Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Montserrat

Montserrat is located in the Lesser Antilles chain and is a British owned island filled with lush green fields and mountainous landscapes. However, due to the island’s location, living conditions can be hectic. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Montserrat.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Montserrat

  1. Natural Disasters: Before 1995, the island was home to over 11,000 people. However, after the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano, destruction ensued. The volcano killed dozens and 7,000 people evacuated the island, leaving nearly half the island desecrated and abandoned. Since the volcanoes, however, more than 1,000 people have moved back to Montserrat, raising the population to 5,215. The impact of this volcano has proven to be detrimental to Montserrat’s economy. Montserrat had to close airports and seaports which made the country lose tourist dollars. The agricultural district continues to underperform due to the lack of suitable land and the destruction of crops. The hurricane season lasts between June and November, and extremely stormy weather does occur outside this period. Natural disasters have put The population of Montserrat under great strain and it has gotten so bad that now only a third of the island is inhabitable.
  2. Language and Culture: The dominant language in Montserrat is English and the people of Montserrat use other variations of English such as Creole English and Ebonics as well. The culture is a mixture of African, British and Irish culture although some North American culture has seeped into the island recently. The population consists of mostly those of African descent with small amounts of Europeans.
  3. Economics: Tourism and agriculture were previously the most prominent economic activities. However, due to the devastation of the volcanoes in the 1990s, people had to abandon Plymouth, which was the main commercial center. Since then, Montserrat has relied heavily on British and Canadian aid to rebuild infrastructure and provide services such as quarrying and mining. The common currency used is provided by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (East Carribean dollar). The eruption has damaged a major chunk of the agricultural land but farmers are still able to produce potatoes, onions and other vegetables, as well as sell into the domestic market.  According to the 2012 Country Poverty Assessment, 36 percent of the population is considered poor with children as young as 15 or even younger experiencing the highest poverty rate and accounting for a third of the poor population.
  4. Government: Montserrat is a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. A governor elected by the monarch represents the British crown. The person in charge of the government itself is the Premier who the governor chooses. This makes Montserrat self-governing territory of the U.K. Montserrat introduced universal suffrage in 1951, meaning that anyone 18 or above can vote. Furthermore, elections for the Legislative Assembly occur every five years. A large number of the population (71.06 percent) in Montserrat is registered to vote.
  5. Education: One of the most interesting of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Montserrat is its education status. Despite the volcanic devastation, out of the 5,215 citizens ages 10 to 70, 96.5 percent are literate. Before the volcano, Montserrat spent 20 percent of its budget on education but now only allocates eight percent of its budget to education. Primary school enrollment is nearly 100 percent and lasts from ages five to 12.  Secondary lasts from ages 12 to 16 and Tertiary lasts from ages 17 to 21. As of 2017, no student in Montserrat has had to repeat coursework. Public and private schools are available for enrollment. According to UNICEF, 55 percent of students enrolled in secondary schools in Montserrat do not feel safe. There is a heavy prevalence of threats, bullying and fights mostly among men and less against women. The Montserrat Technical College, Montserrat College of Art, and the University of the West Indies offers technical and vocational education for those who graduate from secondary school. The island itself is unfortunately too poor to afford its own university but it offers many opportunities to study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. Most students will study abroad and then seldom move back home.
  6. Nutrition: According to the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute’s 2010 survey, among children aged zero to five years old, 20.8 percent of boys and 17.4 percent of girls were at high risk of being overweight, 8.3 percent of boys and 7.2 percent of girls were actually overweight and 5.6 percent of boys and 2.9 percent of girls were obese. Between 2009 and 2010, there were 36 anemia related hospitalizations affecting citizens between age groups of 15-75 and older.
  7. Health: Despite the fact that Montserrat has an effective primary health care system, basic secondary care services are only available at one hospital and there are no tertiary facilities available.  Due to this, Montserrat has promised to give its residents access to secondary and tertiary health care at affordable prices by 2050. Meanwhile, citizens who need tertiary health care can attend off-island centers for care. The number of deaths per year has averaged 44 between 2010 and 2015. In 2015, Montserrat suffered 49 deaths and 86 percent were persons aged 60 and over. The leading causes involved the circulatory system, endocrine and neoplasm diseases. Diabetes mellitus and heart diseases are also leading specific causes.
  8. Unemployment: According to the 2019 Labor Force Census conducted by the Montserrat government, 176 citizens in Montserrat are unemployed. This puts the unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. Among the male population, around 7.2 percent are unemployed and more than five percent of females are unemployed. The youth unemployment rate (ages 15 to 24) is at 11.8 percent.
  9. Access to Services: A large amount of the Montserrat population (99 percent) has access to healthy, clean drinking water and 82.9 percent have access to proper sanitation facilities. Hepatitis A and Typhoid can be contracted through contaminated water and are a risk in Montserrat.
  10. Life Expectancy: The total life expectancy in Montserrat is 74.8 years (73.5 years for women and 76.1 years for men). Some of the population (10.2 percent) suffers from diabetes mellitus and 64 percent of the population consumes alcohol.

Solutions

Montserrat received $15.66 million under the 10th EDF Montserrat as general budget support for the 12-year Sustainable Development Plan. This was to help improve its economy. In January 2013, the EU also gave Montserrat a $55.2 million aid package to boost economic recovery with a specific focus on public finance, reform and economic management.

After the volcanoes that devastated the land, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency along with other organizations worked together to provide relief for all citizens affected by the volcanoes. It helped people evacuate from active volcano areas and began housing 200 people in an unfinished multi-purpose center and providing food to them and other citizens of need.

The top 10 facts about Montserrat offer awareness to a country that is going through major repairs. It is no secret that after the destruction of the various volcanic eruptions that took place in the 1990s, Montserrat has undergone a major transformation because of this. Life for the Montserratians has not gotten any easier but with major aid from Britain and Canada, the government is able to put reforms in place and bring the economy back to what it once was without its former capital. While Montserrat has a long way to go, the island will become stronger and better than what it once was with the changes in place. 

– Carrington Peavy
Photo: Flickr

human rights in Montserrat
Montserrat is a small Caribbean island in the British West Indies. Montserrat is not an independent nation; rather, it operates as a British Overseas Territory. While Montserrat has its own government structure and constitution, the U.K. government is responsible for external affairs, security and defense. In addition, the U.K. government is responsible for ensuring that British Overseas Territories observe human rights standards. However, this does not necessarily mean that concerns about human rights in Montserrat are the same as concerns in the British Isles.

In fact, there are seemingly very few concerns with the state of human rights in Montserrat. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch list no major human rights violations on the island. The U.S. State Department’s 2016 Country Report on Human Rights for the U.K. only mentioned Montserrat once. This mention was related to same-sex age of consent varying across Overseas Territories.

One of the few concerns regarding human rights in Montserrat relates to children’s rights. The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2015 Child Labor and Forced Labor Report for Montserrat found no evidence of forced labor and multiple protections against child labor and trafficking. However, the Department did note a lack advancement in efforts to reform a legislative gap prohibiting the use of children in illicit activities. According to the report, this could leave children vulnerable to the worst kinds of forced labor.

During the past legislative year, children’s rights have been a primary focus in Montserrat. This was addressed in September 2016 with Montserrat’s 2016 throne speech. This speech set out the government’s policy agenda for 2016/2017. The speech acknowledged growing concerns regarding child abuse on the island while stating that children must be protected from this treatment. The Children (Care and Adoption) Bill was also briefly laid out as an example of multiple bills that would work to protect children and families in Montserrat. This specific bill will establish protections for children on the island, including preventative measures and safe spaces for protection, nurturing and counseling. With this area of concern being addressed, human rights in Montserrat should be well cared for in the future.

Erik Beck

Hunger in Montserrat

Located in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, Montserrat is a tiny British overseas territory with a population of less than 6,000. After a series of volcanic eruptions in the late 1990s, the island became more difficult to reach. Even today, it is relatively isolated compared to other tourist-oriented Caribbean islands, but there are a growing number of tourists coming to see the “Caribbean Pompeii”.

The economy of Montserrat today is based mostly on service and construction due to the impact of both Hurricane Hugo and the severe volcanic eruptions that began in July 1995. The city of Plymouth was covered with ashes and boulders, and even though it is not completely reconstructed, it is still officially the capital of the island. Approximately two-thirds of the inhabitants fled the island to escape hunger and general insecurity in Plymouth area. Some of them still live in poor housing, struggling with their economic situation after the loss of their homes, incomes and family members.

The economic downturn after the hurricane increased unemployment, reduced working hours and increased pressure on household budgets. There is widespread criticism of the government’s performance, ranging from the failure to control prices or reduce taxes to the perception that administration only takes care of their own employees.

A 2007 study of poverty and hardship called “Montserrat Survey of Living Conditions” (MSLC) and research undertaken by the World Bank showed that economic factors are the main causes of poverty in Montserrat. According to the International Comparisons of Poverty table, 36 percent of the population is poor and 34 percent are food insecure. Children are the most vulnerable in general, and make up a third of the population affected by hunger in Montserrat.

Hunger in Montserrat is caused by high food prices, low wages and lack of employment opportunities. Many families are struggling to buy food every day and educate their children. This stress is made worse by high rates of criminal behavior, domestic violence and drug abuse. Because of the situation, many inhabitants have left the island to find work or to join their families in Britain.

Even though there are no opportunities for rapid economic growth in Montserrat, some government initiatives in the past few years, like the establishment of the Montserrat Development Corporation, promise to be beneficial for everyone.

The Department of Agriculture has several potential projects in the works, and there are plans to increase the number of small companies. The Ministry of Health and Wealth offers a number of services to the poor and vulnerable, including social assistance in cash and counseling for the poor.

Even though the general number of people affected by hunger in Montserrat remains high, some overall progress has been made in lowering the rate of extreme poverty. Most households have access to basic services and women are being empowered with educational programs. The government elected in 2014 is now investing in geothermal energy, tourism and sand mining. In an interview with The Guardian, premier Donaldson Romero declared that the “long, hopeless period” that started after the eruptions is finally over.

Edita Jakupovic

Photo: Flickr


Montserrat is a Caribbean island that is a part of the Lesser Antilles chain and a British Overseas Territory. Poverty in Montserrat reached its peak after numerous volcanic eruptions, resulting in significant damage to the south of the island and to social and economic structures. Drastic improvements have been made through grants, loans and support from the community, as the citizens of Montserrat rebuild areas of weakness and work to return to life before the natural disaster struck. Here are five facts about poverty in Montserrat.

  1.  In 2009, children under 15 were reported as holding the highest poverty rate, accounting for more than a third of the disadvantaged population.
  2.  According to the Country Poverty Assessment Report in 2011, 36 percent of the population were classified as impoverished, and 25 percent of heads of households experienced inadequate housing.
  3.  In 2013, the EU distributed a $55.2 million aid package to Montserrat in order to boost the country’s economic recovery, with a specific focus on public finance management, public sector reform and economic management.
  4.  According to the CIA World Factbook in 2016, none of the population rested below the poverty line — a notable change in comparison to the country’s state in 1995, after the severe volcanic activity.
  5. As of 2017, poverty in Montserrat has decreased and the island has made commendable developmental progress as a whole, sitting above the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) average and ranked as an upper middle-income country.

Despite the series of eruptions that impacted two-thirds of the tiny island, internal damage and the rate of poverty in Montserrat has improved immensely. Since the crisis, British taxpayers have invested large amounts of aid toward repair efforts for the island, which have taken the form of a new airport and housing for displaced residents in the region.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr