USAID has been actively working in Jamaica since 1962 to alleviate poverty and support various initiatives aimed at benefiting communities. The following is a brief look into the significant impact of USAID programs in Jamaica, particularly in the areas of education, COVID-19 response and energy security.
In 2014, USAID collaborated with the Government of Jamaica on a Government-to-Government scheme focused on improving literacy skills and reading comprehension among children. The project targeted 450 of Jamaica’s poorest-performing schools, with a strategic focus on regions facing high poverty and crime rates.
The ongoing ‘Positive Pathways’ project, running until 2025 with a budget of $15 million, plays a crucial role in providing essential opportunities for Jamaican children to make better choices in their early lives. Key components of the program include business training, career guidance and enhanced psychosocial support.
The scheme primarily targets children aged between 10-17, particularly those demonstrating behavioral issues, as they are at a higher risk of gang involvement and criminal activity. To address this, parenting interventions and conflict resolution training are prioritized to reduce children’s exposure to violence.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID collaborated with the Pan-American Health Organization, Jamaica Aids Support for Life and various other partners to deliver crucial support in Jamaica.
More than $7 million was invested in funding vaccination efforts, ensuring food security and equipping hospitals with essential equipment. USAID provided 1,000 health care workers with protective gear and distributed care packages, including masks and sanitizers, to 1,500 of the most vulnerable individuals. Additionally, hospitals received extra beds to accommodate severe cases.
During the initial outbreak, immediate relief was provided to the most impoverished in Jamaica. More than 1,000 food and sanitation vouchers were distributed, alongside educational supplies such as book vouchers and laptops to facilitate online study.
In the second phase of assistance, which commenced in September 2021, USAID focused on strengthening Jamaica’s health care infrastructure. The efforts included enhancing logistics and digital information systems to ensure a more efficient vaccine rollout and a stronger response to future health crises.
In 2021, USAID partnered with the Cadmus Group to launch a $4 million alliance dedicated to boosting Jamaica’s energy sector. The initiative aimed to enhance the reliability of energy systems and reduce the risks of major energy loss during natural disasters.
Under the scheme, hundreds of local businesses will be provided with solar photovoltaic electricity systems, a method of energy generation that is renewable and can adapt easily to meet energy demands due to its modular structure.
As stated by USAID, “Damage to the energy system can lead to sudden increases in the price of fuel and reduce access to affordable electricity, including the country’s most vulnerable.”
About 96% of Jamaica’s population is at risk of multiple natural hazards including earthquakes and hurricanes. The alliance, with potential investment reaching $50 million from investors, aims to reduce the nation’s dependence on imported fuels, enhance solar energy generation and increase tourism. As Jamaica’s largest economic sector, improved energy security in the hospitality industry could foster sustained economic growth, create new job opportunities and provide hope to millions of vulnerable and impoverished individuals.
USAID’s unwavering commitment to Jamaica has significantly impacted the lives of the 12.6% of people below the poverty line, offering them a chance to achieve financial stability while safeguarding human rights. The organization’s efforts and achievements have instilled hope and contributed to building a better country for more than 300,000 Jamaicans.
– Oliver Rayner