Healthcare in Jamaica
In the tourist’s eye, Jamaica is an enticing island with constant summer sun and alluring beaches. However, behind this guise, Jamaicans face a complicated reality. Healthcare in Jamaica is in desperate need of improvement. There is an increasing obligation to balance public access to health services with the practitioners’ ability to keep up with the enlarged workload.

Health Problems in Jamaica

Jamaica has many health issues that require an effective healthcare system. The top health issues that lead to premature death in Jamaica include stroke, diabetes, neonatal disorders, Ischemic heart disease and HIV/AIDS. Along with these issues, mental illness and STDs disproportionately affect Jamaica’s youth, and these often correlate with social and economic factors. The 2017 Global School Health Survey found that 24.8% of students seriously considered suicide and 18.5% of students attempted suicide over a 12 month period. In terms of STDs, only 31% of Jamaicans over the age of 15 and 51% of Jamaicans under 15 living with HIV were receiving treatment in 2018.

In order to try to make healthcare accessible to all Jamaica introduced free public health services to its citizens in 2008 by removing user fees. On the surface, this appears to be a positive step in removing the economic barrier that prevents the poor from receiving adequate healthcare. However, this has revealed deeper issues for healthcare in Jamaica.

Issues with Free Public Health Services

With the increase in patients, health practitioners have found themselves experiencing overwork and extreme stress. This shift has negatively affected the performance of these practitioners as patient demand has increased, but facilities remain understaffed. In 2016, researchers evaluated how the removal of charges has directly affected the workload. The study found that before the instigation of the free services, 50% of health practitioners had satisfaction with their workload. By 2016, eight years after the introduction of free healthcare, only 14% had satisfaction with their workload.

Some doctors interviewed for the study indicated that both the clinics and hospitals were seeing more patients daily after the elimination of charges. The quality of care worsened as medical professionals did not account for waiting times and availability of resources. The size of health clinics and the number of staff pale in comparison to the number of Jamaicans seeking care.

Along with the insufficient number of health practitioners, Jamaica’s medical infrastructures often do not match the demand of patients. Those in rural areas especially must travel long distances to access health care. The expansion of health facilities is extremely expensive. With Jamaica’s financial debt, this is not a project that it can take on lightly.

Also revealed in this situation is the scarcity of resources available to health clinics. The flood of patients has caused issues such as a delay of bloodwork and a shortage of medication. There have even been situations where patients had to purchase the medical supplies necessary for their surgery, costing an extreme amount that counteracts the efforts of free healthcare.

Upgrading Health Facilities

However, the failings of healthcare in Jamaica does not mean that the country is beyond help. In fact, the Minister of Health and Wellness announced in 2019 that over the next five years, Jamaica will be upgrading public health facilities with the funds of $200 million. The Minister plans to upgrade nine public health centers and six hospitals, one of which is the Cornwall Regional Hospital, which will benefit more than 400,000 residents. The Minister also plans to build a new Western Child and Adolescent Hospital, in addition to developing more sophisticated healthcare technology.

NGOs such as UNICEF are also doing work. The agency has established a Health Promotion program that works to provide quality health services to babies, adolescents and young mothers. The two goals of this program are to enhance institutional capacity to deliver effective health services and to boost the access of adolescents to these health services. By partnering with groups such as the Word Health Organization and Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, UNICEF is carrying out its Baby-Friendly Hospitals Initiative, Adolescent-Friendly Services and Empowerment of Girls and Young Mothers.

Healthcare in Jamaica is lacking in many areas, but the country is doing continuous work to enhance health facilities and services. This progress shows that the country should see improvement in the future.

– Natascha Holenstein
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Sanitation in JamaicaBeing “the third-largest island in the Caribbean,” Jamaica boasts in both natural beauty and vibrant culture. Although many recognize the country for its white-sand beaches and crystal clear water, the native population still struggles for proper sanitation in some areas. While some regions of the country, like Montego Bay, are undoubtedly luxurious, the more rural areas lack sufficient sewage systems and drinking water. Below is a list of 10 facts about sanitation in Jamaica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica has several rich, natural water sources; however, it also has irregular rainfall. The drier regions of Jamaica suffer from the uneven distribution of rain, which contributes to a lack of potable water. Being in the Caribbean, tropical islands such as Jamaica rely heavily on the rainy season for drinking water. With the recent droughts, Jamaica has experienced a consequential water shortage, a significant factor in the island’s sanitation conditions.
  2. One of the solutions to the uneven water distribution is rainwater harvesting. Jamaicans in especially dry areas of the country will collect rainwater through a cistern. A household’s cistern will typically be a large room under the house capable of storing several gallons of water. In an effort to conserve this water, the government recommends minimal water usage for daily routines such as showering, dishwashing and even flushing the toilet.
  3. The Water Resources Act of 1996 requires the government to provide adequate water access to its citizens through proper management and allocation. Following the establishment of this law, the Jamaican government promised to have a sufficient sewage system accessible to all citizens by 2020. However, with the recent events following the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts have been delayed. It is unclear whether this goal will still be reached this year or when the government plans to achieve the objective.
  4. At least 98% of urban areas of Jamaica have access to drinking water. That number falls to 88% in rural areas. These numbers have remained relatively steady for the past 10 years.
  5. While the numbers for potable water availability are relatively high, the numbers for piped water access are much lower. Only 45% of Jamaicans in rural areas have piped water access. The number for piped water access in rural areas is nearly half of that for potable water access. In urban areas, however, 70% of its population has piped water.
  6. Excessive trash is a common trait among Jamaican cities. With a lack of public sanitation facilities and curbside garbage collection in several areas, Jamaicans are faced with an ongoing sediment problem. Without effective waste removal procedures, a number of contaminants seep into the water.
  7. Vision Jamaica 2030 is a long term national development plan that aims to make Jamaica a fully developed country by the year 2030. Despite its size, Jamaica is still considered an underdeveloped nation. The main factors contributing to this status are its sanitation standards, political structure and the overall economy.
  8. Jamaica’s wastewater sector’s insufficient operations are primarily due to outdated technology faulty plant structures. These as well as a lack of proper maintenance and staff training have a substantial effect on the country’s sanitation conditions. A number of households and even the coasts suffer from the contaminated water culminated from these conditions.
  9. The National Water Commission (NWC) produces potable water to a majority of Jamaican citizens. During recent events of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has waived all late fees for its customers for the next three months and established an assistance program that provides a “30% write off on outstanding bills.” They are continuing to evaluate the situation and make decisions that financially benefit the people of Jamaica.
  10. There are recommendations for people traveling to Jamaica. Taking steps can ensure that their available water is safe to drink. Waterborne diseases are especially common in Jamaica due to a lack of potable water maintenance. In order to combat this, Jamaicans make a habit of always boiling their water or treating it before consuming it. It is also a common practice to purchase bottled water for drinking to conserve cistern water for cleaning purposes.

Despite the country’s natural beauty, Jamaica’s natives still face daily obstacles that prevent them from living a healthy life. Sanitation issues in the country are a result of insufficient waste removal procedures, inadequate plant management and an uneven distribution of rainfall. The good news is that the country is a constant work in progress with the goal of dissolving its sanitation problem. Recent and unprecedented events have certainly interrupted the country’s advancement. However, Jamaicans are still determined to escape their title as an underdeveloped country. These 10 facts about sanitation in Jamaica reflect the country’s adversity and ability to improve its current conditions.

Brittany Carter
Photo: Flickr

Four NGOs Fighting Poverty in JamaicaAs of 2017, the poverty rate in Jamaica was 19 percent, which was higher than more than half of the United States. Additionally, 8.9 percent of the population suffered from hunger as of 2016. Despite these seemingly discouraging statistics, Jamaica has seen several improvements in both the economy and standards of living. For example, Jamaica’s GDP in 2018 was $15.72 billion, which is a 6.34 percent increase from the previous year. The improvement is a direct result of efforts from the World Bank, the Jamaican government and active nonprofits working to combat the issue of poverty in Jamaica. The World Bank Group has invested $500 million in economic development. The Jamaican government instituted a progressive conditional cash transfer program called the Programme of Advancement and Higher Education (PATH) to help increase school attendance and health visits. Aside from the developments that these two major actors led, here are four NGOs fighting poverty in Jamaica.

4 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Jamaica

  1. U.N. Volunteers Online: U.N. Volunteers Online is a network that provides opportunities for individuals to spend a couple of hours serving worthy causes from the comfort of home. The website includes organizations dedicated to fighting 17 causes ranging from health care and education to sanitation and peace missions. One of the many issues the organization aims to tackle is poverty in Jamaica. The Nathan Ebank Foundation of Jamaica is working with U.N. Volunteers Online to gain traction as it launches a new digital initiative. The Nathan Ebank Foundation is a charitable organization that has dedicated itself to providing better health care access and opportunities for children with disabilities and special needs in Jamaica. The Foundation serves constituents in Jamaica through educating professionals and parents on how best to serve children with disabilities, advocating for reforms that resolve issues of systematic oppression against those with disabilities and providing assistance to families and children with disabilities. The Foundation received the World Cerebral Palsy Medical-Therapeutic Award in 2018 as recognition of the rehabilitation support services that it offers to children with cerebral palsy.
  2. American Friends of Jamaica: American Friends of Jamaica is an organization that partners with Jamaican charities and nonprofits to fund and promote community development in Jamaica. The organization has raised $14 million to support a diverse network of organizations tackling issues in economic development, education and health care. The organization has recently partnered with the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica and the Council of Social Services to start collecting donations for COVID-19 response materials. These materials include protective gear for health workers such as masks and gloves, as well as essentials such as toilet paper and food for the elderly.
  3. Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation: Davis Cup Tennis Athlete Karl Hale founded Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, a nonprofit that embodies the motto “Participate, Elevate, Educate.” The goal of the organization is to uplift future generations by improving educational infrastructure and resources. Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation has built over 21 schools all over the island, one of which was a project that Olympic athlete and icon Serena Williams led in 2016. Because the organization builds and supports schools all over the island, serving with them is an excellent opportunity to both help alleviate poverty in Jamaica and tour the island. The next build will begin in July 2020 but until then, the organization is utilizing a free hotline for parents and children struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Food for the Poor: Food for the Poor is an organization that provides housing, aid and relief to those suffering from extreme poverty in Jamaica. The organization has shipped 583 tractors full of aid and sponsored 500 children experiencing poverty in Jamaica. Food for the Poor has built over 35,000 homes. The organization is currently advocating to support the homeless in light of the current global pandemic. It has also partnered with Amazon to become one of the many nonprofits that individuals can donate to by shopping online at smile.amazon.com.

These four NGOs are all fighting poverty in Jamaica in addition to the World Bank and the Jamaican government. Through these combined efforts, poverty in Jamaica has substantially declined and the economic climate has improved.

Tiara Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Heart Diseases in the CaribbeanHeart disease and related illnesses like hypertension, diabetes, and stroke, are devastating illnesses that according to World Health Organization (WHO) are on the rise. According to the WHO, 17.9 million people die of cardiovascular-related deaths each year and over 75 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. A UN report in 2017 stated that Pacific and Caribbean regions had 14 of the top 25 obese countries in the world. “The Panorama” a report put out by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN cited that malnutrition and obesity heavily affect low-income families, women, indigenous communities, rural communities and people of African Descent. Studies have for decades indicated that people of Afro Caribbean descent are more likely to experience high blood pressure. However, recently heart disease in the Caribbean continues to rise at a fast pace.

Factors Contributing to Heart Disease

There are several risk factors that contribute to heart disease. According to the World Health Organization, reducing salt intake, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding tobacco, eating fruits and vegetables and getting physically active consistently can reduce cardiovascular disease. Low-income families are at risk because of a lack of proper health-care. The WHO stated that opportunities for early intervention are often missed because primary health care programs aren’t always available to low-income families. Late detections of cardiovascular diseases more often than not mean early deaths.

The Financial Impact of Cardiovascular Disease on Families

Caring for someone with cardiovascular disease can be time and energy-consuming, and without sufficient healthcare, paying for the bills out of pocket heavily impacts families. According to the WHO, cardiovascular diseases further contribute to poverty. According to a Harvard study, by 2020 the Global cost of Heart Diseases will rise by 22 percent. The current global cost of cardiovascular diseases is $863 billion. As cardiovascular diseases rise countries must spend money on screening, primary and secondary prevention, hospital care, and lost productivity due to premature deaths.

Jamaica and Barbados Hit by The Risk of Heart Disease

Countries like Barbados and Jamaica demonstrate that heart disease in the Caribbean is becoming more prevalent. In 2015 Barbados reported spending $64 million treating cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and an economic loss of $145 million dollars. Surveys done in schools in Barbados found that 18 percent of students eat fast food more than twice a week and nearly three-quarters of students drink soda more than once a day.

Jamaica is also experiencing an alarming rise in cardiovascular-related diseases. In early 2018, a report found that in 2017 30,000 children in Jamaica between the ages of 10 and 19 had been diagnosed with hypertension. In Trinidad and Tobago, the situation is similar to one out of every four deaths being caused by a noncommunicable disease with heart disease as the leading cause.

The Reason Behind Cardiovascular Disease

The rise in heart disease in the Caribbean over the years is concerning. In Barbados, Sir Trevor Hassell, the President of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition believes that an increase in processed foods and a decrease in “locally grown indigenous staples” are to blame. The director of George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill, Barbados, Professor Alafia Samuels said, “We do not eat the way our grandmothers used to eat. In the Caribbean, we have been importing more and more food and some of the main things that we are importing are the things that are leading to some of the challenges.”

Looking to the Future

Despite these harrowing statistics, there is hope. Expansive efforts to tackle cardiovascular disease in the Caribbean have been taken. In 2017 The Healthy Caribbean Coalition enacted the Civil Society Action Plan 2017-2021: Preventing Childhood Obesity in the Caribbean.The plan aims to bring the rising trend of obesity to a complete 360-turn by 2025. By collaborating with governments, civil society organizations, and other international partners, the HCC will tackle childhood obesity on a number of different levels. Some of the HCC’s top priorities are Trade and fiscal policies, nutrition literacy, early childhood nutrition, marketing of healthy and unhealthy foods and beverages to children, school-and-community based interventions, and resource mobilization. Upon providing assistance and education to the citizens and their governments alike, the HCC will positively impact the health conditions of the people in the Caribbean.

 Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

 

Growing Cannabis Industry In recent years, the United States and countries around the globe have legalized medical marijuana. Several states in the U.S. have gone further and decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis. Growers and distributors of cannabis in the U.S. and Canada have been capitalizing on the growing cannabis industry. Doors have also been opening for companies based in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries like Jamaica, Colombia and Uruguay.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of the world’s population uses marijuana for medicinal remedies. People know Latin American and Caribbean countries for their expansive farms and high levels of agricultural exports. Cannabis companies can leverage these existing production and distribution channels to their benefit. Ideal climate conditions coupled with increasing investment flows have positioned South America and the Caribbean for explosive growth. Some estimate the industry to grow to $55.8 billion by 2025.

Jamaican Agribusiness Shifts Priorities

In 2015, Jamaica became one of the first countries to decriminalize marijuana. Jamaicans can possess up to two ounces of marijuana. A license to grow marijuana costs $300 and allows citizens to cultivate five cannabis plants. The government is taking proactive steps to capitalize on the growing number of countries legalizing the use of marijuana by supporting local companies and universities in their research and production.

In September 2019, Jamaica’s Ministry of Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, announced it would be partnering with Harvard International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (HIPI). Through this partnership, HIPI will conduct research on the pharmacological benefits of cannabis. Jamaica aims to capitalize on this partnership and use it as an opportunity to grow and develop its national marijuana industry.

The Alternative Development Programme (ADP), a new government program in Jamaica, has the purpose of helping farmers benefit from the growing cannabis industry. The purpose of the program is to assist farmers in their transition from small-scale farming to large-scale farming to supply large international companies.

Uruguay’s Trailblazing Stance on Marijuana

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. Combating gang violence was one of the Uruguayan government’s top motivators behind legalization. Despite it being well-known as one of Latin America’s safest countries, Uruguay’s crime rate has been steadily on the rise. By targeting drug cartels’ highest source of revenue, the government hopes to curb the growing violence stemming from the illicit drug trade.

Fotmer Life Sciences is a cannabis cultivator based in Uruguay. In September 2019, Fotmer became the first company to legally export medical cannabis from Latin America. Its first export partner was Australia, and Fotmer also trades with Germany and Canada. Diego Oliviera, the head Uruguay’s national drug agency, hopes to expand Uruguay’s place in the marijuana industry by expanding exports from solely marijuana plants to finished products, like oils. Although Uruguay is home to three other marijuana-based companies, Fotmer is the only company with a license to process and export the marijuana flower and products for direct consumption.

Marijuana as Colombia’s New Most Popular Export

Colombia, known for its petroleum and coal supply, can attribute 57 percent of its total export value to just that. Coffee and spices make up an additional 6 percent of exports due to Colombia’s ideal climate and 12 hours of daylight year-round. It is looking to attract cannabis cultivators using the same ideal conditions as a selling point and viable alternative to growing in countries like Canada and the United States, where people have to spend significant amounts of money on greenhouses for colder seasons.

Desired Effect of Legalization on Crime

In Colombia, the laws regarding marijuana are not as progressive as those in Uruguay. People can possess small amounts of marijuana and medicinal use is legal, but recreational use remains a criminal act. Similar to Uruguay, the Colombian government hopes that legalizing cannabis use will decrease gang and drug-related violence.

Drug- and gang-related violence is second to cancer as a leading cause of death in Colombia. It is too soon to tell whether legalization has had an impact on crime, but the strategy is to crimp revenue streams of gangs by making the illicit marijuana market. Now that it is legal for marijuana to grow for medicinal purposes, cannabis industry workers hope to attract investors. The Colombian Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) has 29 member companies who have invested over $600 million in the construction of medical marijuana facilities.

It is becoming increasingly popular for Latin American and Caribbean countries to capitalize on the opportunities that arise from the growing cannabis industry. As more and more companies look to locate their farms to the Caribbean and South America, LAC countries are seeking to benefit by coupling foreign investment with academic and industrial research in the hopes of reaping socio-economic dividends for everyone.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica
The island country of Jamaica, in the Caribbean Sea, is making improvements in its public health care systems to increase life expectancy. Once ran by an unstable and politically corrupt government, Jamaica handed the keys to Sir Patrick Allen in 2016. Under a new regime, the government promises to take public health care more seriously. “The government is committed to working assiduously during the first year of administration to tackle these issues,” said Allen in an interview.

The administration is shifting its focus to partnership and community mobilization to protect the health of Jamaicans. The country has implemented a new 10-year plan focusing on expanding health care access through infrastructure development. The new motto of building a partnership for prosperity has influenced positive change, but many Jamaicans still struggle or are unable to attain proper health care. The expenses have put many families in a state of poverty. Rural areas will have unequal access to incoming health care benefits. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Jamaica

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaicans’ life expectancy rate from birth is currently 74.5 years, ranking the country 123rd in the world. Males live an average of 72.7 years while females live an average of 76.5 years. Overall, life expectancy has risen since the turn of the century. In 1960, the life expectancy rate from birth was only 64 years which means there was a 10-year increase as of 2019.
  2. Improvements in public health care and life expectancy have led to a decrease in infant mortality rates. In the year 2000, 14.6 infants died per 1,000 births. In 2019, 11.6 infants have died per 1,000 births. The decline is about three children in the last 19 years and is still decreasing.
  3. Enhancements in clean drinking water have also led to increased life expectancy in Jamaica. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, access to sanitary water has improved 97.5 percent for urban populations and 89.4 percent for rural populations. This leaves just 2.5 percent of the urban and 10.6 percent of the rural populations needing improvements in water.
  4. The HIV and AIDS epidemic has also seen a decrease in cases, leading to improved life expectancy. The virus has affected the entire Caribbean for many years, but health improvements lowered the number of cases each year. As of 2017, only 1.8 percent of the island of Jamaica has contracted the HIV virus with 1,500 deaths. This is a decrease from 56 percent in 2004.
  5. In 2016, Jamaica became the latest Caribbean country to have the Zika virus. Mosquito bites transmit the virus and it can pass from person to person through sex, blood transfusions or pregnancies. The government has lowered the number of cases as of 2019 but is also putting together a precautionary plan for citizens and travelers including what kind of repellents to use, places to avoid and how to protect children.
  6. Prosperity through partnership, mobilization and urbanization is the goal of the 2016 Jamaica government. Within two years, the government has brought urbanization to 55.7 percent, averaging a 0.82 percent rate of change each year. This is an encouraging number, but one that Sir Patrick Allen will look to increase in order to urbanize at a more rapid pace.
  7. Environmental issues within the country have halted some improvements. Hurricanes frequently hit the island, especially between July and December. Heavy rates of deforestation, water pollution by industrial waste, oil spills, land erosion, damage to coral reefs and air pollution are all pressing issues that influence mortality. The government has prioritized these issues through plans to expand partnerships with richer countries, hoping they will provide relief to damaged parts of Jamaica.
  8. Education has increased rapidly in Jamaica, providing children the opportunity to grow into productive members of society, which increases their life expectancy. More children are starting school between the ages of two and three. The country provides preschool, primary school and high school, and offers further educational choices. With improvements in education, the literacy rate of Jamaica has climbed to an astonishing 89 percent overall.
  9. The World Food Program has been working diligently in Jamaica to improve nourishment. Thanks to its efforts, obesity in the country dropped to under 20 percent in 2018. This is a significant improvement from the 5 percent decrease in 2016. Only 2.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
  10. Sanitation facilities have seen a rapid improvement. In 79.9 percent of urban areas and 84.1 percent of rural areas, the country has made sanitation improvements to schools, hospitals, houses, parks and local bathrooms. A total of 18.2 percent of the area still needs improvement in those areas to aid life expectancy.

The upcoming years will continue to be of high importance for the new government, but Jamaica has much to celebrate. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Jamaica show that the country has made improvements to increase life expectancy. It still requires more work, especially as it continues to implement its 10-year program.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Pixabay

youth unemployment in jamaica

Jamaica has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with 21.8 percent of youths unemployed as of January 2019. However, this rate represents a significant improvement after reaching a high of 37.5 percent in 2013. The World Bank and the Government of Jamaica are working to continue this progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica by creating and supporting programs designed to increase opportunities for young Jamaicans.

Trends in Unemployment

Recent research has revealed that there is an even greater disparity when comparing young women and young men. In January 2019, the unemployment rate was 17.9 percent for young men and 26.5 percent for young women. The recent progress in reducing youth unemployment in Jamaica is still remarkable and has been highlighted by many, including Kemesha Kelly, a youth advocate and lecturer at The University of the West Indies, Mona

Kelly has stated that “everyone must participate in the progress. Putting job creation at the heart of economic policymaking and development plans will not only generate decent work opportunities, but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth. It is a virtuous circle that is as good for the economy as it is for the people, and one which will lead to sustainable development.”

The Government of Jamaica seems committed to the work Kelly described, as Jamaica’s Minister of Education has proudly noted the progress that has been made and expressed a determination to keep this momentum going and reduce the rate even further in the coming years.

Government Initiatives

As a part of this commitment, the Ministry of Education hosted a youth career week in 2018, highlighting career and skill-training opportunities for young Jamaicans. This included a youth forum, an expo with displays on career paths, and a National Skills Competition for students in secondary and primary schools. Beyond this, the government is also working to strengthen the apprenticeship program to increase opportunities for young people and decrease youth unemployment in Jamaica.

Jamaica is using the Australian system as a potential model, which requires youth to go through an apprenticeship program in order to enter the formal economy. While Jamaica’s government has not noted any plans to make apprenticeship mandatory, they want to increase its availability and popularity among youth, developing it within the Jamaican context.

In addition to apprenticeships, the Director-General of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, Wayne Henry, also stated the need to ensure the programs offered at educational institutions could directly lead to meaningful employment. Specifically, programs in emerging fields, including robotics, criminology, entrepreneurship, engineering and mechanics, should be more widely offered.

This focus on apprenticeship has been in the works since 2017 and may be one of the reasons for the improvements to youth unemployment rates. In February 2014, a forum was hosted to discuss the goal of increased apprenticeship and open a dialogue between the government and the private sector.

World Bank Program

In 2014, the World Bank began its Sustainable Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries Project for Jamaica. The project has been working to help youth become more employable and will remain active until January 2020. This is a growing industry that significantly benefits from having young tech entrepreneurs who can bring new, innovative ideas. The project focuses on helping youth develop the critical thinking skills needed for entrepreneurship in this field, connecting youth entrepreneurs to each other and to industry leaders.

Moving Forward

Jamaica is not alone in facing the struggle of high youth unemployment, as the Latin American and the Caribbean regions have the third-highest youth unemployment rate in the world. If these efforts to reduce youth unemployment in Jamaica continue to be successful, other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America may be able to model their own initiatives off of Jamaica’s, learning how to focus on increasing youth employment as a way to improve livelihoods and the overall economy.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

quiz show in Jamaica
Students from 64 different high schools across Jamaica spend all year studying song lyrics, historical figures and other trivia facts as they gear up to compete in the annual Schools’ Challenge Quiz (SCQ). It is a quiz show in Jamaica that has become a nationwide television phenomenon.

Winners of the quiz show receive an award of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, giving them the opportunity to go to college. This year, St. Jago High School emerged victorious against the 11-time quiz champion, Kingston College.

Chanarie Lindsay, Leory Cassanova, Abigail Barnes and Joel Henriques represented St. Jago High School. This was St. Jago’s fifth year winning the SCQ and Abigail Barnes was the first girl to win the competition.

Crime & Gang Violence in Spanish Town, Jamaica

St. Jago High School is located in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Many know Spanish Town for its high crime rates and prevalent gang activity. Spanish Town has one of the highest crime rates in Jamaica and incoming travelers should avoid it. In January 2018, the Jamaican government declared a State of Emergency in Kingston Metropolitan Area and also warned visitors to avoid Montego Bay and Spanish Town due to violent crime and gang activity.

Schools in Jamaica are prime recruiting grounds for gangs. Gang involvement within the youth in Jamaica is prevalent, especially in inner-city schools such as St. Jago. Youth are also at risk of becoming homicide victims. In 2013, 79 percent of all homicides were due to gangs, 97.3 percent of people that received arrest for murder were males, 84.8 percent of these suspects were age 35 or younger and more than 51 percent of victims were 35 and younger.

Team building and educational activities are the key deterrents from violence in this area, and the SCQ has promoted a positive, educational alternative to gang involvement for St. Jago students. Students often stay at school after class to practice for the quiz, preventing them from encountering gang affiliates on the streets after school. Furthermore, the SCQ team in St. Jago has formed a community among the students that many young individuals lack in impoverished communities.

Education in Jamaica

Though primary and secondary education has been increasingly accessible after major education reform in Jamaica, academic achievement has remained relatively low. In 2009, more than 24 percent of students entering primary school did not master any national assessments. Recently, Jamaica ranked 54th out of 149 countries in education, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index, which assesses countries based on access to education, quality of education and human capital. Furthermore, tertiary education in Jamaica is rare. In 2017, the college graduation rate was 6.2 percent despite a 79.7 percent high school graduation rate.

The effort and hard work students put in every day to win the SCQ competition can foster academic achievement, and winning the quiz show in Jamaica provides high school students a chance to pursue higher education.

Improving Youth Engagement in Jamaica

Many young Jamaicans are out of school because either they cannot afford to pay for school fees and supplies or they do not have any access to education. In 2017, 27,535 adolescents were out of school, and gross enrollment rates have declined from 91.62 percent in 2011 to 82.37 percent in 2017. These young individuals do not have the privilege to go to high school or pursue higher education, therefore, they are less likely to find jobs.

To alleviate this issue, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) launched the Caribbean Youth Empowerment Program (CYEP) initiative. The CYEP is a youth empowerment program in Jamaica that focusses on training young individuals in technical, vocational, entrepreneurship and life skills. So far, more than 490 companies have offered graduating students opportunities, like mentoring and internships and 94 percent of companies have hired interns and employees after receiving reports of satisfaction from CYEP.

Television Jamaica

In addition to the quiz show in Jamaica, Television Jamaica—a major television network and the host of the SCQ— is offering one SCQ participant $500,000 each year to fund his or her tertiary education and a three-week internship at TVJ. To be eligible for this scholarship, an SCQ participant must fill out an application, write a 700-word essay, maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and have two teacher endorsements.

After 50 years of the SCQ, it has remained the most popular TV show in Jamaica and has been integrated into its culture. The country celebrates quiz alumni. The SCQ is a medium for Jamaica’s entertainment and educational success. It has created a platform for students across the country to exercise their team-building skills, dedication and sportsmanship, as well as show off their school pride.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sustainable Energy In Jamaica
In 2013, the Prime Minister of Jamaica made an announcement that would change the future of the tropical island nation. He and his government declared that, by the year 2030, the Island nation of Jamaica would produce 30 percent of its power from renewable sources. At the time, this was an important stride for not only the worldwide movement towards greener and cleaner energy but also an important step for the national security of Jamaica. At the time the Prime Minister made this announcement, 90 percent of Jamaica’s energy needs were imported. As of 2018, sustainable energy in Jamaica was on-track to becoming a reality.

The majority of the oil used by the country was imported from Venezuela. Not only does Jamaica‘s carbon footprint put it in danger but its reliance on a foreign energy source also has the potential to give the providing country sway over the domestic affairs of Jamaica, especially when 9 percent of its total GDP is spent on imported petroleum for the energy sector.

Solar Power

The government is determined to set an example for its people to follow. In 2018, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness unveiled the finished project that the government and the non-profit organization, Solar Head of State, had been working on. It was a conversion of the Prime Minster’s office to solar power. On this same day, Prime Minister Holness also announced that he believed Jamaica could surpass their 30 percent sustainable energy goal and aim for a 50 percent energy goal. Only eight other nation-states in the world are aiming higher than Jamaica for their sustainable energy targets.

This public example of green power positivity can be seen in the Jamaican classroom as well. At Hampton school, an all-girls school, nearly a quarter of the budget goes towards the energy bill. So, the headmistress takes the time to educate her young women about the importance of sustainable energy by replacing the lightbulbs in the school with energy-saving LEDs.

Wind Power

Wind is another source of income and power for sustainable energy in Jamaica. South of the Hampton school, 11 wind turbines can be seen. These are only a small portion of a larger project headed by BMR Jamaica Wind Limited. The United States and Canada are also sending financial aid through respective government institutions. By the end of the project, the turbines are expected to provide power for 15,000 people and reduce carbon emissions to the equivalent of removing 13,000 cars off of the road.

There is money in sustainable energy in Jamaica. The Jamaican government is willing to work with investors and companies in the private sector to help reduce their reliance on non-renewable sources. David Delaire, managing director of the German firm MPC Captial, said that the reason for the fast growth of the sustainable energy market in Jamaica is due in part to its location, stable market and a robust regulatory framework.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Unsplash

PA 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Jamaica
The home of Bob Marley and reggae music hosts many tourists each year in its breezy Caribbean, yet not all are aware of the living conditions of Jamaican people beyond the tourist resort walls. Growth and progress are reflected through the development and strides various organizations provide in cooperation with the locals to transform this island nation. In the text below, some facts to know about how each advancement rejuvenates living conditions in Jamaica are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Jamaica

  1. There are 2.89 million people recorded living in Jamaica with around 25 percent of people living in Kingston, the island nation’s capital. This affects living conditions in Jamaica in a big way due to the congestion in the capital.
  2. The World Bank reports that Jamaica’s poverty rate declined from 21.1 percent in 2015 to 17.1 percent in 2016 and is projected to continue to decline up until 2020. Jamaica’s government created a reform program that gained national and international support. Through such support, in 2013 the World Bank provided more than $500 million for development policy and investment financing for private sector growth, transformation and building resilience for the climate and social status.
  3. Due to Jamaica’s freedom of the press, their broadcast media are typically commercial and can carry diverse comment. This provides Jamaicans with a variety of news to reach their locals. Reporters Without Borders rank this island nation in the top 10 nations regarding the World Press Freedom Index.
  4. Jamaica has been a nation with free health care since April 2008. Since then, patients at public hospitals and health centers have benefited from several health services free of cost regardless of their living conditions in Jamaica. Records show that more than 422,000 persons have benefited from the services at public health facilities such as appointments and hospital stay.
  5. Total employment throughout Jamaica increased and unemployment fell from 12.2 percent in April 2017 to 9.7 percent in April 2018. The government had a role in this success. The Ministry of Finance reported that they put an emphasis on the training required for skilled labor so that they could increase the level of high-paying jobs and employment. Further, youth unemployment also fell by 3.2 percent, hitting its lowest rate since 2007.
  6. As of January 2019, employees in Kingston make an average salary of $19,864 per year. The living conditions in Jamaica are affordable whether people rent or purchase a home with a one-bedroom rental going for $360 per month and purchasing a home is on average less than $75,000. Most Jamaicans do not spend a lot of utilities because the cost of kitchen appliances on the island is expensive. Groceries are inexpensive in the area and dining out to eat is on average $40.
  7. The curriculums for primary and secondary education in Jamaica mimic the curriculums in the U.K. Secondary school consists of two stages. The first stage consists of grades from seven to nine, and the second stage of grades 10 and 11. NAFSA reports that upon completion of grade 11, students take the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), with subjects administered by the Caribbean Examinations Councils (CXC).
  8. The World Bank reported imported fossil fuels provided 90 percent of Jamaica’s energy needs in the past. Currently, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) supports BMR Energy, creator of BMR Jamaica Wind Project. It is the largest private-sector renewable energy project in Jamaica. Since BMR Energy reported taking ownership and operation of the 36-megawatt wind farm, Jamaica set goals to generate 30 percent of its energy from local renewable sources to reduce greenhouse gases by 2030.
  9. The government issued several states of emergencies throughout 2018 that led the military and police to now engage in joint security operations. These include checkpoints and curfews to extinguish the violence and restore order. To record, World Nomads reported that the island is littered with gang violence and drug exportation that affect citizens because it interrupts commerce and daily life routines.
  10. According to the latest WHO data published in 2018, life expectancy in Jamaica is 73.6 years for males and 78.5 years for females. That said, the total life expectancy is 76 years, which ranks Jamaica on 59th place on World Life Expectancy. In addition, the possibility of child deaths under the age of five in 2017 was typically 15 to every 1,000 newborn babies.

The improvement of living conditions in Jamaica is developing daily. Even though health care is free in Jamaica, there is still work to be done to make the health centers more accessible. Nevertheless, the employment rate in Jamaica is on the climb for both youth and adults. The literacy rate among the youth in primary and secondary education is a prevalent component to the jobs they seek after they graduate. Since transitioning to renewable energy, the island nation is on its way to further improve the living conditions for its citizens.

– Carolina Chaves

Photo: Flickr