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Causes of Poverty in Antigua and BarbudaBoasting gorgeous beaches and pale blue water, Antigua and Barbuda is a popular hub for tourism, making it one of the most economically successful nations in the Caribbean. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism comprises 60.4 percent of Antigua and Barbuda’s GDP. Despite the influx of tourism-related wealth, 22 percent of the islands’ occupants live below the poverty line, raising the question: what are the causes of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda?

While tourism has undoubtedly boosted Antigua and Barbuda‘s economy, generating 54.3 percent of the nation’s total employment, the unique temporality of the tourism industry has left some citizens in the lurch. People working in the tourism industry have a reliable income during the tourist season. However, these individuals find themselves unemployed during the off-season and unable to afford basic necessities for parts of the year.

Demographics also play a role in the poverty status of people living in Antigua and Barbuda. Women in Antigua and Barbuda are employed in private sector and tourism jobs even more than men, and are less likely to be poverty-afflicted compared with women in other developing nations. However, single mothers shouldering the unshared financial burdens of parenthood are still exceptionally vulnerable to life below the poverty line. Poor households typically have 5.2 children, while more affluent households average only 2.8 children. Over a third of Antigua and Barbuda’s population living in food poverty is under the age of 14.

Overcrowded living situations correlate with insufficient resources, such that poor families often cannot afford to send their children to school, making these children more vulnerable to poverty in adulthood. A primary school education reduces the probability of poverty by 91 percent.

While statistics reflecting the poverty status of young people in Antigua and Barbuda may seem disheartening, UNICEF is confident that the prevalence of poverty in the nation’s younger demographic may actually help effectively aim poverty prevention efforts. By targeting families with more children, UNICEF hopes to provide aid to those who need it most. Additionally, the organization has proposed school feeding programs to provide proper nutrition to children living in food poverty.

While the causes of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda function at personal levels like employment and family size, there are also larger factors such as flawed infrastructure, which makes public facilities and social services difficult for citizens to access. Infrastructural weaknesses are particularly threatening for nations like Antigua and Barbuda, which is vulnerable to environmental catastrophes such as hurricanes.

On September 5, Hurricane Irma devastated Antigua and Barbuda. Barbuda was left in shambles, and nearly all its inhabitants have lost their homes. Prime Minister Gaston Browne immediately implored the world for aid contributions, and the Red Cross has already provided over $120,000 to support disaster relief efforts throughout the Caribbean. However, much more aid is still needed to help those who have been affected regain and rebuild their lives. Many organizations have already rallied to assist the people in need.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases in Antigua and Barbuda
The country of Antigua and Barbuda currently has the fourth-lowest mortality rate in the Caribbean region. Despite a lower mortality rate, in this small country of 90,755 people, communicable diseases are some of the most deadly. Diarrhea and lower respiratory infections are the most common diseases, followed by the highly infectious HIV/AIDS virus, which affects 2.2% of the population and is one of the top diseases in Antigua and Barbuda.

Because HIV/AIDS is responsible for 19.4% of deaths in Antigua and Barbuda, the government has taken direct action to prevent, treat, and inform people of the disease.

In 2001, Antigua and Barbuda officially called upon the United States for a systematic global response to the HIV/AIDS virus—a plea that was met with generous funding for HIV antiretroviral drugs available to the country for increased accessible treatment. Further, the U.S. and other external agencies including the U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program (CAREC) assisted the country in attaining accessible HIV testing to all individuals. Since then, the HIV/AIDS-awareness response in the country has grown tremendously, though the government still faces hardship in preventing one of the top diseases in Antigua and Barbuda.

In 2013, the HIV mortality rate had increased by an alarming 183 percent since 1990, and in 2015, the country, unfortunately, saw 48 new cases of diagnosed HIV in both males and females between 20 and 60 years of age.

The good news is that the country’s government provides continuous HIV/AIDS treatment and care services for free and operates from its own national response team with some help from outside relief organizations.

In 2015, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), tested and counseled more than 3,000 people in the Caribbean region and provided preventative, comprehensive and evidence-based interventions for more than 7,000 individuals. Progress like this proves that preventative care and external aid, paired with $22 million in funding to the region in 2016, has led to great success in combating one of the top diseases in Antigua and Barbuda.

Internal efforts to combat the disease have dramatically increased the speed of treatment and prevention in the country as well. In 2015, the Barbuda Council collaborated with agencies such as Antigua State College, Community Development Division and AIDS Secretariat and Partners, to host 36 HIV awareness programs. Among these were multiple counseling sessions including testing and distribution of informational materials and health fairs encouraging the education of HIV prevention.

Additionally, the government now provides a clinical care team to all patients, and health care providers receive training for new HIV Care and Treatment Guidelines.

Furthermore, the country is working to overcome challenges of treating HIV, such as limited data on people most at risk, by attempting to increase HIV testing for all people and preparing to mobilize HIV assessment and care into primary health care.

Because of relief efforts both inside and outside the country, the disease is becoming less prevalent. For example, premature deaths due to the virus decreased by 28.9 percent between 2005 and 2015. It is the government’s ambitious programming and training for the population that should continually decrease the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Antigua and Barbuda.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr