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climate-resilientAfter two category five hurricanes ripped through the Caribbean in the space of two weeks, the small nation of Dominica is forced to reassess how it will deal with future storms and become climate-resilient.

Hurricane Maria hit Dominica on September 18, 2017 in the middle of the night. It flattened approximately 22,000 homes, killed 26 people (with 31 still missing) and nearly wiped out plant life on the island. Dominica is a small island east of Puerto Rico with a population of roughly 74,000.  As of October 18, 2017, no one on the island had access to running, drinkable water. With sewage systems destroyed, locals were left with fears of diarrhea and dysentery.

It is difficult to account for people taking shelter with other families, but according to the Government of Dominica, out of 146 centers, 108 are housing 2,911 people. It is difficult to find homes in Dominica with a roof still attached.

More than 45 percent of Dominica consists of rainforests and protected national parks. These have been decimated by the storms. Some greenery has returned in the past two months, but it is still a huge blow to Dominica’s livelihood.

Agriculture and tourism, two main factors contributing to Dominica’s GDP, were upended in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Dominica is still several months away from being able to welcome new tourists. With the massive impact on income, citizens have increasingly left the island in search of opportunities in neighboring countries.

Warmer seas make stronger storms, and Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit believes that in order for his country to continue on, it will need to rebuild as the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

“To deny climate change… is to deny a truth we have just lived,” Skerrit told the United Nations five days after Maria. “No generation has seen more than one Category 5 hurricane. We’ve seen two in two weeks.”

Skerrit is pushing to rebuild Dominica in a manner that would greatly reduce the impact of hurricanes, with enclosed spaces for livestock and climate controlled centers for agriculture. Skerrit emphasized the importance of moving toward renewable energy like geothermal and solar, as well as researching and adopting construction codes utilized in the state of Florida.

Skerrit is confident that Dominica will achieve its goal of becoming climate-resilient, but this must be done with international cooperation.

“We are among those countries which contribute least to climate change,” Skerrit said, “but over the last two weeks we have suffered the consequences of two devastating storms which have left us struggling to stay on the path of sustainable development.”

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Dominica

Known to be one of the most beautiful island nations in the Caribbean, Dominica is home to several lush rainforests, mountains, volcanic springs and rare plant and animal species. It is an attractive tourist destination and today much of its economy is based on tourism. However, almost 30 percent of the country lives in poverty, with three percent living in extreme poverty.

Like its neighbours, Dominica has a long history of colonization that resulted in its inclusion into the Commonwealth nations. It was also responsible for the establishment of an agricultural economy; sugarcane, coffee cultivation and timber harvests are among its main industries. After the fall of its “slave estate,” Dominica’s economic mainstay was banana production. To this day, one third of the country’s workforce is employed in the banana industry and that is one of the many causes of poverty in Dominica.

Because of its geographic location, Dominica is susceptible to annual hurricanes, which have caused its banana output to decline by almost 50 percent from 1978 to 2001. While some financial support from other countries was given to rebuild the sector, Dominica had to diversify its agricultural exports in order to rehabilitate its economy. It now exports several other fruits, flowers, soap and coffee, which have taken a long time to kick off.

Interestingly, despite being one of the poorer nations in the Caribbean, Dominica does not have a large income gap like many other countries. The majority of its 70,000 people are small peasants and there is a small, urban middle class of young working professionals. There are very few extremely wealthy Dominicans; those that belong to the current elite are generally descendants of colonial-era plantation owners. However, Dominica has recently introduced an “economic citizenship program” which allows wealthy foreigners to buy a Dominican passport for around $100,000, which may result in wealth imbalances. The program has led to an influx of foreign investment in the country, as the Dominican passport is a relatively strong one – allowing visa-free entry into over 120 countries – and has increased the country’s GDP significantly. The development of offshore financial services and construction has also mitigated some of the causes of poverty in Dominica, with the country’s economy growing by over four percent in 2006.

While the International Monetary Fund praised the Dominican government for these macroeconomic reforms and market diversification strategies, the causes of poverty in Dominica are not necessarily being addressed equitably for the entire population. However, a shift in the country’s economic platforms sets the stage for a more robust and holistic poverty alleviation program that is within reach for Dominica.

Paroma Soni

Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Dominica RefugeesNations such as the Commonwealth of Dominica, and in the Caribbean in general, have become increasingly popular for those seeking asylum throughout the world, demanding an understanding of refugees throughout Caribbean nations. Here on ten facts about Dominican refugees.

  1. Dominica does not actually have a significant refugee problem. In 2015, The World Bank recorded there to be 38 Dominican refugees. Comparatively, it reported that there were almost five million Syrian refugees, and even 4,832 American refugees, showing the Dominican refugee population to be rather small.
  2. Because the population of Dominican refugees is so small, there is little to no data about them.
  3. Dominica is not involved in any military operations and does not actually have a regular military force. Dominica’s only security force is its Commonwealth of Dominica Police Force. Due to the lack of internal and external military conflicts, there are no Dominican refugees fleeing from war.
  4. It is likely that refugees from neighboring islands use Dominica as a stop along their routes. The UNCHR believes Dominica could be a “point of transit” for Haitians traveling to the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique.
  5. In 2016, 26 people from Dominica applied for asylum in the United States, United Kingdom and France. All were rejected.
  6. The government of Dominica is committed to providing the necessary provisions to those seeking asylum in Dominica, but due to common economic migration movements throughout the Caribbean, as nationals of different islands travel to work, it is difficult for the government to know who is a refugee that needs aid. The UNCHR has highlighted this issue as key to the protection of refugees seeking asylum in Dominica.
  7. It has been proposed that Dominica could serve as the location for a “refugee nation,” an internationally recognized state for the settlement of refugees. Jason Buzi leads Refugee Nation, a project aimed at petitioning the UNCHR to charter a new country for refugees. Buzi proposed Dominica as an example of a prospective location for a refugee nation because it is an island with a small population that could accept a great influx of people. The goal of Refugee Nation is to establish a new nation by 2020.
  8. The numbers of refugees seeking asylum in the Caribbean continued to rise between mid-2015 and mid-2016. It has been shown that there was a 257 percent increase in asylum seekers in the Caribbean during this time period. Most of these refugees come from other Caribbean nations such as Cuba and Haiti, but others come from Venezuela, Syria, Sri Lanka and other South American, African, Asian and Middle Eastern nations.
  9. The current influx in refugees to the Caribbean poses issues for small Caribbean governments that have limited resources to support refugees, as the UNCHR highlighted with Dominica. However, refugees also bring skills and manpower to the economy, making them positive additions to small Caribbean countries.
  10. Refugees travel to the Caribbean seeking asylum due to the historical culture of immigration and mixed communities within the Caribbean, and the high level of human development in many Caribbean countries. Dominica is 96th, ranking high for quality of life on the UNDP’s Human Development Index.

Mary Luft
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Dominica
Home to a smoking lake and built atop an underwater volcano, Dominica is a small island to the southeast of Puerto Rico. The island is in relatively good health compared to its Caribbean neighbors, but that does not mean that disease is not prevalent on the island. Below are five of the deadliest common diseases in Dominica:

  1. Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiovascular disease covers many different diseases. Coronary artery disease, strokes and hypertensive heart disease all fall under this umbrella. While not communicable, heart disease is still the number one cause of death globally. In Dominica the main contributors to cardiovascular disease are smoking, poor diet and high stress levels.
  2. Diabetes
    Diabetes is a condition that can be either hereditary (Type I) or contracted (Type II). It’s the body losing its ability to create insulin to keep up with high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Type II Diabetes, the most common form, is usually more prevalent in more developed nations due to diets high in sugars and carbohydrates.
  3. Lower Respiratory Infections
    Just like cardiovascular disease, lower respiratory infections are prevalent worldwide, accounting for more than 3 percent of all deaths globally in 2012. Luckily, in Dominica, lower respiratory infection mortality has decreased by 3 percent in the last decade.
  4. Prostate Cancer
    Prostate cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in Dominica. It’s estimated that one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his life. It’s one of the leading causes of death among men worldwide. It’s also one of the fastest-growing diseases. From 1990 to 2013, Dominica experienced a 105 percent increase in prostate cancer deaths.
  5. Chronic Kidney Disease
    Also known as kidney failure is the gradual shut down of the kidneys. As the kidneys stop working, fluids and excess salts build up in the body and as a last resort, patients are put on dialysis to filter out said salts. Diabetes and kidney disease are closely related, and both are related to diet. In the last decade, there’s been an 80 percent spike in deaths associated with kidney disease.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, it does run very nearly parallel to the most deadly diseases worldwide. What does that mean for Dominica? Nearly all of the most common diseases in Dominica are related in some way to diet and therefore preventable. Until breakthroughs are made in food science and medicine, these diseases will continue to plague Dominica and the world.

Thomas James Anania

Photo: Flickr

Education in Dominica
Dominica is a beautiful island with volcanic peaks, hot springs and rain forest canopies. We know a lot about Dominica as a traveling destination, but what do we know about education in Dominica?

Who is responsible for the education in Dominica?
The responsibility for primary and secondary education in Dominica falls in the hands of The Ministry of Education and Human Resources, an organization that helps educate and prepare students. Their mission statement is “to educate and prepare all students to live productive lives in a complex and changing society.” The Ministry is dedicated to providing students with support and leadership. The Ministry is also responsible for implementing policies and standards. In addition, they supervise early childhood education.

Other prominent agencies include the Curriculum Unit, the National Documentation Centre Database and the National Library Services. The Curriculum Unit is responsible for maintaining a curriculum framework and handling teaching materials and examination provisions. The National Documentation Centre Database and the National Library Services are in charge of the country’s libraries and archives.

Primary and secondary schools
The academic year begins in September and ends in July. The system is structured so that primary school runs from grade one to grade seven and secondary school runs from grade eight to grade 12.

The last two years of secondary school are not free. Therefore, students who wish to attend university must have the money for it or acquire a scholarship. Unfortunately, there aren’t many scholarships available. For this reason, many people are unable to attend school and escape rural poverty through further education.

Higher Education

Higher education in Dominica is divided into three categories: state, external and private.

Dominica State College falls under the state category, as it is a public funded institution. The State College provides certificates and Associate’s Degrees. It is also beginning to award bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Under the external category lies the University of the West Indies. The University of the West Indies does not have a campus on the island, but it does have a division. The division provides some first year studies and full degree programs.

Under the private category lies All Saints University School of Medicine, International University for Graduate Studies, New World University and Ross University School of Medicine. Ross University School provides courses for U.S. citizens. In fact, only five Dominicans are allowed to enroll every year.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Dominica
Dominica is an eastern Caribbean nation with clusters of coastal communities and a sparsely populated volcanic interior. The top diseases in Dominica are chronic non-communicable diseases (CNCDs), responsible for 52 percent of deaths. According to a survey taken in Dominica, from 2005 to 2009, the main causes of death were strokes, diabetes, and heart diseases. The survey also shows the number of deaths on the island due to CNCDs:

  • Strokes, coronary ischemia, heart disease and hypertension: 333 deaths
  • Diabetes mellitus: 228 deaths
  • Ischemic heart disease: 206 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of prostate: 176 deaths
  • Hypertensive diseases: 165 deaths
  • Acute respiratory infection: 137 deaths
  • Other forms of heart disease: 120 deaths
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 96 deaths
  • Heart failure: 84 deaths
  • Malignant neoplasm of digestive organs and peritoneum: 66 deaths

According to Pan American Health Organization director Carissa Etienne, Dominican health statistics are concerning. “For every three persons, one has high blood pressure. For every five persons in Dominica, one has diabetes. For every four persons in Dominica, one has high cholesterol. For every two people in Dominica, one is overweight or obese,” Etienne said.

Most diseases in Dominica are caused by preventable risk factors including tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. These can be prevented with a change of lifestyle.

According to healthdata.org, in 2015, the highest cause of death in Dominica was cardiovascular complications, at 55.8 percent . Chronic kidney disease resulted in the most combined death and disability, affecting more than 30 percent of people that year. The second-highest contributor was cerebrovascular disease, with more than 20 percent of people becoming disabled.

Furthermore, diabetes is becoming a prevalent disease in Dominica. From 2005 to 2015, diabetes affected 19.9 percent of the population. According to the International Diabetes Federation, in 2015, there were 6,000 cases of diabetes. Pan American Health Organization representative for Barbados Godfrey Xuereb said the prevalence of diabetes in Dominica had risen from about five percent in 1980 to almost 15 percent in 2014.

The number of CNCDs is very high. However, Dominica has been holding conferences to address the situation. Doctors have brought this problem to light, and have been working on ways to help people stay aware of their health and to take care of themselves.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

 Hunger in Dominica
With a GDP of nearly $5.2 million and a population of 72,680 people, the Commonwealth of Dominica is considered an upper-middle income country, according to the World Bank.

While the average citizen does not regularly face hunger in Dominica, many still face malnutrition through the introduction of the Western diet. Approximately 55 percent of all foods consumed in Dominica are imported, which contributes to a calorically dense, yet nutritionally weak diet and increases in diet-related non-communicable diseases like obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and local clinicians alike have identified obesity to be a persistent issue for the island country, with clinical data estimating 24.8 percent of adolescents to be overweight and 9.1 percent obese in 2016. The WHO has enlisted a series of nutritional initiatives and campaigns to reduce obesity through nutrition counseling and promotion of unprocessed foods. Domestic agriculture and fisheries production contribute significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.

Dominica is also especially susceptible to natural disasters due to its location in the Caribbean. Hurricanes and tropical storms can severely stunt the island nation’s food production, as seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Johnson Drigo, reported over $200 million in damages to Dominica’s agricultural sector months after the tropical storm had passed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed much to the literature surrounding nutrition security in Dominica, as well as measures to improve it. The FAO and the government of Dominica have agreed to collaborate over the 2016 to 2019 timeframe in three primary categories: food and nutrition security, agricultural health and food safety; risk management, building resilience to climate change; and sustainable rural agricultural development.

For instance, the FAO aids Dominica’s National School Feeding Program in connecting school lunch programs to local farms and in improving nutrition education among students. The FAO also recognizes that domestic agriculture and fisheries production contributes significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.

When it comes to natural disaster relief, the FAO invests in the short-term, emergency recovery efforts of small farmers and supports long-term, emergency relief planning and agriculture disaster risk management.

While hunger in Dominica may not be the most pertinent issue in the country’s food security, the key to minimizing hunger, obesity and malnutrition alike may lie in improving sustainable nutrition development and in preserving and protecting local agriculture in light of natural disasters.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Ethical Vacation Destinations
Recently becoming the world’s largest industry, travel is one of the hottest commodities on the market. With a trillion-dollar annual footprint, the travel business has major economic and political power. However, not all destinations are created equal. Where you, as a traveler, choose to journey can either encourage best practice behavior from mindful countries, or support the harmful tourist industries of their irresponsible counterparts.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that seeks to use tourism to protect human rights and the environment. Every year, Ethical Traveler compiles a list of 10 developing countries with vibrant tourism industries that will put your traveling expenses to good use.

The countries that made the list are those that scored best in the categories of support of human rights, preservation of the environment, social welfare and animal welfare. According to Ethical Traveler, “Each country selected as a Best Ethical Destination also offers the opportunity to experience unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.”

This year’s winners may surprise you; the majority of these unusual destinations are off the beaten path, but promise an outstanding vacation with values you can feel good about. Here are the 10 most ethical vacation destinations.

The Bahamas

These islands prioritize conservation and sustainability, as shown by the efforts to establish new Marine Protected Areas and the expansion of a number of protected acres in a major National Park. The Bahamas made great strides to combat human trafficking this year, with the first prosecution under human trafficking law.

Barbados

Cited by Ethical Traveler as a “best practice model for the Caribbean,” Barbados promotes sustainable tourism while protecting its coastline. The child mortality rate in Barbados is particularly low, and this nation received the highest possible score in the categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties –higher even than some developed countries.

Cape Verde

This country has the goal of making energy 100 percent renewable over the next two decades. Cape Verde is also an outstanding example of an African country with stellar attention to political and civil rights, with laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and holding its first Gay Pride Week this year — the second to take place in all of Africa.

Dominica

This island boasts unspoiled forests and native species. An emphasis on protecting wildlife includes the preservation of native frog and iguana populations, along with a valiant effort to save endemic mountain chickens, which only inhabit two islands in the world. Dominica has expanded solar power across the island, and has the goal of being energy-independent and carbon negative by 2020.

Latvia

Of the winning destinations, Latvia scored the highest in environmental protection. This nation has been acknowledged as one of the top performers in the world in both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. Not only does this country have a pristine environmental record, it is the highest ranked of the 10 countries in gender equality.

Lithuania

Like Latvia, Lithuania is a leader in environmental and animal protection. Lithuania made strides in social welfare this year by reaching it’s Millennium Development Goal for under 5 mortality rate, which has dropped by a whopping 52 percent since 2000.

Mauritius

This year Mauritius announced an impressive renewable energy goal, aiming for 35 percent renewable use over the next two decades. The U.N. praised Mauritius for having made ‘substantial progress’ in social welfare this year, due to their improvements in property rights and labor freedom.

Palau

In Palau, 28.2 percent of precious marine and terrestrial area is protected – the highest percentage out of all the countries on this list. Press freedom in Palau is impressive; this country prides itself on exemplary freedom of press for a developing country.

Uruguay

Uruguay is in the process of building 21 wind farms, and is working toward the goal of 90 percent renewable electricity by 2015. Uruguay dominates the category of human rights, with laws passed this year allowing marriage equality and the legalization of steps toward ending unsafe abortions. This country’s equality ranking was second only to Chile.

By visiting the destinations on this list, travelers can reward developing countries for their promotion of sustainable tourism and ethical laws. The additional economic support from tourism will allow these nations to continue improving their countries, and protect the valuable natural resources that make them such appealing places to explore.

Grace Flaherty 

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Ethical Traveler
Photo: BBC