Challenges and Solutions in Reducing the Poverty Rate in St. Kitts and NevisSt. Kitts and Nevis is not one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean. No exact statistics on the exact poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis exist, but it is clear that the country both has ongoing struggles and that solutions to many of its problems do exist.

One of the biggest contributing factors to the poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis is youth unemployment and underemployment. Some of the costs of this are hard to quantify, such as the feeling of self-esteem one gains from being employed.

Childhood education is free in St. Kitts and Nevis, but the additional costs associated with it can be prohibitive. Teachers in St. Kitts and Nevis have been known to hold antagonistic attitudes towards the poor. In many cases, impoverished parents of children have to work two or three jobs to provide for their families.

Health problems related to unhealthy lifestyles are widespread in St. Kitts and Nevis, such as obesity, hypertension and depression. This, in turn, puts a strain on the country’s healthcare system and economy.

It is not unheard of for citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis to procure healthcare and education abroad. In fact, many low-income families in the country are supported by migrants living abroad and sending money home.

Another contributor to the poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis is one that threatens all Caribbean nations: natural disasters, particularly hurricanes. The collapse of the sugar industry has led to soil erosion, a result of diverting runoff rainwater to sugar fields through pipes.

Alarmingly, violent crime, which can be both symptomatic of and contribute to poverty, has risen in the very recent past. There were 103 reported homicides in 2006-2010, compared to 42 from 2001-2005, a 160 percent increase.

Despite the obvious challenges that lay ahead, there are several steps being taken to reduce the poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis. The country is in the process of reforming the various antiquated departments that would be concerned with a rise in violent crime. Effective mobilization of resources to inform the public about bad health choices could make a huge difference. Currently, the government is investing in more training for medical professionals.

St. Kitts and Nevis face a number of very real challenges in alleviating poverty. But most of these challenges have been identified and none are insurmountable. In the coming years, with proper action, the poverty rate in St. Kitts and Nevis can be reduced.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr