10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Panama
Situated as the southernmost country in Central America between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, Panama has a population of nearly four million people across 29,000 square miles and a terrain which includes rainforests, mountains, beaches, wetlands and pasture land. The capital, Panama City, has a population of under half a million. Panama’s strongest industries include import/export, banking and tourism. It has enjoyed economic stability and growth, which can translate to good health and long life expectancy when residents can access education, health care, water and sanitation resources equitably. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Panama

  1. The first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama is that currently, the average life expectancy of a man in Panama is 76.1 and 81.9 for a woman. This averages to 78.9 for the entire population. Panama ranks 58th worldwide for life expectancy.
  2. In Panama, the leading causes of death are chronic, noncommunicable conditions such as circulatory diseases (diabetes and heart disease). Diet, high blood pressure or smoking can cause these. Panama has taken action by implementing the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and passing legislation guaranteeing smoke-free environments. The United Nations suggests dietary guidelines for healthy eating and recently added recommendations for children under 2 years of age.
  3. Traffic accidents in Panama are on the rise. The World Health Organization reports a road traffic death rate of 14.3 per 100,000 in 2016, while that number was only 10 per 100,000 in 2013 with 386 actual deaths. While the law in Panama requires seatbelt use, hazardous conditions due to lack of road maintenance, poor signage and overly congested highways are causes of this increase in accidents. Investment in roads and highway infrastructure could lower the number of deaths.
  4. The WHO reports that homicides in Panama are decreasing. In 2010, there were 23.4 homicides per year per 100,000 and in 2015 that number went down to 18.7. More than six times as many men suffer homicide in Panama than women (32.3 men per 100,000 compared to 4.9 women per 100,000). Young people between ages 15 and 29 are the most frequent targets of homicide (40.5 per 100,000). Strong laws are in place to combat violence in relation to firearms and alcohol and the WHO reports effective enforcement of laws against intimate partner violence and elder abuse. Panama could make improvements in the areas of enforcement of sexual violence and child maltreatment laws.
  5. Because of Panama’s tropical climate and wet, forested areas, mosquito-transmitted illnesses such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever pose a risk for Panamanians. Death is more likely in vulnerable people, such as infants. When new outbreaks arise, such as with the Zika virus, the WHO monitors transmission and infections closely in case they become widespread or pose a risk to travelers in the region. People can transmit the Zika virus sexually and it can also pass from mother to fetus. Microcephaly, a severe birth defect linked to Zika, poses a risk to the fetus of pregnant women, though death is rare. The WHO reports one death of a premature infant. Another disease that has limited impact in Panama is the hantavirus (linked to contact with rodents). The WHO reports approximately 100 cases with only four total deaths occurring. There is no treatment or vaccine for the hantavirus. Recommendations state to control the rodent population to prevent it.
  6. Panama saw 1,968 new cases of tuberculosis in 2017 (co-occurring with HIV in 90 percent of patients). TB and HIV are amongst the leading causes of premature death in Panama. People with HIV have more compromised immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to contracting TB. Panama spends $1.9 million each year treating and combating TB and HIV. Relapse of patients and drug-resistance pose particular challenges. Tuberculosis affects twice as many males as women, and the greatest incidence is among people ages 25-34 years.
  7. Mortality in young children has steadily declined in recent years. Deaths of children under 5 in 1990 were 27.2 per 1,000 live births, and in 2017, 17.2.  Deaths of children under 1 per year in 1990 were 20.9 per 1,000 live births, and in 2017, 13.4. Between 2007 and 2017, neonatal disorders dropped from number one to number three as a cause of premature death, and congenital defects dropped from number four to number six. These statistics are a result of a dramatic improvement in maternal and infant care for non-indigenous rural Panamanian women through a program called Health Protection for Vulnerable Populations, instituted in collaboration with the World Bank and the Minister of Health.
  8. The education of girls in Panama is important to life expectancy and maternal health. UNICEF reports that girls with no education receive 30 percent less antenatal care compared with those who have received a secondary education. The antenatal care is beneficial to learn about life-threatening risks in childbirth such as eclampsia, as well as immunization against tetanus and HIV testing and medication to prevent perinatal transmission of HIV. UNICEF calls for increased equity in antenatal and postnatal care particularly for indigenous women and infants in Panama.
  9. The upcoming Burunga Wastewater Management Project will address the serious health risks posed by untreated wastewater. The World Bank cites the lack of Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) as a major risk to public health. Currently, people dump untreated water into several rivers in the areas of Arraijan and La Chorrera. Despite economic growth in Panama, impoverished people will continue to be vulnerable to reduced life expectancy because of waterborne illnesses such as giardiasis and cholera, especially without updates to infrastructure in rural areas with attention to access to clean water and sanitation.
  10. In 2018, The World Bank approved an $80 million project in Panama called the Comprehensive National Plan for the Indigenous Peoples of Panama. This project has the aim of improving health, education, water and sanitation for indigenous people who are more vulnerable to natural disasters, for example. Built into the plan is a goal to develop the cultural relevance of programs. In order for life expectancy measures to continue to improve, Panama must equitably address the needs of indigenous as well as rural groups.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Panama show that the country faces ongoing challenges in health care, but measures of life expectancy are hopeful and improving. With follow through on projects to assist the indigenous and rural people, and ongoing investment in infrastructure, Panama should continue to rise in the ranks amongst the world’s flourishing, healthy and stable nations.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions In Panama
Panama is a country that has experienced impressive economic growth since 2000 when it acquired ownership of the Panama Canal from the United States. However, while urban areas have experienced economic growth the opposite is true in the country’s rural areas. Listed below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Panama.

Top 10 Facts About living conditions in Panama

  1. Panama is a leader among its Latin American and Caribbean counterparts in terms of poverty reduction. Using the national poverty line as a point of reference, Panama was able to reduce poverty from 39.9 percent to 26.2 percent and extreme poverty from 15.6 percent to 11.3 percent between 2007 and 2012.
  2. Panama has experienced a period of high economic growth within the past decade. Between 2001 and 2013 the average annual growth was 7.2 percent, making the country one of the fast-growing economies in the world. The transfer of the Canal to Panama has played a huge role in this regard. In addition, with a $5.25 billion expansion of the canal, Panama is thriving as a logistics trade hub and a financial center that sees 4 percent of all global trade pass through its waters.
  3. Although strong growth and poverty reduction are two of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Panama, there is inconsistency in the regional spread of such improvements. Urban extreme poverty fell 40 percent between 2007 and 2012; in rural areas, the decline was 15 percent and in the indigenous territories only 4 percent. The groups with the lowest incomes and greatest dependence on social assistance are the indigenous populations.
  4. Economic and social development among indigenous groups in Panama falls behind that of other indigenous groups in Latin America. Compared to its Latin American counterparts, Panama has the lowest level of electricity coverage among the indigenous population and the largest gap between indigenous and non-indigenous populations (52 percentage points compared to the next largest gap of 38 percentage points in Colombia). The situation is similar in terms of sanitation and piped water. In the indigenous people’s territories, poverty is almost universal and persistent.
  5. In the absence of sanitation, electricity, clean water and other infrastructure accompanied by poverty and poor health knowledge one NGO, Floating Doctors, works to provide free acute and preventative health care services. Using a boat to access Panama’s most remote areas Floating Doctors operates over a 10,000 square mile area of mangrove mazes and jungle-covered mountainous terrain in which they are often the only medical service available. Utilizing qualified volunteers the organization has provided health care to over 60,000 patients in Panama who would otherwise not have access to health care.
  6. Panama’s health care sector has seen significant advancement in recent years and the country is now closer than ever to achieving universal coverage. The government has remained committed to improving access and increasing efficiency, with an emphasis on expanding public infrastructure including the construction of five major regional hospitals in 2014 that will serve approximately 17 percent of the population.
  7. There is a major difference between the extremely poor and the rest of the population. The heads of extremely poor households in Panama have only 5.1 years of education — 4.5 fewer than the national average. This is largely due to difficulties in accessing educational institutions; students in rural areas face treacherous flooding during the rainy season and often stop attending school altogether. In addition, the households of the extremely poor have much higher dependency ratios, driven by a much greater share of young children, and lower life expectancy.
  8. One of the most distinctive of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Panama is from the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2014/15 which ranks Panama 83rd out of 144 countries for the quality of its education system, eight spots lower than the previous period. The report also attributes the drop to the mismatch between educational offerings and labor market needs. Primary enrollment in Panama is almost universal and secondary enrollments are increasing however retention in secondary education is low and there are concerns about the quality and relevance of the education system for the present job market.
  9. The Panamanian government has developed a 5-year Strategic Development Plan for 2015-2019 based on inclusion and competition. The government’s goals include initiatives designed to enhance productivity and diversify growth, enhance the quality of life, strengthen human capital, improve infrastructure, and improve environmental sustainability and management.
  10. UNICEF plans to cooperate with the Panamanian government by supporting national and local public institutions to develop policies and programs that contribute to every child in Panama being able to develop in conditions of equity and equality. In addition, alliances with different sectors will be promoted to reduce the disparities that affect the indigenous and afro-descendant population.

Panama, a country with a growing economy, has a drastically unequal distribution of resources and opportunity. It is important to understand the top 10 facts about living conditions in Panama in order for political leaders to address these issues.

– Paul Logsdon
Photo: Google

international hurricane relief

Hurricane season: a three-month span between the months of June and November when people from Panama to Maine brace for destructive and often deadly wind and rain. These large storms, often the size of small countries, can bring winds from 74 mph at their weakest to well over 100 mph at their strongest, dumping large quantities of rain as they move across land and sea. The warm waters of the mid-Atlantic and Caribbean help feed these spinning storms, which can lumber along at 30 to 70 mph. Due to their immense size, the amount of precipitation often causes flooding in areas along a hurricane’s path. Combine this with high winds, and areas often hit by powerful hurricanes regularly need international hurricane relief.

Hurricanes begin their life in the mid-Atlantic, either off the coast of Western Africa or over the middle of the ocean. From there they move in swinging arcs and paths that are difficult to predict for the coast of Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Southern United States and the Eastern Seaboard. Since these storms hit so many countries and often leave devastation in their wake, state-sponsored organizations, NGOs and privately-funded charities offer international hurricane relief. Many of these charities also operate in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Following are examples of organizations that provide international hurricane relief.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development is the main arm of the United States effort to aid its neighbors and other nations around the world. USAID provides both long-term aid programs and disaster relief programs, and International Hurricane aid provided by USAID reflects this. Programs already operating in nations in the hurricane danger zone are provided with funding and technical assistance to help people when disaster strikes. Being prepared beforehand can help to save many lives. USAID also utilizes their Disaster Assistance Response Teams, or DART’s. During the 2017 hurricane season, DART teams provided aid and organization to 11 locations in six different countries. Through USAID, the United States provided nearly $23 million in aid. Everything from chainsaws to desalination units was flown in on 55 air missions which delivered 155 metric tons of supplies. Approximately 83,000 people were helped by this DART mission.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent

While many hurricanes strike impoverished or underprepared countries, they also strike the United States. When they hit the United States, the large storms do not discriminate. Wealthy and poorer areas alike are usually struck, and it is only after the hurricane that money matters. This was evidenced during Hurricane Katrina. 

The American Red Cross society not only prepares and responds to the worst in the United States; they also provide international hurricane relief to other countries hit by the severe storms. The American Red Cross emphasizes preparedness. A main focus of the organization is to pre-position supplies so they can be easily accessed during and after a storm.

On the American Red Cross’ website, useful advice for preparing for a natural disaster such as a hurricane can be found. This simple advice includes making sure that you have a store of freshwater, learning your evacuation routes if evacuation is an option and keeping an emergency kit stocked. Advice on what a person or a family should do before, during and after a hurricane can also be found.

Habitat For Humanity

Habitat for Humanity works in the United States and around the world, focusing on three main activities: neighborhood revitalization, homebuilding and disaster relief. International hurricane relief is part of their expansive disaster relief program. One division of this program is called Habitat Hammers, which works to rebuild houses after natural disasters. Habitat Hammers missions were launched from Texas to Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane season. Over the next five years, Habitat for Humanity will help families affected by the hurricanes which hit Puerto Rico in 2017. According to the government, more than 780,000 houses were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by the hurricanes. Habitat Hammers will work to build and rebuild houses with families in Puerto Rico.

How You Can Help

Records indicate that hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are becoming stronger and more frequent as ocean temperatures rise. Devastating storms year after year will increase, and agencies and charities around the world will need help. This can be provided through donations to organizations like the American Red Cross, or by traveling to disaster areas as a volunteer or aid worker. It is a large planet, but in the end, we are all neighbors.

– Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to Panama
Panama is the dividing landmass between two major water sources, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. A small sliver of a country, Panama is only 115 miles at its widest; such a small country should not by any means be an influencer in international affairs, but with the building of the Panama canal by the United States in 1914, Panama became perhaps the most prolific trading country in the world. As a result, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Panama in many ways, especially in access to trade and finances.

Fruitful Waters

According a National Geographic article, nearly 14,000 ships pass through the canal a year. Due to the length of time it takes to move through the canal (approximately eight to ten hours), the canal is a difficult route to navigate, but is crucial to increasing the speed with which shipping companies transfer goods between companies. Panama and the U.S. have had a friendly relationship since the conception of the canal, and it has continued into trading deals.

Location, Location, Location

The U.S. Department of State describes the ways the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Panama incredibly simply: “Panama’s location and role in global trade makes its success vital to U.S. prosperity and national security.” However, it also notes that the Panama Canal is a hub for traffickers and illegal activity as well. Due to this, the U.S. greatly assists in Panama’s anti-corruption and anti-trafficking policy building and free-trade agreements in the area.

Police Presence

One main interest in Panama is building a strong police presence in the region, due to the amount of cargo coming and going through the canal’s system. The more the U.S. and Panama regulate the canal, the less opportunity traffickers have to transport illegal goods to other countries.

Trading and Transportation

Similarly, the U.S. is incredibly invested in the trading and transportation policies around the canal, because not only is the U.S. one of the biggest investors in the canal, but it is also one of its main users. The Canal’s official website offers a graphic which shows all of the major import/export trade routed through the Panama Canal, and each route begins or ends in the U.S. So not only does Panama benefit from the finances and security the U.S. provides, but the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Panama by ensuring access to a major trading route that greatly benefits the U.S.

Mutual Benefits

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Panama through mutually assured success of U.S. involvement in trade routes and Panama’s maintenance of a secure canal system. As long as the U.S. continues to support anti-trafficking efforts in Panama and help the nation monetarily, it is almost impossible for the U.S. to lose this benefactory system.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Flickr

Consumer Credit Access in Panama Continues to ExpandReports from 2014 highlighted good news in the Panamanian economy. Continued years of growth particularly helped the credit sector, and lending was increasing at rates of more than 10 percent per year. This was a healthy rate in comparison with similar rates of overall economic growth in the country. Consumer lending was not left behind during this boom, and household credit access in Panama increased at rates nearly on par with general growth.

This increase in credit access in Panama was great news for its developing domestic economy. Panama’s strategic location and the canal linking some of the world’s most-traveled shipping lanes have made it a center of commerce since the early 20th century. However, despite countless international commercial links, many of Panama’s people did not see the benefits of strong development until a century after the opening of the canal. A new government measure of poverty released in 2017 showed that nearly a fifth of the population was living in significant poverty.

The strong growth reported in 2014 was followed by further increases in small household lending in Panama as microfinance products began to increase their offerings in Panama. In 2017, the government of Panama revised a large number of regulations to assist microfinance and its effects in reducing poverty in the country. This was joined by the creation of REDPAMIF, a nongovernmental microfinance network, to assist lenders in creating a fertile environment for the success of expanding credit operations.

Small consumer lenders in Panama are following the pattern of successful development and small lending projects worldwide in diversifying their offerings. From the same 2017 report, 40 percent of the microlending portfolio in Panama is in loans to women. Similarly, in a highly urban country (nearly three out of four Panamanians live in the metropolitan area of Panama City), 13 percent of their loans are disbursed to rural borrowers.

Panama’s economy has continued to improve rapidly. An investment to expand the canal, which opened to new and larger shipping vessels in June 2016, has paid off in rates of growth that are outpacing most of the rest of the world. With good management and continued success in innovative development trends, credit access in Panama and the country’s poverty rate should continue to improve in the coming years as well.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Local Farmers Learn Sustainable Agriculture in PanamaMany of Panama’s agriculture issues stem from water pollution and poor farming techniques. Water pollution occurs due to runoff and the deforestation of the tropical rainforest. Further, current farming techniques threaten the soil siltation and degradation of the land. In light of these issues, several organizations have taken action to train farmers to practice sustainable agriculture in Panama.

ECOFARMS

ECOFARMS, a grassroots foundation, is taking the initiative to protect and restore the rainforest around the Mamoni River Valley. The main goal of ECOFARMS is to restore the area that past farming techniques have devastated. It also promotes restoring the landscape to closely resemble that of the original. By working with the local community ECOFARMS promotes reliable and sustainable agricultural skills. It also strives to incorporate organic material in farming practices, rather than harmful chemical additives.

Planting Empowerment Promotes Sustainable Agriculture in Panama

Planting Empowerment, established in 2006, also aims to rebuild the tropical forests. This organization volunteers to turn plots of deforested land back into tropical ecosystems to maintain sustainable agriculture in Panama. Ultimately, this initiative increases air quality and allows the local communities to profit from the land for future generations, thereby becoming more self-sufficient.

Women Farmers Alliance

USAID sponsored a training program for thirty participants from local Panama communities to learn and adopt sustainable farming practices. This program showed skills and techniques not known to the community, such as crop rotation and how to utilize organic fertilizer and pest controls.

The program focused on training women to promote farming as a gender-equal working opportunity. Women then went back to communities and joined alliances to further teach sustainable farming techniques.

Sustainable Harvest International

Sustainable Harvest International partnered with local farmers to develop a plan to gain access to water in times of drought and dry seasons. The plan was to develop a protected watershed preserve from farmers’ land that supplies sustainable water source throughout the year. Families worked together on this water initiative in order to empower the community and gain knowledge on ways to benefit the ecosystem.

These initiatives, among other efforts from international organizations, have become a collaborative goal that has allowed the communities in Panama to grow and farm sustainably.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

development projects in panamaThere are a number of global organizations that have worked on development projects in Panama, and many continue to this day. Partly due to the positive impact of these projects, the poverty level in Panama dropped from 39.9 percent in 2007 to 26.2 percent in 2012.

Here are five development projects in Panama that are making a positive impact.

  1. The Sustainable Agriculture Systems (SAS) project is working to improve food security among indigenous groups and other marginalized communities in rural Panama. The project exchanges knowledge and skills with farmers in the area to help them succeed in agriculture. SAS provides training in many areas including soil quality improvement, pest control and post-harvest storage techniques.
  2. The Teaching English, Leadership and Lifeskills (TELLS) program teaches Panamanians the language and leadership skills they need to thrive in their professional careers and become community leaders. Volunteers with the TELLS program work in primary and secondary schools to train teachers, teach workshops and organize after-school activities. They also coach students in important skills like writing resumes or cover letters and preparing for job interviews.
  3. The Community Environmental Conservation (CEC) Project works in Panama’s watersheds and protected areas. CEC empowers local communities to address their most pressing environmental concerns. Those involved with the project work with schools and local groups to train community members in areas such as resource conservation, waste management and reforestation.
  4. Another development project in Panama focused on environmental conservation is the Burunga Wastewater Management Project for Panama. The project’s objectives are to improve access to sewage services and strengthen wastewater pollution management. The World Bank has committed $65 million to this project through 2021.
  5. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been working in Panama since 1982. Their most recent project was the Participative Development and Rural Modernization Project. The project has improved access to financial services among poorer communities in Panama, an important step in reducing inequality and lifting people out of poverty.

These development projects as well as others have played a part in Panama becoming the fastest growing economy in Latin America. The country averaged 7.2 percent growth from 2001-2013. Overall poverty levels have declined significantly, but some marginalized communities have been left behind in the process.

Indigenous groups, in particular, suffer from higher poverty levels than the country as a whole. As development projects in Panama continue, the organizations involved should continue these successful programs while looking for new ways to address the needs of the country’s most vulnerable populations.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian aid to PanamaThe U.S. began providing aid to Panama in 1961. In its early stages, the main purpose of humanitarian aid to Panama was to eradicate poverty in the country’s rural communities. Between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, the focus shifted to improving Panama’s infrastructure and public facilities. In the 1990s, USAID was used to help jumpstart Panama’s economy following a political transition.

The Success Stories

In 2012, the USAID mission in Panama was officially closed. This means that after 51 years of providing humanitarian aid to Panama, the country had reached a point where it could deal with its own developmental and economic challenges.

At the time the mission was closed, the poverty rate had fallen from a high of 23 percent to seven percent, and the official unemployment rate was just 4.3 percent.

The health of Panama’s citizens also improved greatly during the period in which USAID was active in Panama. The life expectancy went up to 76 years and the fertility rate went down to 2.4 children per woman.

Access to education is now nearly universal in Panama. The country’s education system includes 11 years of free and compulsory education provided by the government. The curriculum includes science, math, language, social studies and other subjects needed to train a thriving workforce.

Humanitarian aid to Panama also helped the country during its transition back to democracy in 1990. The aid was used to bolster an economic recovery after a 20-year military dictatorship. It also helped stabilize Panama’s new democratic government.

From Aid Recipient to Aid Provider

When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September and early October 2017, Panama was quick to ship aid in the form of milk, oil and rice to the island.

Panama had been receiving U.S. foreign assistance for over 50 years and they have seen tremendous benefits from USAID. But the biggest success story of all is that Panama has become a country that is now able to provide aid to other countries in times of crisis.

When former aid recipients are able to give back to American citizens in their time of need, it is a reminder that foreign assistance is not a handout, but an investment in the future. USAID in Panama assisted Panama in their economic, political and humanitarian development. It also helped create a powerful ally for the U.S.

Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in PanamaPanama’s infrastructure is one of the best systems in Latin America. Infrastructure in Panama includes a network of roads and highways, the Panama Railroad, over 100 international and domestic airports and, of course, the Panama Canal. In 2013, the government of Panama invested an additional $13.6 billion in improvements to trade, tourism and exports, which includes further improvements to infrastructure in Panama.

Roads & Highways

Panama’s roads are in good condition around Panama City and other urban areas, but are in need of improvements in more rural areas. The Pan-American Highway, the world’s “longest motorable road,” runs through the entire country. Panama is continuing to invest in improvements to its roads and other infrastructure through its Government Strategic Plan that is set to be implemented through 2019.

Railways

Construction of the Panama Railroad first began in 1850, and in 1855 the first train traveled from the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific Ocean. In 1907, large portions of the railroad had to be moved to make room for the construction of the Panama Canal. Today, the New Panama Railroad takes passengers and freight between the country’s Atlantic and Pacific ports.

Airports

Panama has five international airports. The largest is Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. Tocumen has flights to over 90 cities. Panama has over 100 total airports and its location between North and South America helps it serve as an important hub for connecting flights between the continents.

Panama Canal & Waterways

Construction began on the Panama Canal in 1904 and it officially opened in 1914. The canal belonged to the U.S. until 1999, when ownership was transferred to Panama. It runs 80km along one of the narrowest parts of the country and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Panama Canal is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and employs 10,000 people. Panama also has 13 ports, including 5 major ports with container service.

Due to its geography, Panama plays a large role in trade and commerce. This has led to lots of investment being poured into the country’s infrastructure both from the government of Panama as well as from foreign governments and companies. Infrastructure in Panama plays an important role in connecting people throughout the Americas with its system of highways, trains, international airports and waterways.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr