Child Poverty in JamaicaA whole 2.8 million people live in poverty in Jamaica. The strain of poverty is heavy on all people, however, for children, it is more severe. Jamaica is yet to tackle the many factors impacting child poverty.

Facts About Child Poverty in Jamaica

  1. At least 25% of Jamaican children live under the poverty line. With the struggling economic state in Jamaica, it is difficult for the government to prioritize increasing investment in children. Instead, a large amount of the country’s national budget is dedicated to debt repayment. Because poverty is most widespread in rural Jamaica, hidden from the eyes of tourists, issues impacting children are rarely addressed.
  1. Jamaica does not have equal access to education. Minors living in rural areas may not have the option to attend school at all. While primary school is free, secondary and higher education is not, meaning that schooling beyond the primary level is often too expensive for underprivileged families. Beyond accessibility, Jamaican schools often lack resources for proper learning which means children are not able to thrive in an educational setting.
  1. Jamaica has a high incidence of HIV/AIDS affliction. This contributes to an overall high child mortality rate. In numbers, 10% of Jamaicans who have HIV/AIDS are under the age of 18, often as a result of mother-to-child transmission. In addition, AIDS deaths in adults result in many children becoming orphaned.
  1. High unemployment rates lead to unstable socio-economic conditions. Without a way to earn a stable income, many in Jamaica turn to gang activity and crime to survive. Exposure to extreme violence is common for Jamaican children, and because of high poverty levels, many young boys often join gangs themselves. In addition, many unemployed residents are forced to live without access to running water and proper sanitation which means children and families live in unacceptable conditions.
  1. Child labor is widespread and often essential for a family’s survival. With high poverty rates across Jamaica’s rural communities, some families must send their children to work, purely out of desperation. In cities, children are often seen selling merchandise, washing car windshields and begging for money. For many, living the life of a child is an unaffordable luxury.

The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act

Jamaica still has some work to do in terms of protecting its children from the harsh realities of poverty. However, the country has progressed in this regard, by implementing crucial legislation for the protection of children. The Jamaican Childcare and Protection Act was passed in 2004 and promotes the safety and best interests of children in the country. The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) and the Children’s Register was established under this Act. The OCA was established with the purpose of protecting and enforcing the rights of children and the Children’s Register consists of the information reported regarding suspected ill-treatment of a child. Child labor is also specifically addressed in the Act.

While child poverty in Jamaica is still a significant concern, the country has made progress and will continue to do so in the future as key issues affecting the country’s most vulnerable populations are addressed.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in JamaicaAs of 2018, 32,000 people were living with a positive HIV diagnosis in Jamaica, with 44% of this population receiving treatment. This has been attributed to the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS, which can make those who live with it unwilling to pursue help. In response, Jamaican activists have campaigned and advocated for the destigmatization of HIV/AIDS because they believe it is the first step to completely eradicating the disease in Jamaica.

USAID’s Health Policy Project

International initiatives, such as the Health Policy Project, have been an important resource for activists because it focuses on training and educating. This project is a part of USAID’s mission to counter HIV/AIDS around the world and USAID is its chief source of funding. Within the Health Policy Project, HIV positive individuals have been invited to larger conferences where they are able to learn more about how to counter stigmatization and how to mobilize others. Because these individuals are Jamaican and their stories are personal, their message tends to be more positively received by audiences. This has allowed for a greater discussion of HIV/AIDS because it gives faces to those who are being discriminated against.

Governmental Initiatives for Anti-Discrimination

On a legislative level, the Jamaican Government has pushed multiple initiatives and studies to better the living conditions and access to care for those living with HIV. For example, healthcare discrimination is countered through the Client Complaint Mechanism and the Jamaica Anti-Discrimination System by educating the population, monitoring minority communities and training healthcare workers. In addition to that, these organizations collect reports of discrimination from around the country and help to investigate and correct them. These bodies are also working to provide free HIV treatment across the country and hope to accomplish this in the coming years.

Jamaica AIDS Support

Jamaica AIDS Support is the largest non-governmental organization working to counter and destigmatize HIV/AIDS in the country. Besides the promotion of education and treatment, the organization also provides access to mental health treatment for those who are HIV positive. This has allowed for a larger discourse about mental health and how it relates to this disease as well as a greater social acknowledgment of how stigmatization hurts others. In 2016, Jamaica AIDS Support began the Greater Treasure Beach Area pilot project, which aims to educate young people on HIV/AIDS so that in the coming generations there will be more tolerance and acceptance of those living with HIV.

Eve for Life

Local organizations, such as Eve for Life, have also been instrumental in the fight against HIV/AIDS discrimination by approaching the issue through empowerment. Eve for Life specifically works to empower women living with HIV through multiple education initiatives as well as smaller groups meant to support these women. One such group, Mentor Moms, works to help young mothers living with HIV to secure treatment and it provides smaller meeting groups where these similar women can find community. So far, it seems these initiatives have been overwhelmingly successful as more female activists have become involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which has led to greater social consciousness about the disease.

Conquering Stigma and Countering HIV/AIDS

Destigmatization initiatives in Jamaica are the key to countering HIV/AIDS and the country is off to a promising start. By utilizing personal narrative and education, activists hope to secure a world that is more welcoming for their children than it was for them. In the words of UNAIDS country director, Manoela Manova, “The more we do to ensure that people feel safe and respected, the closer the country will come to ending AIDS.”

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr

Jamaicans for JusticeJamaica had major countrywide riots during the spring of 1999. As a result, a small group of Jamaican citizens made a decision for the good of the country. It needed the presence of an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of every citizen. It also needed a committee dedicated to preserving individual liberties regardless of class, sex or skin color. This group soon emerged as Jamaicans for Justice. Less than two months after its inception, the country recognized it as a legal entity. From the conception of the group, the organization toiled arduously to maintain their principles and to fight for the protection of all Jamaicans.

The Goals of the Group

The goals and values of Jamaicans for Justice appear clearly on their official website. The group prioritizes truth, transparency, honesty and empathy, among other morals. The stated mission expands on each of these as the organization combats political injustice. They fight alongside the large population of the country’s impoverished, a group unable to represent themselves. Jamaicans for Justice also states their vision. The vision is to have a Jamaican society where every citizen holds an equal opportunity to succeed and to meet their potential. In this civilization, the group argues mutual respect and cultural enhancement would reign supreme.

In the eyes of the organization, this change starts with the country’s political management. Jamaicans for Justice is prepared to pressure the government or directly combat it if they see it does not meet the needs of the people. Over the past two decades, they’ve done exactly that.

In one instance last May, JFJ succeeded in filing a legal challenge to the highest national court, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. This is regarding the promotion of a known human rights violator to a highly senior position. The challenge established that cops must undergo full investigations into misconduct prior to a promotion. In a nation where police allegedly killed 3,000 people between 2000 and 2010, the decision could provide justice for those who need it.

What This Means for Jamaica’s Poor

Nevertheless, Jamaicans for Justice focuses on far more than political issues. When addressing the plethora of problems plaguing the country’s systems, the organization takes a broad approach. Alongside their national legal challenges, they tackle issues regarding education and judicial matters.

Jamaicans for Justice hosts several workshops for Jamaican citizens annually. Each workshop focuses on educating the citizens about human rights economically and socially. In the organization’s view, people are far more inclined to speak out against injustice if they know exactly what to look out for. These workshops educate the most vulnerable about those indicators.

For most Jamaicans, long, drawn-out legal battles can cost families small fortunes. They can also delay the justice and closure they seek. These legal fees can add up in other ways as well. Poor Jamaicans are disadvantaged in judicial affairs despite a progressive government plan to combat this. JFJ offers legal assistance to citizens in need, providing the assistance required by these people. With less injustice to worry about, the one-in-eight Jamaicans living in poverty can utilize opportunities to reach their full potential, just like the goal of JFJ states.

What the Future Holds

With progress being made since the organization’s inception such as an 8% increase in literacy among Jamaicans 15 or older, the group aims to continue its successes. Following a groundbreaking partnership with UNICEF in mid-2018, Jamaicans for Justice is turning its attention towards the protection of children in state care. It researches thousands of documents pertaining to the well-being of these disadvantaged children. The investments going into JFJ for this project will bring results that flow right back out to the disadvantaged Jamaicans who require them so desperately.

– Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

Jamaica's First Skatepark
Will Wilson, the co-founder of nonprofit organization Flipping Youth, is building Jamaica’s first skatepark. Wilson and his nonprofit are building Freedom SkatePark in an effort to make action sports an accessible recreational opportunity for Jamaican youth.

What Is Flipping Youth?

After an exposure to international poverty while volunteering abroad, passionate skateboarder Will Wilson came up with the idea for Flipping Youth — a nonprofit organization driven by the mission to “empower young people from challenging environments internationally through action sports, creative arts and entrepreneurship.” This unique idea has propelled Wilson to accomplish great acts of service in impoverished countries, specifically Jamaica. In addition to fostering strong skating communities, Flipping Youth seeks to promote youth entrepreneurship, teach business skills and improve employability.

Flipping Youth in Jamaica

After watching a viral skate video that showcased a talented, Jamaican skater and a budding skateboarding community in 2016 — Wilson decided to bring Flipping Youth to Kingston, Jamaica. The idea was to help grow the skateboarding community even more. Since then, Flipping Youth has developed both local and international relationships to better understand what sort of aid is most needed in Jamaica. Flipping Youth’s main goal at the time was to decide the best way to implement the Freedom SkatePark, in an effort to foster a strong community of Jamaican youth. Also, safety is an important feature of the program for Wilson. He wants to ensure that the skatepark will become neither a place for drugs nor other criminal activities.

Progress Through Partnerships

Though the planning and building process has been slow, the future looks promising for Jamaica’s first skatepark. Thanks to funding from popular skate brands such as Supreme New York and a partnership with a nonprofit called Concrete Jungle Foundation, the Freedom Skate Park is nearly complete. Notably so, Concrete Jungle Foundation helped to complete over half of the project, including the construction of the park, itself.

Kevin Bourke, a member of the Freedom Skatepark team, celebrated overcoming many obstacles throughout the project’s duration, stating “It shows that a project that was rooted in love [can’t] be stopped.”

Improving Communities Through Sports and Activities

Flipping Youth is not the only organization using recreational opportunities to empower youth, globally. In the past, UNESCO has used youth sports programs to encourage social cohesion in areas of conflict. Organizations like Flipping Youth understand the value of recreational opportunities for youth in struggling communities. Recreation is not just for fun; according to Dr. Seiko Sugita of UNESCO Beirut, “Sports [have] proven to be a cost-effective and powerful tool for promoting peace and human values such as respect for others, teamwork, discipline, diversity and empathy.”

Recreation and Youth Empowerment

Working from a similar approach, Will Wilson’s project to create Jamaica’s first skatepark is an example of international development rooted in recreational opportunities and youth empowerment. Flipping Youth and other organizations look to sports and activities as a means of creating strong, vibrant communities and thus — a better future for younger generations and society as a whole.

Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Pixabay

Secret Village of JamaicaJamaica remains one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. However, many recognize it for more than its vibrant culture. The island has incurred great debt over the years and is constantly subject to mother nature’s unpredictability. Jamaica has a constant threat of hurricanes, high debt and an overall poorly structured economy. Therefore, many Jamaicans find themselves living under the international poverty line. Any person living below this line will face a number of obstacles. However, a disabled person living in poverty faces unique challenges. People with disabilities have a greater job opportunity in the U.S. In many other parts of the world, society has isolated them.

In Jamaica, there are laws that affect the daily lives of disabled islanders, especially those who are deaf. The deaf community in Jamaica cannot drive or work due to their lack of hearing ability. As a result, they spend their lives separated from the rest of their island nation. The Jamaican Deaf Village (JDV) is a small village in Mandeville, Jamaica where the deaf can easily live, work and communicate with each other. Mandeville is a small town in the mountains near the center of Jamaica. In this village, deaf people find a way to work and participate in the diminutive economy.

How the Village Began

This secret village in Jamaica established in 1958. Reverend Willis Etheridge and his wife visited the island and saw the unique struggles faced by the deaf community. The couple founded the Caribbean Christian Center for the Deaf (CCCD). In 1984, the organization took 100 acres of land and began the physical construction of the JDV. During the village’s early years, there was a church, factory and some small houses for the residents. The island of Jamaica is proud of its religious culture (mainly Christian). So, this church for the deaf was an important step for them. The factory was meant to provide employment specifically for deaf islanders so they could support their own families while also participating in the Jamaican economy.

After several years of planning, development and outreach, the first deaf residents moved into the village on July 15, 2002. Only a short time after that, workers produced the factory’s first product. This was the first step to creating a self-sufficient village.

How JDV Operates Today

The Jamaican Deaf Village in Mandeville has grown exponentially since its conception. Today, the village has farms, houses, apartments, a recreational center and a kitchen house. The kitchen house is a large kitchen and dining area where the residents will all gather together for their meals.

Each resident in the village takes on a specific role in order to create this self-sufficient community. Many women work in the kitchen house where they cook, clean dishes and do laundry. Another part of the kitchen house is the art room. This small room contains a number of paintings, sculptures, jewelry and various other art pieces created by JDV members. These pieces are popular souvenirs for visitors and another way for deaf Jamaicans to participate in the local economy.

The farm in JDV is a critical aspect of the village. Those who take on farming roles tend to livestock and crops daily. Their livestock consists mostly of cattle, goats and sheep. The crops produced in the village are a range of tropical fruits such as plantains, bananas, mangos and more.

Products from the farm are mainly used to feed the local residents. However, they can also sell their crops to the markets. Since the village is in the middle of the mountains, it takes several hours for residents to get into town. This creates another obstacle for the impoverished deaf. However, their small agricultural production plays a huge role in keeping them fed.

How the JDV Receives Funding

The key source of funding for this secret village in Jamaica is the factory. Over the years, they have manufactured a variety of products, but they started with furniture. The first object ever produced from this small factory was a wooden chair. The deaf is able to earn a living and partake in the Jamaican economy by manufacturing furniture and other objects. They build them in their home village and sell them to outside buyers.

This secret village of Jamaica also loves hosting visitors. The CCCD created a special program where visitors can come stay in the village for a period of time. While there, visitors help perform basic tasks. Visitors immerse themselves in the deaf culture and learn how each of the various roles of the village work. These roles range from farming to laying down cement for new buildings. Visitors from around the world can get a firsthand look at how these islanders keep themselves above the poverty line.

How the JDV is Essential for the Poor and Deaf

The key role of the JDV is providing the deaf community of Jamaica a life they would otherwise not have. About 19% of the Jamaican population in 2017 fell under the poverty line. This number has gradually decreased over the last three years. However, there is still a large number of Jamaicans who find themselves lacking basic necessities. The most common issues found among the impoverished population is a lack of food and clean, piped water. Jamaicans who suffer from a severe disability tend to find it even harder to gain access to these necessities. Disabled islanders are typically not allowed to work or even drive in most cases. This is especially difficult for the deaf as they can perform basic tasks but do not get utilized.

Many deaf Jamaicans will come to the United States just to get a degree or driver’s license. The Jamaican Deaf Village allows those with hearing disabilities to use their skills and create a life for themselves. This is an opportunity that would, otherwise, be denied.

The Jamaican Deaf Village plays an important role in the deaf community of Jamaica. However, it also contributes to the island’s overall economy. Over the years, the village has become a popular tourist destination. Just as most islands around the Caribbean do, Jamaica’s economy highly benefits from tourism. The village has become a hot spot for international visitors. In addition, the unique products created in the village create extra income.

This secret village in Jamaica provides a positive lifestyle for the deaf community they otherwise would not have. It also allows them to do their part to improve the island’s economy.

– Brittany Carter
Photo: Good Free Photos

Obesity and Malnutrition in JamaicaCountries in the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, are experiencing severe obesity and malnutrition rates. Since 1999, both Jamaican men and women have shown increasing rates of diabetes and obesity. According to the Jamaica Observer, childhood obesity rates have doubled between 2013 and 2018. This drastic growth has seen a particular prevalence between the ages of 13 and 15. The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) found that within that age group, 18.1% of boys and 25.2% of girls are overweight. In the same survey, obesity rates in girls increased from 6.7% to 9.9% between 2010 and 2017. Furthermore, The Caribbean and Latin American regions show that more than 50% of women in the population are overweight or obese as of 2013, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, according to a 2016-2017 survey, 54% of Jamaicans older than 15 were deemed either overweight or obese.

Considering these data, obesity rates in Jamaica are a concern no matter what the demographic is. Every day, Jamaicans are unable to maintain healthy, nutritionally-dense diets. So, what is causing obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica?

The Causes

There are many factors to these growing numbers. However, one of the main causes of malnutrition in Jamaica is the lack of availability of essential, whole foods for all citizens. The New York Carib News states that Jamaica produced 144,319 tons of yams, 72,990 tons of oranges and 64,815 tons of bananas in the year 2017. All of this nutrient-dense food, however, is not necessarily supplied for Jamaicans; a mere 2% of Jamaicans consume a sufficient amount of essential foods like fruits and vegetables.

The global average consumption of protein-filled red meat is around 25 grams, whereas in Jamaica, the average is close to 10 grams as of 2016. Adequate protein intake results in stronger bones and muscles and aids in hormone production; Jamaicans are simply not given the opportunities for these benefits.

Moreover, grain and soybean milling facilities, two of the most popular crops in Jamaica, have a large portion of their shareholding with the United States. Such crops are used for many U.S. milk substitutes like soy milk, for example. This is a glaring problem regarding obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica as Jamaicans are not given healthier options for themselves like in the United States.

Sugar intake is also a large reason for malnutrition in Jamaica. In 2012, the Global Nutrition Report found that 61% of calories consumed by Jamaicans come from non-staple food items, or items that are not nutritionally rich (legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables). Jamaica’s consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, like Coca Cola, was 191 grams in 2016. Globally, the average was 95 grams, while the suggested midpoint is a meager 2.5 grams.

A high sugar diet is detrimental leading to many health problems like fatty liver disease, and such is apparent in Jamaica in the form of diabetes and obesity. In an article by Vital Strategies, 87% of Jamaicans feel that sugary drinks are a large reason for the country’s obesity rates, calling for policy proposals.

The Solutions

Some solutions to this problem include the potential tax on sugary drinks. In other Latin American and Caribbean countries, like Barbados, a tax on sugary drinks has shown positive effects. Within the first year of the tax, Barbados’ consumption of these drinks decreased by 4.3%, while bottled water sales increased by 7.5%. If implemented, obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica may see a decline from said tax as well.

In regards to Jamaican export policies, there has been some attention to the issues that CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) raises, including completing the intraregional integration scheme as well as creating ways to implement CARICOM into its relations with the United States. With the resolution of these issues, Jamaica may be able to better its relationship with the U.S. foreign economy. This may then create more opportunities for more nutrient-dense imports.

Not only this, but there have been school policy proposals put forth in an effort to decrease these numbers, according to the Jamaican Information Service (JIS). Such proposals being the National School Nutrition Policy. This policy promotes physical activity and nutrient-enriched meals as a priority in schools across Jamaica. Not only will these focuses benefit students’ long-term physical health, but Jamaican Senator Reid asserts that they too will improve psychological and social development.

This model emulates Brazil’s efforts for similar concerns with childhood obesity. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Brazil has experienced one of the most successful school feeding programs created more than 50 years ago. The program managed by the National Fund for Education Development (NFED) and the Ministry of Education has provided staple, nutrient-rich foods to 45 million children across Brazil. With hopes for similar results, the Jamaican National School Nutrition Policy was set to be finalized during the 2019-2020 school year.

In a country with a lack of readily available staple foods, malnutrition in Jamaica continues to be a problem across the country. Through efforts like school feeding programs and a tax on sugary drinks though, young children and adults alike will see long-term physical benefits. Perhaps through these reforms, Jamaica will continue with more policy changes in its imports and exports to reverse the growing numbers of obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica across the country.

– Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in JamaicaWhile Jamaica is known for attracting visitors to its luxurious resorts and reef-lined beaches, not everything on the island is paradise. In fact, its homeless population has gained attention, with over 2,000 people currently residing on the streets. Here are six facts about homelessness in Jamaica.

Six Facts about Homelessness in Jamaica

  1. Jamaica has a relatively high unemployment rate. According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, in 2019, the number of unemployed people was 96,700, or approximately 9.52%. Although these numbers are slightly lower than in previous years, unemployment rates are on the rise again. With over 75% of the country’s tourism workers having lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2.4 million more workers are now unemployed.
  2. Hurricane Gilbert has been a significant contributor to homelessness in Jamaica. The category five hurricane occurred in 1998. It severely damaged about 80% of the island’s homes, with winds over 175 miles per hour. More than 200 people were killed and 500,000 left homeless. In a 2012 report, the National Committee on Homelessness stated how the aftermath of the hurricane has contributed to the homelessness entrenched in Jamaica.
  3. Jamaica’s crime rate remains three times higher than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The high youth unemployment rate, which exceeds 25%, correlates to high crime and violence levels. In 2018, Business Insider ranked Jamaica 10th among 20 of the most dangerous places in the world in 2018 due to its high homicide rates and gang prevalence. The International Monetary Fund cited crime as the number one impediment to economic growth, and with a poverty rate of 16.5%, much of the population is unable to secure financial support.
  4. Jamaica’s homeless population is at a high risk of contracting illnesses. Homeless populations, in general, are three to six times more likely than housed populations to become ill or infected with diseases. In Jamaica, one specific threat to homeless populations is HIV. Common practices in homeless populations like sex work and drug use are implicated in contracting HIV, according to a study on “HIV Risk and Gender in Jamaica’s Homeless Population.” With homelessness increasing the risk of contracting HIV, many cannot afford necessary medications due to expensive healthcare costs.
  5. A new homeless shelter is under construction. The government is building the new shelter in Kingston, the country’s capital, costing approximately $120 million. Local Government and Community Development Minister Hon. Desmond McKenzie shares that “this facility will cater to over 300 Jamaicans living on the streets and lacking proper care.” Additionally, St. Thomas and Trelawny drop-in centers will increase accommodation for approximately 1,971 registered homeless people islandwide.
  6. Jamaica’s homeless are receiving aid during the COVID-19 lockdown. During April and May, Jamaica’s homeless were provided with two meals per day to mitigate against reduced resources during the coronavirus pandemic. This particular food program coincided with the constructions of drop-in locations for the homeless across the island. A $150 million allocation is being put forth to make the program possible, with the help of funding from the central government and the ministry’s budget. Organizations such as Food For The Poor and The Salvation Army continue to mobilize to help those in need.

Exacerbated by factors such as unemployment, natural disasters and mental health issues, homelessness in Jamaica is still prevalent. While homelessness remains a major issue, the government and organizations are working to make a positive change. A new facility and food program are aiding people living on the streets, especially during COVID-19.  These six facts emphasize how, while homelessness continues, allocating time and resources has positively impacted people who are homeless in Jamacia.

– Erica Fealtman
Photo: Unsplash

hybrid solar dryerFruit preservation is essential in Jamaica and Haiti due to relatively brief bearing seasons that produce popular fruits like mangos and breadfruit. Additional factors such as extreme poverty and natural disasters significantly increase Caribbean food insecurity. According to the World Food Programme, 30% of the Caribbean population lives in poverty. Michael McLaughlin, the co-founder of Trees That Feed, designed a hybrid solar dryer to combat food insecurity and preserve approximately 100 pounds of fruit in nearly four to eight hours. Trees That Feed is a nonprofit organization based in Winnetka, IL that planted close to 25,000 fruit trees across Jamaica, Haiti, Ghana, Kenya, Puerto Rico, Uganda and Barbados in 2019.

Hybrid Solar Dryer Design

Trees That Feed distributed 12 hybrid solar dryers in Jamaica and Haiti. Each dryer comprises six modules to ease assembly and material transportation. The modules include three solar collectors, a lower and an upper cabinet and a roof. The three solar collectors capture heat and feed warm air into an upper cabinet that holds five shelves of sliced or shredded fruit. The roof of the hybrid solar dryer contains a solar exhaust fan to pull moisture from the air and protect against harsh weather conditions, dust and insect contamination. Excess space is provided in the lower cabinet to include an optional fueled heater that functions in the absence of sunlight.

Passive Solar Thermal Technology

Solar thermal technology captures heat energy from the sun and uses it to produce electricity or provide heat. Likewise, the hybrid solar dryer uses passive solar thermal technology to rely on design features when capturing heat. The dryer operates without photovoltaic panels or fuel to provide an efficient, hygienic and inexpensive method of food preservation. However, the hybrid design includes space for an optional kerosene or propane heater to incorporate alternative forms of heat energy. While fuel increases the cost of operation, it prevents crop spoilage that can occur on a day with minimal sunlight.

Fruit Dehydration Benefits

Fruit moisture content must be reduced below 20% to ensure a secure shelf life.  The design of the Trees That Feed dryer decreases fruit moisture content by 60% and increases fruit shelf life for over a year. Temperatures between 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit dehydrate fruit at a rapid rate that removes moisture content and inhibits the growth of mold or bacteria.

The benefits of fruit dehydration in developing countries include:

  • Access to fruit consumption during non-bearing seasons
  • Reduced dependence on imported fruit and grain
  • Increased variety of food production
  • Access to sustainable production methods
  • Increased shelf life that retains nutritional value

Breadfruit is a highly perishable fruit grown in Jamaica and Haiti. Tropical regions across the world cultivate over 120 varieties of the high-yielding breadfruit crop. The hybrid solar dryer extends the initial three-day shelf life of breadfruit to approximately one year.

Dehydration preserves the nutritional benefits of breadfruit such as riboflavin, protein, potassium and vitamin C. Also, dehydrated breadfruit is ground and used to produce high-value products such as flour, pastries and pasta that sell across local and national markets.

Moving Forward

McLaughlin reported the success of a hybrid solar dryer located at the Sydney Pagon STEM Academy, a Jamaican agricultural school in the parish of St. Elizabeth. Once Sydney Pagon extended dryer access to members of the community, St. Elizabeth locals noticed the efficiency of the hybrid solar dryer and requested an additional model. Trees That Feed recently provided the parish of St. Elizabeth with a second dryer to increase access to food preservation in the community.

Trees That Feed has designed a dryer that provides opportunities for economic activity in impoverished nations like Jamaica and Haiti. Efficient and successful food preservation allows Caribbean farmers to make small profits by selling excess dehydrated fruit. In turn, farmers can increase their economic independence and stimulate their local economy by selling surplus dehydrated fruit across community markets.

McLaughlin told The Borgen Project that “empowering people to become independent” is a crucial step in alleviating poverty and increasing economic opportunity. While Jamaica and Haiti are the only nations with current access to the hybrid solar dryer, Trees That Feed plans to implement its design in Kenya and Uganda to extend this unique method of food preservation to additional countries in need.

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr

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