospital Facilities
  • Health Plan of the Territory
  • Medical Cannabis

All of these parts of the territories’ action plan for providing more efficient, immediate and affordable health insurance to the citizens of the USVI will cover many issues. This reform is not only based on the foundation of previous problems of healthcare in the Virgin Islands but also stems from the desire to allow any individual, no matter their race or income, to get the medical help they need. This also includes updating medicines and health resources as well as having stronger funded hospitals and facilities across the islands.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas
On September 1, 2019, a massive Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas, bringing mass destruction and devastation to the people living there. The storm, named Dorian, took the lives of 70 people and left thousands homeless. A storm of this magnitude impacts all people in its path, yet those hit hardest are the ones living in poverty. During the hurricane season between June and November, hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas by increasing the unemployment rate, exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities and leaving many without access to food, water and shelter.

Unemployment Rates Rise

The Bahamas relies heavily on tourism from resorts, casinos and cruise lines to support its economy. Bahamians living in poverty-stricken conditions depend upon employment from these resorts to support their families. A large storm like Dorian often reduces these resorts and casinos to rubble, leaving thousands unemployed.

Before the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian, the unemployment rate stood at 10.9%; however, after the storm, the unemployment rate rose to a staggering 50%. With a fractured economy, an abundance of destroyed homes and limited food and water, survivors of these massive storms are forced to leave their homes and families to seek employment elsewhere.

Poverty-Stricken Neighborhoods Are Left Helpless

Of those missing and pronounced dead following Dorian, many were Bahamians living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. The Mudd, a neighborhood well-known for its high levels of poverty, is just one of many that have been leveled by major hurricanes. Thousands of Haitian immigrants seek refuge in unstable wooden homes, which are no match for hurricane-force winds. 185 mph winds blown these neighborhoods to pieces.

In an interview conducted with Dorval Darlier, the chargé d’affaires of the Haitian Embassy in the Bahamas, Darlier described the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in The Mudd. He stated, “It looked like a bomb just exploded. It is completely destroyed. Not even a piece of wood stands up in The Mudd. If someone was not evacuated, they have to be dead.” Approximately 3,500 Haitian immigrants live in The Mudd and other poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

The devastation left by a hurricane increases public health risks, particularly for the poor. Bahamians living in poverty tend to take refuge in the most vulnerable areas. When a storm threatens the island, they are the least able to afford to evacuate and are often forced to stay in life-threatening conditions. Bahamian officials are required to visit these neighborhoods and urge residents to evacuate; however, many refuse to leave because they either have no place to go or are living in the Bahamas illegally.

Hurricanes Expose Inequality

In the past, hurricanes like Dorian have been known to expose the severity of inequality in the Bahamas. People living in poverty-stricken conditions, primarily Haitian immigrants, are left without homes. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis vowed not to rebuild immigrant neighborhoods like The Mudd: he mandated that those left without homes after a storm are to be deported.

Shella Monestime, a Haitian evacuee and resident of one of these neighborhoods, spoke out following the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and the Prime Minister’s response. She stated, “We just lost everything. We have no clothes, no home, no money. We have to start all over again. People died, and all they are talking about is people getting deported.”

Relief workers in the country have emphasized the drastic nature of this social inequality. A lack of legal papers and uncertain statuses prevent immigrants from receiving assistance after a hurricane. Fear of arrest and deportation has forced the Haitian community into hiding. The Bahamian government has instructed relief workers not to provide assistance to Haitians without proper documentation.As a result, they are often left homeless and helpless after massive storms ravage the area.

Hurricane Aid Provides Hope

The American Red Cross is just one organization that helps rebuild and aid people impacted by hurricanes. In response to Hurricane Dorian, the American Red Cross provided food, shelter, clean water and emergency supplies to thousands of families displaced by the storm. As of June 30, 2020, the Red Cross had distributed over $11 million in cash to over 3,000 Bahamian families. This funding has helped families recover financially and overcome many challenges brought on by Dorian.

In partnerships with Mercy Corps, World Central Kitchen and CORE, the American Red Cross is able to continue providing thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, cash grants to business owners, fresh meals, rent payment assistance and physical aid in rebuilding homes. More than 50 disaster respondents have been deployed to the Bahamas, each with specializations in varying categories including IT/Telecommunications, relief distributions, cash-as-aid, information management, communications, shelter and finance.

 

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has already been extremely active, with 11 storms as of August 6 and a prediction of 10 more named storms to be added to the list by the end of the year. Although hurricanes amplify poverty in the Bahamas, aid from organizations like the American Red Cross provides hope to those affected. Despite past destruction, the island continually recovers and proves its resilience as a country.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Pixabay