Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Jamaica
The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jamaica has been immense since the pandemic began in 2020. Jamaica has always been a popular vacation destination for people to enjoy the sun, beaches and culture. In fact, according to the World Bank, the country’s yearly tourism numbers reached 4.2 million in 2019, twice the numbers from two decades before. However, since COVID-19 struck the world, the country’s tourism industry fell downward as fewer persons could travel to Jamaica.

Businesses, such as eateries and resorts, have experienced a significant decline in business. As a result, 50,000 Jamaicans working in tourism lost their jobs, illustrating the substantial impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jamaica. Thus, many persons that finally overcame poverty will most likely face this reality again. Before COVID-19, the World Bank’s graph depicted Jamaica’s poverty rate at around 19% in 2018 and 2019; however, it increased to about 23% in 2020.

COVID-19 Effects on Working Women

According to the World Bank, like other nations, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jamaica has had a tremendous effect on working women. About 78% of healthcare and humanitarian employees and 55% of staff in industries highly susceptible to COVID-19, such as commerce, resorts, restaurants and schooling, are women.

The Inter-American Development Bank stated that women have always had lower-income and less stable employment than men in Jamaica. Now, females are suffering more than males once again, because of higher unemployment rates and business closures. Also, the need for free healthcare has risen due to school closures and households staying indoors. In addition, with less money, more single mothers are unable to purchase sufficient meals compared to males.

How COVID-19 has Impacted Jamaica’s Economy

The Inter-American Development Bank stated that before the pandemic, it expected GDP for FY2020/21 to increase by 1.1% due to more tourist visits and sales of products like bauxite. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty has changed this scenario.

Also, the International Monetary Fund projected Jamaica’s economy to decline by more than 5% in 2020. It also forecasts government income to continue to fall twice as much as medical, societal and commercial costs increase. According to the World Bank, GDP declined from around 310,000 in 2019 to 280,000 in 2020, showing an actual reduction of 9.67%.

Recovery Strategies

The Jamaican public system has implemented various strategies to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty. The World Bank states that the country has reduced taxes to around 0.6% of GDP and has limited expenditures to 0.5%. Also, the government has diminished General Consumption Taxes for smaller-scaled businesses along with mandatory costs for farming products. Jamaica also relinquished some expenses for tactical gear and cleaning supplies.

CARE Programme

Jamaica has implemented its CARE Programme, which provides monetary compensation for the country’s neediest citizens. The Jamaican government implemented this program on March 24, 2020. So far, approximately 500,000 Jamaican citizens have benefited from this initiative, especially individuals who became jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamaica Information Service reported that these qualified persons received $9,000 bi-weekly every month.

According to the IMF, this strategy also includes:

  • Considerate contributions to persons without work or with casual employment before COVID-19.
  • Provisional allowances to persons who were working but lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
  • Funding to freelance workers whose income reduced due to the pandemic, as well as small-scale companies.

The program also assists senior citizens and persons who are ill or incapacitated.

Financial Budget Changes

Jamaica is also adjusting its financial plan to fit with reduced income, more medical expenses, changes to initial spending plans and the use of monetary supplies. For instance, the government has suspended import tariffs for essential healthcare materials. In addition, the Central Bank of Jamaica has reduced its required reserves for funds while keeping the rate at 0.5%. Doing so has helped to increase the amount of money in the economy. Also, the country has asked the IMF for $520 million to help them recover from the pandemic.

Strategy Results

These various government initiatives have significantly helped to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jamaica. The CARE Programme donated $25 billion Jamaican dollars to assist the economy, which is the most significant accomplishment the country has achieved thus far in fighting the economic effects of COVID-19.

Nigel Clarke, Jamaica’s Minister of Finance and the Public Service, said that due to these strategies, the country has a lesser deficit than it did a decade ago with the global financial crisis. “In addition, we had accumulated cash resources of over [3%] of GDP through public body reform, inclusive of divestment of state enterprises, and fiscal over-performance,” he stated. Also, by controlling prices, the country now has more than $1 billion in reserve funds that it did not borrow. As a result, Jamaica is now in a better place with more possibilities for recovery.

Loop, a Jamaican News Website, reported that the Minister also said that some persons have returned to work due to various government initiatives. As a result, the rate of unemployed persons dropped from around 12% in July 2020 to 10.7% in October 2020. However, it will take two to four years to get back to the pre-pandemic rate of 7.2%.

According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, as of January 2021, the percentage of persons unemployed was 8.9%, which is an improvement from the previous year. However, the Jamaican government must continue developing innovative strategies to economically recover and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jamaica.

– Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Jamaica
Jamaica is working towards reducing its poverty rate and improving gender equality. The percentage of Jamaica’s population below the poverty line in 2017 was 19.3%. With the impact of COVID-19 in 2020, Jamaica is currently implementing measures to reduce poverty with the help of groups like the National Poverty Reduction Programme (NPRP). The NPRP provides services like care packages, psychosocial support and other services to vulnerable groups in Jamaica. However, work is also necessary to achieve gender equality and improved women’s rights in Jamaica.

Poverty Among Women in Jamaica

According to UN Women, the 2019 poverty rate in Jamaica was 19.9%. Jamaica also has inequality between women and men living in poverty. For example, the ratio of women living in poverty is 121 women to 100 men in the Caribbean and Latin America, according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). However, some Jamaican women are moving into economic and business positions in the workforce.

Women-led Coalition to Get Women into Corporate Jobs

A coalition back in 2012, called the 51% Coalition, addressed the lack of equity in the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) and began working to provide leadership positions to women in the country. The coalition focuses on recruiting women to buy shares in private sector companies. It also helps provide training to women so they can gain experience at the corporate and public sector level.

As of 2020, eight women made up the 21 members in Jamaica’s Senate. The 51% Coalition may have had a role in advancing women’s participation in the Senate; only five out of 21 seats included women in 2011. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report shows 17.5% of women and 82.5% of men in parliament compared to 2012’s report showing 13% of women and 87% of men. However, men still made up 85.8% of 2020’s labor force, showing that more work is necessary to achieve gender equality in Jamaica.

This initiative is one of several efforts that is aiming to achieve legal and social reform regarding discrimination and hostility against women in Jamaica. Successes like high enrollment rates in universities and middle-management leadership for women received recognition in 2019. Data from The World Bank shows that 37% of women and 15.8% of men enrolled in university before the Coalition in 2011 and that 38% of women enrolled in comparison to 16.6% of men in 2013. These statistics show little to no change for women attending university before and after the Coalition as well as little advancement for men. Considering this, the country still has to work to achieve improve women’s rights in Jamaica.

Violence Against Women in Jamaica

On March 10, 2021, the body of accounting clerk Khanice Jackson emerged after she was missing for two days. An outpour of shock and grief by Jamaican citizens turned into advocacy for her justice, as well as justice for women in their country. A 2018 United Nations (UN) database shows that women between ages 15-49 in Jamaica account for 27.8% of physical or intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Meanwhile, 39% of women in Jamaica and Granada experience intimate partner violence per year.

The Jamaican government and private sector responded by showing how it is actively seeking initiatives to achieve gender equality in the country. However, the continued lack of legislative action, despite promises from the government, is causing citizens to express their concerns. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for punishment against the crime against Khanice Jackson. Holness said the violent nature of popular music plays a role in the country’s violent social climate.

However, citizens have said that Jamaica’s leaders are not doing enough to create a safer environment for women. Justice Minister Delroy Chuck called out the current sentencing practices on March 30, 2021, for convicted criminals that include reducing their sentence in an attempt to clear a backlog of cases in court in a parliamentary sitting. Chuck’s address of this issue led to the decision to revisit the case in the future.

In early 2021, WE-Change, a Jamaican women’s rights organization geared towards gender equality in the country, addressed the constant cycle of violence against women and the government’s inaction. WE-Change, which began in 2015, advocates for women and girls using organizational and engagement strategies to advance women towards social change and equal rights. In February 2020, WE-Change recommended the Human and Social Development Committee of parliament to review the Sexual Harassment Bill.

Continued Efforts to Achieve Gender Equality in Jamaica

For now, Jamaican women must defend themselves using protective devices. Legislation is currently working to legalize the use of pepper spray after a petition on the Prime Minister’s website gained 16,876 signatures by the end of March 2021.

With the latest efforts to achieve gender equality in Jamaica, it seems that the country is making progress as more citizens are raising awareness. As the government continues to respond to public outcry, citizens and organizations are continuing to raise awareness regarding the importance of women’s rights in Jamaica.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr

Chakabars ClarkeEntrepreneur Chakabars Clarke runs an uplifting and particularly active Instagram feed based in Ghana. His account @chakabars produces content on pan-Africanism, spirituality and education, millennial humor and vegan lifestyle. His content also includes his own first-hand contributions to improving the lives of under-resourced global communities. Although one million Instagram users follow his posts, Clarke asserts that his mission is not about fame or money, and, the sustainable changes he is making prove so. In an interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET), he maintained that his primary objective in creating a media presence was to achieve social justice. Clarke stated, “My overall goal is to try and create as many economies based on abundance, rather than economies that are based on scarcity.” He says further, “I want to get back to us not just trying to build a large Instagram following or building a big business to make money but, rather, build the future of humans.”

5 Successes of Influencer-Activist Chakabars Clarke

  1. Spartanfam. Clarke started Spartanfam after he served four years of active military duty in Iraq. The fitness program aims to promote bodyweight training that gets you fit without the use of expensive equipment. Similar to the content on Clarke’s Instagram account, the site promotes a 100% plant-based lifestyle.
  2. IHeartAfrica. IHeartAfrica is an organization created by Clarke in 2016. Its work is “centered on the promotion of holistic self-sustainable development that creates an environment that is optimal in establishing a thriving community.” IHeartAfrica currently works with schools, orphanages, medical clinics and voluntary organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica and Ghana. The organization raises funds that go toward sustainable construction and medical supplies as well as educational, recreational and vocational programs and materials.
  3. Building an Ecovillage. One of Clarke’s projects in progress is the construction of an ecovillage for orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in inadequate conditions in orphanages. On the fundraising page for the ecovillage, Clarke describes how the project was born out of leftover funds raised by IHeartAfrica. He also explains that he bought six acres of land for an ecovillage that will house children from an orphanage and people in the surrounding area.  He states that the orphaned children will eventually inherit the land and the village. Clarke is consistent in his transparency with the allocation of his projects’ funds.
  4. The 2019 Global Good Award. Clarke won BET’s Global Good Award in 2019. The nomination is a recognition of “public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community.” The award is a major achievement for Clarke as it puts him among the ranks of celebrities such as Akon who won the award in 2017.
  5. Fruits n’ Rootz. Clarke started Fruits n’ Rootz with the aim of delivering healthy produce while creating funds for his volunteer projects. The company sources high-quality, sustainably harvested, natural products. Most of the items sold on the online shop are fruits, although, sea mosses and detox teas are also for sale at fruitsnrootz.com. The company also provides nutritional education such as the best fruits for women’s health and the benefits of sea moss. A share of 20% of the company’s profits goes toward IHeartAfrica’s actionable causes.

Clarke’s various contributions and entrepreneurial projects show that he is not just about making a name for himself. Clarke is committed to safeguarding the future of low-income and historically neglected people across the globe. By working to preserve schools and orphanages, build medical centers and improve the lives of people in low-income communities in Africa and elsewhere, Chakabars Clarke proves that being an activist is so much more than just having an online presence.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Health Barriers Faced by the Elderly in JamaicaIn line with the global aging population trend, Jamaica has seen a rapid increase in its elderly population. This increase is now calling for continued action to address the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica.

An Aging Population

In 1995, Jamaica reported having 110,430 males and 130,020 females in the 60 years and older group. This represented 9.42% of the total population in the country. By 2001, Jamaica’s elderly population consisted of 122,844 males and 141,869 females. A decade later in 2011, the census reported that the number of individuals who were 60 years or older had risen to 145,204 males and 159,979 females. These numbers indicated a 15.2% increase in the total number of people who were 60 years or older from 2001 to 2011.

Additionally, by 2011, those in this age group accounted for a greater share of the dependency ratio, a ratio measuring the number of young (0-15 years) and old (60 years or older) people in a population compared with that of the working population.

The World Health Organization has stated that this older population is mostly affected by chronic non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension and cancers. In 2018, Jamaica reported that 72% of elderly people had at least one chronic illness, with hypertension and diabetes being the most common. This contributes to the high percentage of people taking medication as well. Furthermore, persons over 60 years of age were much more likely to experience protracted illnesses in comparison to the rest of the population.

Healthcare Barriers

With recent progress in Jamaica’s life expectancy, the elderly are living longer. According to the World Health Organization, in 2018, the life expectancy for Jamaicans was 76.2 years. It is expected that these individuals will require more long-term care and rehabilitation services as they become increasingly vulnerable to diseases and lose physical or mental capacities.

However, there is limited access to local long-term care services in Jamaica and the number of caregivers has decreased throughout the country. Traditionally, younger Jamaicans would stay home and help care for older family members, but with the recent fall in family size resulting from a drastic drop in the fertility rate, the number of family members available to care for these individuals has significantly declined. The issue is worsened by the increasing number of young Jamaicans migrating abroad, typically to the United States, and leaving their older family members behind who frequently encounter difficulties in accessing rehabilitation services independently.

Financial Barriers to Healthcare

Many older Jamaicans also face financial barriers in accessing much needed medical treatment and services. While Jamaica has established a wide and extensive network of public primary care centers and hospitals offering free or low-cost services, the cost of medications and other health care resources has risen as most of these products are imported and the nation’s currency has undergone severe devaluation.

These financial burdens are especially felt by the country’s older population who rely on pensions to cover their living and health expenses. The Old Age Pension provided to qualifying retired Jamaicans is usually insufficient to cover the additional health costs associated with old age as the pensions do not adjust to meet the yearly changes in the cost of living.

Lack of Access to Healthcare in Rural Areas

Additionally, older Jamaicans living in rural areas experience significantly higher barriers to health as there is a lack of overall access to medical care, health and treatment services and transportation. A study conducted in 2012 found that people living in rural areas tend to have more “uncontrolled and undiagnosed disease,” evidenced by the fact that 27.5% of those surveyed who were diagnosed with high blood pressure had not previously received a diagnosis from a doctor. Furthermore, among those who had received a prior diagnosis, 72.2% had signs of the disease as being poorly controlled.

Also, health barriers are intensified by the fact that only 30% of the elderly population living in rural areas are pension recipients as compared to 44.4% in the Kingston Metropolitan Area. The elderly in rural areas also report having greater issues with food availability and adequacy as 53% stated not having easy access to the food they need.

Researchers Eldemire-Shearer, K Mitchell-Fearon and DL Holder-Nevins stated in 2014 that these difficulties in accessing treatment and food emphasize the health challenges that older Jamaicans face as the current health system is primarily engaged in reducing chronic disease and maintaining functional ability. They say a different approach is needed to better meet the new demands of older Jamaicans who suffer from prolonged mental or physical conditions.

Addressing Barriers

In 2018, the Jamaican government revised the National Policy for Senior Citizens, created in 1997, to introduce new measures for supporting and improving the quality of life for the elderly. The plan outlines a multi-stakeholder approach designed to address social, economic and health barriers faced by this fast-growing population.

The document promotes universal access to quality health care for all senior citizens and acknowledges the varying medical needs within this age group. It also calls for a greater expansion of health insurance coverage since only 23% of elderly people are insured.

Furthermore, the plan outlines steps for improving income security for all senior citizens and tasks the government with providing food assistance when necessary. It also provides detailed initiatives for expanding access to health resources, including mental health services, home and respite care, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services. All these health resources for the elderly are to be carried out under the supervision of the National Council for Senior Citizens, which monitors and evaluates the progress of senior citizen programs at both the national and regional levels.

While the existing health care system will require the full implementation of all these measures in the coming years to combat the health barriers faced by the elderly in Jamaica, this policy plan offers a comprehensive guide to start addressing some of these challenges.

– Emely Recinos
Photo: Flickr

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