Hunger in Trinidad and TobagoTrinidad and Tobago, known for its beaches and festive atmosphere, faces a pressing issue that demands attention: hunger. Although hunger has long been a concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought it to the forefront of national consciousness.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 20% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago experiences moderate to severe food insecurity. Around 270,000 people are at risk of hunger or missing meals and 9.3% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition, impacting their long-term physical and mental development.

5 Ways to Combat Hunger in Trinidad and Tobago

  1. Education: Education plays a vital role in addressing hunger. The Ministry of Education has implemented programs like the School Nutrition Programme, providing breakfast and lunch to underserved students. In 2013, this effort helped 236,983 students, accounting for 66.7% of the overall student body. Unfortunately, the pandemic disrupted this effort, leaving many children without access to meals.
  2. Technology: Technology can also play a role in addressing hunger in Trinidad and Tobago. Mobile apps connect donors with local food banks and soup kitchens, helping to bridge the gap between those who have food to give and those in need. FarmVue, created by TCF and IICA, is a new digital platform that helps farmers document and store records of their planting, harvesting and financial activities. This app is entirely free, making it widely accessible.
  3. Nutrition: Proper nutrition is crucial in the fight against hunger. While Trinidad and Tobago is known for its cuisine, many families do not have access to healthy, affordable food. The School Nutrition Program aims to resolve this by providing five weekly meals for school children, reaching more than 25,524 children from 2020 to 2021. The initiative now operates in 583 public schools and provides over 1,009 jobs. The Nutrition and Metabolism Division of the Ministry of Health also offers services to combat malnourishment, including Advice, lectures, demonstrations and cooking food at health centers across Trinidad and Tobago. Sadly, Trinidad and Tobago is ‘off course’ to meet their maternal, infant and young child nutrition (MIYCN) targets, with anemia still affecting 17.7% of women aged 15-49.
  4. Health Care: Access to health care is also essential in addressing hunger. Malnutrition can lead to a weakened immune system and other health problems, making it difficult for individuals to work and provide for their families. The country operates a two-tier system offering public and private health care. This means all citizens can access state-provided primary health care, including treatments and medicines that tackle chronic nutrition-related diseases. The future of health care seems promising, as the government plans to increase its health spending from $549.90 per person in 2019 to $789.10 by 2050. Increases in spending have always resulted in an improved effective coverage index, as evident in the rise from 37.5 in 1990 to 55.5 in 2019. However, more work still needs to be done as high fasting plasma glucose, high blood pressure and dietary risks account for 70% of risk factors driving deaths and disability.
  5. Community Outreach: Community outreach programs can be crucial in addressing hunger in Trinidad and Tobago. The Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS), founded in 1939, provides food aid, education and other support services to those in need. TTRCS launched a food security initiative with RBC raising $700,000 to assist at-risk families with food support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The donation helped over 1,000 people across the country through supermarket gift cards. Additionally, TTRCS implemented the Garden to Kitchen Project to support families vulnerable to food security by developing community gardens. TTRCS has disrupted 37 individual garden start kits and established 30 community garden groups equipped with kits and vouchers.

Looking Ahead

Hunger remains a critical issue in Trinidad and Tobago, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Proposed strategies include education programs like the School Nutrition Programme and technology such as FarmVue, connecting donors with those in need. Community outreach programs by the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society provide food aid and support. Ultimately, such efforts aim to alleviate hunger and build a healthier, more resilient society.
– Daniel Workman
Photo: Flickr

Telehealth System
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has created its own digital platform to bring a telehealth system to those in the remotest parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. “The aim of the platform is to improve patient outreach and follow-up, with an emphasis on continuity of care for people with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs),” said Sebastian Garcia Saiso, the Director of the Department of Evidence and Intelligence for Action in Health at PAHO.

Accounting for more than 70% of deaths across the globe, NCDs are the leading cause of disability and death in the world. The platform will be able to help ailing patients and allow healthcare workers to refer patients residing in remote locations before they undertake potentially burdensome travel.

The platform will be rolled out to The Bahamas, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Suriname, Dominica, Uruguay, Panama and Nicaragua. Below is a comparison of the PAHO telehealth system and those currently in place.

Telehealth System in Trinidad and Tobago

In a collaborative effort between PAHO and the Ministry of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, mobile medical robots underwent deployment to public health facilities in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. This benefitted those in the community who did not want to be face-to-face with their health care provider during the outbreak.

This shows that PAHO is not unfamiliar with working in Trinidad and Tobago and its continued work to get the most vital telehealth services to those who need them.

According to Erica Wheeler, a PAHO representative in Trinidad and Tobago, “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, both patients, as well as health professionals, are more eager now to engage in the use of the benefits of telemedicine.”

Telehealth System in Peru

Compared to other countries, Peru accelerated the implementation of telehealth services in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this was a step in the right direction, Peru’s telemedicine system was considered a hasty step because of inadequate internet access nationwide.

Peru has many factors working against the efforts of telemedicine to be effective. These include geographical concerns, costly internet prices and a high population of low-income individuals. PAHO’s “All-in-ONE Telehealth platform” will help to reach out to these people and have routine checkups to keep diseases, especially NCDs in check.

Telehealth System in Uruguay

The government of Uruguay saw the need for online health care and, in 2012, created the website “” The National Agency of Electronic Government, Uruguay’s Presidency, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy all collaborated in developing the platform. In March 2020, the government passed legislation to encourage telemedicine development and implementation in Uruguay. While Uruguay has made great strides in its own goals of getting telemedicine across the country, the efforts of PAHO will help those in the most remote spots.

Concluding Thoughts

The comparison of the PAHO telehealth system and those currently in place in countries across Latin America and the Caribbean revealed that many countries need help to bring the benefits of telehealth to their citizens. PAHO’s system will serve as a bridge by aiding those who need the most help.

– Sean McMullen
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago 
As of the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, Trinidad and Tobago remains on the Tier 2 watch list for human trafficking. Refugees from Venezuela and other migrants from South America are the primary victims of human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago, facilitated by members of the Trinidadian coast guard and customs office. The crisis in Venezuela has caused a large number of Venezuelan refugees to seek shelter, whether permanent or temporary, in Trinidad.

Cultural and language barriers make finding employment or housing incredibly difficult for refugees. This is making them prime victims of human trafficking schemes. Most commonly, traffickers sell these victims into sex slavery, “or forced labor in domestic service and the retail sector,” according to the U.S. Department of State.

Fortunately, the government is increasing its efforts to fight human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago. Between 2017 and 2020, the Counter Trafficking Unit in Trinidad has investigated 125 cases of human trafficking in total, with the majority of these being sex trafficking. Simultaneously, United Nations Agency IOM is aiding the government of Trinidad and Tobago in improving the lives of victims.

Government’s Efforts

The U.S. Department of State has identified Trinidad and Tobago as a Tier 2 watchlist country for human trafficking. Tier 2 watchlist countries are countries that, while not fully meeting the standards of the Trafficking Violence Protection Act to eliminate trafficking, are making significant efforts to do so.

In 2011, the government of Trinidad and Tobago passed the Trafficking in Persons Act. The act is criminalizing labor and sex trafficking with minimum sentences of 15 years, the U.S. Department of State reported. The government has prosecuted 14 traffickers since 2011, though the courts have not convicted a single trafficker under the law in that timespan. The government underwent legal system reforms in 2019 to address the backlog of cases. It opened five new courts with divisions specializing in human trafficking cases to make the system more efficient, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Trinidad and Tobago also created the Counter Trafficking Unit or CTU. It solely dedicates its time to investigating, stopping and prosecuting human trafficking in Trinidad. While this unit suffers from budget and personnel constraints, it still demonstrates a commitment to ending human trafficking.

Trinidad and Tobago improved its training and education for officers dealing with human trafficking. “The CTU produced a Pocket Guide for Frontline Officers” to aid in identifying victims of human trafficking, the U.S. Department of State reports. The government also implemented important, though limited, screening procedures for immigrants to identify those at high risk of human trafficking. By undergoing this screening, immigrants also gain access to programs such as translation services and English as a Second Language class.

United Nations Agency Efforts

The International Organization for Migrants, or IOM, is a United Nations Agency that provides services and advice to the government and migrants alike concerning migration. The IOM has been advocating and providing services to victims of human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago for multiple years.

The IOM provides services including “accommodation, emergency assistance, medical health services, vocational training and psychosocial support.” In one case, the IOM even advocated for the release of a victim of human trafficking who was arrested after fleeing her captors.

Additionally, the IOM provides specialized help to foreigners who become victims of human trafficking. It is working to break down cultural and language barriers that prevent victims from receiving the help they need. The IOM has urged the government of Trinidad and Tobago to continue ramping up its efforts to fight human trafficking. It has also pledged its support and cooperation if needed.

Next Steps

In 2021, the U.S. Department of State published recommendations to the Trinidadian government in the fight against human trafficking in Trinidad, including:

  • Implementing further justice system reforms to work through case backlog.
  • Implementing an “anti-trafficking national action plan.
  • “Undertaking proactive victim identification, screening and protection among migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.”
  • “Improve cooperation between the CTU, prosecutors, judiciary and NGOs to increase the number of cases that proceed to trial.”
  • “Train law enforcement and prosecutors in proactively identifying, obtaining, preserving and corroborating evidence of trafficking.”

In implementing these reforms, the government can adequately protect both foreigners and nationals and prove it is serious about fighting human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago.

Human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago is a serious issue. Vulnerable refugees from Venezuela continue to come into the country in large numbers and traffickers continue to prey on them. Fortunately, with the help of the IOM, Trinidad and Tobago is working to fight this issue. There is no sign that the government will relax its response to trafficking, continuing to implement best practices and work to solve the problem.

– Benjamin Brown
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's Impact on Trinidad and Tobago
COVID-19’s impact on Trinidad and Tobago, a tropical twin-island nation in the Caribbean, has been particularly harsh. As other countries return to normalcy, Trinidad and Tobago is facing its highest numbers of COVID-19 cases yet. In fact, it has seen a total of 33,920 cases and 918 deaths. Of its 1.3 million population, 7,162 currently have COVID-19. Government response consisted of closing the country’s borders, implementing stay-at-home orders and declaring a subsequent state of emergency. These measures have taken a toll on the country’s economy. The unprecedented loss of revenue has trickled down and affected various other sectors, disproportionately affecting the poorest Trinbagonians.

Economic Impact

Trinidad and Tobago is heavily dependent on revenue from crude oil and natural gas exportation. Global travel bans and local restrictions of movement resulted in decreasing fuel demands and worldwide devaluation.

The average price of crude oil, $60/barrel, began falling in January 2020. It reached an all-time low of $21.04/barrel in April 2020, a 65% decrease. Fortunately, since mass vaccination began, restrictions have eased, and prices began normalizing to around $60/barrel again by February 2021.

Tourism and Businesses

Tourism, the country’s second-largest income source, employs almost 10,000 persons and has halted following the country’s border closure. This resulted in up to 7% in job loss. Tobago in particular needs tourism to create jobs and supplement its economy, and both islands gain a large boost in foreign revenue during Carnival. The government closed beaches and canceled Carnival to save lives and with the hope of holding COVID-free Carnivals in future years as the country rebuilds its economy.

Poorer communities benefited from tourism with people working as boat-tour guides, street vendors and fishermen but lost out on those opportunities. Meanwhile, other non-essential and small businesses closed in April 2020. The later-imposed state of emergency saw several go bankrupt, further adding to the mass increase in unemployment and the potential loss of at least 10% of its GDP.

Economist Dr. Indera Sagewan said that while it is too early to confirm the exact number of businesses that closed due to COVID-19, she expects that more businesses will close permanently. She also expects that permanent employment will increase in the private sector.

“The social impact will be severe such as entertainment, tourism, the retail sectors as these sectors employ unskilled and semi-skilled individuals. They also operate in the lower-income bracket of society. This is the sector that has felt the brunt of COVID closures,” she said.

Helping Out

Local media outlets have been covering farmers, vendors and bus drivers fighting to make a living, spreading awareness of their plight and prompting community members to help each other. The government has offered Salary Relief Grants to affected persons in certain sectors, receiving over 15,000 applications, mainly from the retail, entertainment and food and restaurant sector.

Lengthy processing times of these applications have encouraged other entities to address immediate needs. Communities have hosted food drives, and the Digicel Foundation, partnering with 10 NGOs, offered $500,000 in food vouchers to 1,000 families that COVID-19 affected. The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists has also been offering free calls to help those who have experienced poor mental health as a result of job loss and quarantine during the pandemic.

An Overwhelmed Healthcare System

Early in the pandemic, the government created a parallel healthcare system, designating certain medical facilities to treat COVID-19 patients. However, the government did not fully enforce border closure, leading to a Venezuelan immigrant introducing the P1 Brazilian variant into the country.

Cases surged, with hospitals reaching over 95% occupation. The government’s inability to offer a steady supply of PPE, overtime or childcare pushed healthcare workers, who the pandemic had already spread thin, out of the profession. Despite the one nurse to 30 patient ratio, the Joint Trade Union Movement revealed that medical facilities were still only hiring healthcare workers temporarily.

Dr. Maryam Abdool-Richards, Principal Medical Officer, announced that hospitals were filling faster than emptying and they are “basically out of hospital beds.” This resulted in only 10 patients being admitted to the hospital per 100 cases. Meanwhile, those who were not able to afford private healthcare had to treat themselves at home. The U.S. government donated two field hospitals to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on Trinidad and Tobago, each with a 40-bed capacity.

Education Cutback

COVID-19’s impact on Trinidad and Tobago extends to education as well. Online learning has taken place since schools closed in March 2020. However, The Ministry of Education estimates that the resources needed to participate in school online are inaccessible to 60,000 students. The Ministry has provided most teachers with laptops but has not resolved the accessibility issue for poorer students. The Catholic Board of Education stepped in during 2020, partnering with the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) to bring internet connectivity to almost 2,000 students in need.

Trinbagonians, mainly students who were studying abroad when the borders closed, have spent over a year stranded in foreign countries. Many have been running low on foreign currency for food and shelter. Local media outlets have been covering the plight of these nationals and encouraging locals to utilize various money-transfer platforms to help them. The government recently launched an Exemption Program to slowly repatriate locals through the regional airline.

Thirdly, the Ministry reduced academic scholarships for tertiary education from 400 to 100 and cut postgraduate funding due to the pandemic. However, the Hindu religious group Maha Sabher is fighting for the affected students’ right to education. It has filed a lawsuit against the government’s new policy which they describe as “unlawful, unfair, deprived students of a legitimate expectation to be assessed for scholarships on academic performance.”

One student who qualified for a scholarship under the previous policy has resorted to funding her medical degree via Gofundme. “It’s unfair how our government handled education during COVID, but people online have been so generous,” she told The Borgen Project.


Willing Trinbagonians aged 60+ are gradually receiving vaccinations, in addition to public officials, some essential workers and some high-risk cases. Trinidad and Tobago’s government found vaccines difficult to secure so it has been depending on gifted doses. Luckily, other countries stepped up as Barbados,  Grenada, St. Vincent, Bermuda, the Grenadines and India donated a total of 64,500 AstraZeneca vaccines, China donated 200,000 Sinopharm vaccines and the U.S. donated 400 Pfizer vaccines.

In the words of ECLAC’s Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena, “No country will be able to fight this pandemic without global and regional cooperation. At the end of the day, what we really need to consider is what will happen to multilateralism. There must be more integration. Without a doubt, we must move towards greater coordination.”

The aid of global partners has certainly helped alleviate COVID-19’s impact on Trinidad and Tobago. However, while the country’s vaccination efforts continue, its citizens are doing what they can to help each other.

– Serah-Marie Maharaj
Photo: Flickr

healthcare worker emigrationThe emigration of skilled healthcare workers from developing countries to higher-income nations has significantly impacted the healthcare systems of the countries these workers leave behind. The quantity and quality of healthcare services have declined as a result of healthcare worker shortages. While there is still incredible room for growth, recent governmental strategies have incentivized healthcare workers to work in their home countries.

Why Is Healthcare Worker Emigration a Problem?

When healthcare workers emigrate, they leave hospitals in developing countries without enough skilled workers. Lower-income countries are likely to carry a greater amount of the global disease burden while having an extremely low healthcare staff to patient ratio. For example, sub-Saharan Africa only has 3% of all healthcare workers worldwide, while it carries 25% of the global disease burden. In many African countries with severe healthcare worker emigration, like Lesotho and Uganda, hospitals become overcrowded. Furthermore, hospitals cannot provide proper treatment for everyone due to the lack of skilled workers.

This directly affects the quality of care patients receive in countries with high healthcare worker emigration. Newborn, child and maternal health outcomes are worse when there are worker shortages. When fewer workers are available, fewer people receive healthcare services and the quality of care worsens for populations in need.

Why Do Healthcare Workers Emigrate?

The emigration of doctors, nurses, and other skilled healthcare workers from developing countries occurs for a number of reasons. The opportunity for higher wages elsewhere is often the most important factor in the decision to emigrate. Additionally, healthcare workers may migrate to higher-income nations to find political stability and achieve a better quality of life. The rate of highly skilled worker emigration, which has been on the rise since it was declared a major public health issue in the 1940s, has left fragile healthcare systems with a diminished workforce.

Moreover, the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the countries receiving the greatest numbers of healthcare worker immigrants, actively recruit healthcare workers from developing countries. These recruitment programs aim to combat the U.S. and U.K.’s own shortages of healthcare workers. Whether or not these programs factor into workers’ migration, both the U.S. and the U.K. are among the top five countries to which 90% of migrating physicians relocate.

Mitigating Healthcare Worker Emigration

The World Health Organization suggests that offering financial incentives, training and team-based opportunities can contribute to job satisfaction. This may motivate healthcare workers to remain in the healthcare system of their home country. Some developing countries have implemented these strategies to incentivize healthcare professionals to remain in their home countries.

For example, Malawi faced an extreme shortage of healthcare workers in the early 2000s. Following policy implementation addressing healthcare worker emigration, the nation has seen a decrease in the emigration rate. Malawi’s government launched the Emergency Human Resources Program (EHRP) in 2004. This program promoted worker retention through a 52% salary increase, additional training and the recruitment of volunteer nursing tutors and doctors. 

In only five years after the EHRP began, the proportion of healthcare workers to patients grew by 66% while emigration declined. Malawi expanded upon this program in 2011 with the Health Sector Strategic Plan. Following this plan, the number of nurses in Malawi grew from 4,500 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015. Though the nation still faces some worker shortages, it hopes to continue to address this with further policy changes.

Trinidad is another a country that has mitigated the challenges faced by the emigration of healthcare workers. Trinidadian doctors who train in another country now get government scholarships to pay for their training. However, these scholarships rest on the condition that they return home to practice medicine for at least five years. Such a financial incentive creates a stronger foundation for healthcare professionals to practice in their home country.

A Turn Toward Collaboration

A recent study determined that the collaboration of nurses, doctors and midwives significantly decreased mortality for mothers and children in low-income countries. As developing countries work toward generating strategies to manage the emigration of healthcare workers, a team-based approach can improve the quality of healthcare. When there are shortages of certain kinds of health professionals in remote areas, family health teams composed of workers in varying health disciplines can collaborate to provide care. 

Improving working conditions and providing both financial and non-financial incentives to healthcare professionals in developing countries not only benefits workers and the patients, but the nation’s healthcare infrastructure as a whole. An increase in the number of skilled healthcare workers in developing countries gives people there the opportunity for a better life.

– Ilana Issula
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Trinidad and TobagoCitizens of Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation in the southeastern West Indies, have universal access to insurance through a national health insurance system as well as a low-cost network of hospitals and public clinics. However, healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago still faces some challenges.

Healthcare Successes

Trinidad and Tobago is a high-income developing nation. Its well-developed infrastructure limits the prevalence of infectious illness and facilitates effective medical care. According to the Trinidad and Tobago Ministry of Health, more than 60% of deaths in Trinidad and Tobago are due to chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, cancer and cerebrovascular disease.

More than 95% of people in Trinidad and Tobago have access to improved water, although more than half of the population uses water from their own storage tanks rather than piped water. Healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago includes widespread vaccination access that has reduced the prevalence of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles. Both vaccination and clean water help people avoid infectious and waterborne illness.

More than 90% of the population has access to electricity, which supports population health by powering medical devices. Refrigerators, which are available to more than 80% of the population, help by refrigerating medications.

However, progress remains to be made in mitigating the common causes of death for each age group, including infants, children, teenagers, adults and elders.

Children’s Health

The most common causes of death and illness for children under 5 years old are infectious illness and acute respiratory disorders. Efforts to reduce the incidence of these illnesses through vaccination programs and other efforts have led to a decline in infant mortality, from 40 per 1,000 births in 1980 to 18.3 per 1000 births in 2018, though there is still room for improvement.

As children in Trinidad and Tobago get older, their risk for diabetes and obesity goes up, endangering their long term wellbeing. To help address that risk, the education ministry of Trinidad and Tobago introduced diabetes awareness education, promoting exercise, healthy nutrition and knowledge of the risks of diabetes. Research has found that the Trinidad and Tobago healthy schools initiative decreased consumption of soda and fried foods but does not seem to have affected rates of exercise. This shows both improvement in healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago and room for growth in pediatric obesity and diabetes mitigation.

Adult Health

Injuries are the leading cause of death for people from 18 to 40 years old due to workplace injuries, domestic violence, road accidents and accidents at home. According to a hospital surveillance study, men in Trinidad and Tobago are more likely to be injured than women. A more comprehensive study of the causes of workplace injuries and road accidents, as well as improved infrastructure for safeguarding survivors of domestic violence, may help lessen the impact of injuries in Trinidad and Tobago.

As people in Trinidad and Tobago get older, their risk of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, rises. The combination of an aging population and the increased prevalence of chronic illness in the elderly population makes maintaining and growing healthcare capacity essential in Trinidad and Tobago. Healthcare in Trinidad and Tobago faces a paradox, with both too few specialist doctors and also an oversupply of medical interns, indicating a need for more specialist medical training opportunities to keep up with the chronic illness treatment needs of an aging population.

Trinidad and Tobago succeeds in providing effective medical care for infectious illnesses due to its universal health care system and quality infrastructure. However, there is still room for growth in the prevention and management of chronic illnesses, which affect people of all ages in Trinidad and Tobago.

– Tamara Kamis
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is the southernmost island in the Caribbean. The country has a population of approximately 1.39 million people, with 20% of those people living below the poverty line. As a result, homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago is a common reality for many citizens. Homelessness does not only impact those who experience it directly, but it also harms the surrounding community and the overall Trinidadian economy.

The Effects of Homelessness and Poverty

According to Newsday, there are approximately 414 homeless people living on the streets of Trinidad and Tobago. Behavioral health disorders, rising numbers of victims of assault and acute and chronic physical conditions are just some of the effects of homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago. Crimes against the homeless has risen drastically in the country. There has been a total of 1,437 assault cases against homeless individuals alone. With an unemployment rate of 4.9%, and rising drastically, conditions are made worse as more citizens fall below the poverty line and into homelessness. 

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted economies worldwide, and Trinidad and Tobago is no exception. The pandemic has increased the number of vulnerable individuals and the percentage of people living in homelessness in the country. As a tourism-dependent country, the pandemic caused the closure of most touristic attractions, thus decreasing the amount of money going into Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, many people were laid off and fell below the minimum wage line.

The Good News

Despite the increasing numbers of people on the streets, many organizations have come together to help the homeless in Trinidad and Tobago. With the help of The Social Development Ministry, the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has worked rigorously to build temporary housing for the homeless. The facility aforementioned began construction in April of 2020 and provides homeless individuals with roofs over their heads, cots to sleep on, clean bathrooms and meals three times a day. To ensure the safety and health of those staying there, social distancing has been enforced and The Public Health Department has conducted inspections.

By raising funds to provide housing for those less fortunate, Habitat for Humanity has also made a positive impact in the country. The organization builds safe and clean habitats for those in need in Trinidad and Tobago. The non-profit began building in 1997 and has served more than 700 people since.

Homelessness in Trinidad and Tobago affects many people, especially during a time when homeless rates are rising drastically as more people lose their jobs. Assistance provided by the Trinidad and Tobago Defense Force has helped decrease the number of people living on the street. As more shelters open, more homeless individuals begin receiving the help they need.

– Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr 

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

Factors Contributing to Heart Disease

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

The Financial Impact of Cardiovascular Disease on Families

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

Jamaica and Barbados Hit by The Risk of Heart Disease

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

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

The Reason Behind Cardiovascular Disease

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

Looking to the Future

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

 Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr


top 10 facts about living conditions in trinidad and tobago

North of the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago is a wondrous country with elements that make the island unique. Living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago are bewildering due to its economic growth and the risks of HIV. There are many factors that affect living conditions on this island that make it whole. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Trinidad and Tobago

  1. Trinidad and Tobago is regarded as one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean due to its oil reserves and rich resources which help boost the economy in great ways. It is also regarded as one of the top three wealthiest countries in the Americas because of the amount of oil and gas throughout the island allowing for the economy to thrive and helping people live well throughout the island.
  2. Public healthcare is provided for free for citizens on the island, but there are private healthcare providers that can be paid for if it is affordable. There are numerous healthcare centers established around the island making it easily accessible for the citizens in Trinidad and Tobago.
  3. Although the economy has seen a significant boost since its independence in the 1960s, 26 percent of the population is living in poverty, surviving on less than $2.75 a day.
  4. Education is free to children between the ages of 5 and 16. There are private institutions that citizens can pay for but public education provides children with free transportation, books, and meals while in school giving children the opportunity to learn effectively.
  5. Trinidad and Tobago suffer from an increase in crime rates compared to 2016. There has been a 5.5 percent increase in crime rates, which are mostly violent crimes including murder and robbery.
  6. Trinidad and Tobago have a rich cultural life throughout the island celebrating historical African music, dance and literature.
  7. Housing has become a primary concern throughout the country due to the increasing population throughout the island. Many people struggle to find housing in urban areas due to the increasing shortage of land and high construction costs.
  8. Housing conditions vary throughout the urban and rural areas of Trinidad and Tobago. Families in rural areas usually inhabit wooden huts and have various family types where women are typically the head of the household.
  9. The unemployment rate has reached its lowest in 2015 with a rate of 3.5 percent. It has seen a significant decrease since the 90s where it was 17.2 percent.
  10. HIV has become a prevalent disease affecting a large amount of the population. Nearly 11,000 people are living with HIV but with access to free public health care, nearly 75 percent of the population is receiving treatment for the disease.

Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing great economic growth due to the vast amount of resources and has seen progress regarding education and health care but still see issues regarding diseases, housing and poverty. Although these may be factors that can affect the country negatively, Trinidad and Tobago have the potential to combat these elements to help the country thrive. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago.

Elijah Jackson
Photo: Flickr

A small Caribbean nation with less than 1.4 million people, Trinidad and Tobago faces a serious hunger problem that is afflicting its citizens. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly 100,000 people are undernourished, which accounts for nearly 7.5 percent of the nation’s population. The rest of the Caribbean and Latin America has an average undernourishment rate of only 5.5 percent of the population, which signals how serious hunger in Trinidad and Tobago is.

One of the major reasons for the sheer amount of hunger in the nation is how much food it wastes every year. According to the World Bank, Trinidad and Tobago is the most wasteful country per urban capita in the world.

At a conference launching the nonprofit organization Nourish TT, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul reported that the Caribbean and Latin America waste a staggering 78 million tons of food annually, which totals 6 percent of global food production, and Trinidad and Tobago is the most wasteful country in the region.

Fletcher-Paul said: “The FAO estimates that in T&T if we were to reduce the food losses at the retail level, we would have enough food to reduce, by 50 percent, the undernourished people in the country.” That only includes food wasted in retail. If waste from all sources could be eliminated, the FAO calculates, all the undernourished people in Trinidad and Tobago could be fed.

With a GDP per capita in the world’s top 60, Trinidad and Tobago has an economic infrastructure more than capable of feeding its citizens, yet more than one in 10 citizens goes hungry. Organizations such as Nourish TT are doing their best to help eliminate food waste and ensure that hungry people receive the nourishment they need.

Similarly, the United Nations Development Programme has implemented the MDG1 program to help eliminate poverty and hunger in Trinidad and Tobago as well as other nations. Programs like MDG1 identify areas of critical need such as improving education, growing non-fossil fuel industries and helping reform healthcare and workers’ rights. With programs such as these in place to eliminate waste, hunger in Trinidad and Tobago looks to be a problem on its way to ending.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr