Cost of Living in Panama
Known for its 48-mile canal connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean, Panama receives over a million visitors each year. Panama’s beautiful beaches, ecotourism and international festivals can seduce many tourists into making Panama their home rather than a vacation spot. For those who entertain the thought of Panama as their permanent home, it is important to know the cost of living in Panama as well as what it’s like to live there.

Panama has a relatively low cost of living, which can range from $1,120 to $8,000 per month for two people, while the average middle-class salary in Panama is estimated at $1,200 per month. These costs fluctuate depending on what region or city you are going to be living in Panama.

The unemployment rate in Panama is 4.5%. The labor force in Panama is made up of 1.78 million people; a large majority of the population works in services while the rest works in agriculture and industry. The standard workweek in Panama is 48 hours, which is 8 hours more than a full-time work week here in the United States.

While the cost of living in Panama is low, migrants should know much more about Panama before making the decision to move there. For example, while Panama’s crime rate compared to other Central American countries is relatively low; however, it is still high compared to most of the United States. Panama, Colon, Herrera and Chiriqui are among the provinces with the largest cities which had the highest overall crime rate. There has been a pattern of decreasing crime in Panama. Homicide, armed robberies and petty theft rates have all continuously fallen.

Moving from the United States to Panama may come as a huge shock when you realize that Panama’s population is only four million. Approximately one-third of Panama’s population lives in Panama City or the immediate area around it. Panama City is packed with nightlife, shopping areas. The rest of the areas in Panama provide a quiet and relaxed life which provides quicker access to Panama’s nature.

There are many things to consider and know about Panama before turning your yearly vacation into a forever home. While Panama may be very appealing to the eye and its beautiful attractions may coerce someone into a quick move, the cost of living in Panama may be a deciding factor.

Danyel Harrigan

Photo: Flickr

Fireless Cooker
In many developing countries, a lack of resources is the main reason why families struggle to survive. In Kenya, firewood for fuel is a huge burden to find and cut every day. Thus, the international NGO Practical Action created a solution to fight the issue of fuel: the fireless cooker.

A fireless cooker is an electricity-free and fuel-free device that helps families save time so they don’t have to sacrifice work to collect firewood.

Practical Action describes the purpose of the cooker as using “stored heat to cook food over a long period.” In a way, a fireless cooker is a simpler version of a crock-pot. It continues to cook the food after it is taken off of a heat source and keeps it warm for a long time, without wasting fuel.

To make one of these ingenious fuel-saving cookers is quite simple. Materials needed to operate the device include old clothing or banana leaves for insulation, rough cloth, heat-resistant polythene, two cushions (made from cloth stuffed with old clothes) and a basket big enough for cooking. Practical Action wanted to make it easy for families to use, so they chose materials that should be readily available in the communities in Kenya.

The first step in the creation process is to line the desired basket with old clothes or banana leaves. Then, a rough cloth is placed on top of the insulation materials to keep them in place. Next, the polythene is laid on top of the rough fabric to cover it like a bowl. The homemade cushions are then attached to both ends of the basket to store the heat inside.

The impact of this fireless cooker on the families and communities that use it are immense.  Practical Action stated that it can reduce fuel use by 40 percent, “preserving scarce food and saving people hours of precious time.”  One local of Kenya who is reaping the benefits of Practical Action’s invention said, “I am glad to know how to make a fireless cooker. It is going to be of great help to me since I’ll be preparing enough food before going to work on the farm.”

Not only is the fireless cooker environmentally friendly, but also it saves the stay-at-home mothers the tedious and arduous work of cutting and picking firewood every day. Now, the mothers in these households can focus on their children’s education and wellbeing of the family.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

The McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program was established in 2000 by former Senators George McGovern and Robert Dole. It has fed millions of children all over the globe by way of school meals made from surplus U.S. agricultural products. In 2006, McGovern and Dole were awarded the World Food Prize for their work on the program. This award is seen as the “Nobel Prize for hunger.”

The program is credited with helping improve school attendance as well as feeding the hungry, as free school meals provide families with an extra incentive to send their children to school. This is especially the case for girls, as parents sometimes decide to keep them home from school to do housework.

McGovern-Dole has made recent news because the Trump administration’s 2018 budget outline proposes eliminating the program, citing that it “lacks evidence that it is being effectively implemented to reduce food insecurity.”

Forbes contributor Tim Worstall contends Trump’s claim that McGovern-Dole fails to reduce food insecurity is accurate. He points out that because McGovern-Dole consists only of food donations, it lacks sustainability, doing nothing to inject money into local economies or help farmers grow their crops. Although the program feeds people effectively, it is not a long-term solution to ending hunger locally.

This being said, McGovern-Dole does have sustainability measures in place, though they may not address food insecurity directly. The program is concerned with education. All meals through the program are offered through schools. This allows McGovern-Dole to track data such as the number of kids taking medication or learning to read at school. This helps other education-centered organizations focus their efforts. McGovern-Dole also implements teacher training, school infrastructure improvements and nutrition programs for pregnant women in the communities it serves.

Alternatives to direct food aid programs are not always reliable. The cash-based transfer, a form of assistance by which individuals in need receive bank transfers or vouchers to exchange for food at stores owned by the World Food Programme, is ineffective in communities with extremely unstable markets or bank services. Direct food aid like McGovern-Dole provides hungry individuals with food regardless of the state of the market in a community.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

The cash-based transfer is a form of food assistance that has been supported by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since the early 2010s. In contrast to in-kind food assistance, which feeds hungry individuals by way of donations of food, cash-based transfers consist of physical money, debit cards and vouchers distributed to those in need and allow people freedom in selecting their food.

Cash-based transfers are both practical and empowering. Individuals that receive aid of any kind are often viewed as passive recipients. However, the program recognizes that people that receive aid know their nutritional needs best and deserve the agency to choose their own food.

The cash-based transfer is also a more sustainable aid program when compared to in-kind food assistance. The money provided through aid goes into local economies and provides support for a future in which hungry individuals will be able to obtain food from their communities. For example, $1.29 billion USD were introduced into Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey by WFP to revitalize those economies in the wake of the Syrian conflict.

Users of cash-based transfers can redeem them in stores connected to WFP and related U.N. agencies. This allows WFP to track what is bought and informs their future decisions concerning what foods they stock in their stores and what amounts of money are appropriate for cash-based transfers. The program is sustainable in its implementation on the ground and through the feedback that it provides to WFP.

However, the cash-based transfer is not always the most effective form of food assistance. It is inappropriate in areas with severely disrupted markets or untrustworthy banks and is too dependent on the structure to function in times of crisis, such as in the event of a tsunami, during which time direct donations of food are necessary for basic survival. WFP contends that it evaluates areas in need case-by-case and determines what combination of in-kind and cash-based transfer aid is appropriate. One variation on the cash-based transfer allows access to this type of aid conditionally— for instance, if a family’s children stay in school, they receive cash-based transfers. Other cash-based transfers only allow for the purchase of specific items.

It is important to note that cash-based transfers currently comprise less than 10 percent of overall global humanitarian aid. U.S. in-kind aid programs such as the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program and Food for Progress are established and have succeeded in feeding billions of people all over the globe. However, the humanitarian nature and sustainability of cash-based transfers will likely continue to appeal to different governments as they search for long-term solutions to world hunger.

Caroline Meyers

Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About Food Poverty in Ireland
Food poverty is classified as the inability to afford an adequate and nutritious diet. The phrase has been used before to refer to hunger in Ireland, but resurfaced in 2012 with the global recession and continues to plague the country. Here are nine facts about hunger in Ireland.

9 Facts About Hunger in Ireland

  1. Despite an increase in median incomes since 2010, there were still almost 800,000 people living in poverty in Ireland in 2015, surviving on less than $13,354 per year.
  2. Due to these low incomes, many citizens have experienced a lack of basic needs. In particular, people are struggling to gain access to healthy foods. According to the Department of Social Protection, hunger in Ireland affected one in eight people in 2013.
  3. Safefood, an organization that focuses on informing citizens about food safety and nutrition, defines the three factors of food poverty in Ireland as follows: a person cannot afford a meal with meat or a vegetarian equivalent every second day; a person cannot afford a weekly roast dinner or vegetarian equivalent; or a person missed a meal in the last two weeks due to a lack of money.
  4. The average cost of a healthy bag of groceries ranges between 15 percent and 36 percent of a low-income person’s salary each week, and largely depends on the family composition. This cost went down slightly from 2014 to 2016.
  5. More than one million tons of food is wasted every year in Ireland, and 60 percent of this waste could be avoided. Annually, this equates to $783.72 per household.
  6. Research team Focus Ireland has suggestions for some policy frameworks that can play a key role in “tackling food poverty.” These include a national policy on social inclusion and anti-poverty, social welfare policy and provision, a national policy on health promotion and a planning and development policy.
  7. One in five Irish children goes to school or bed hungry. Fortunately, more than 500 breakfast clubs have opened in schools and communities to increase attendance and participation throughout the school day by making sure children are fed a nutritious meal.
  8. Safefood will be funding 13 “community food initiatives” between 2016 and 2018. The initiatives aim to work on a local level to teach families how to eat healthily on a budget, prepare food safely and inspire a healthy lifestyle.
  9. A nonprofit called FoodCloud helps supermarkets and other businesses reduce food waste through a new app. Businesses can connect with local charities and organizations to redistribute the food by sharing a description of items on FoodCloud’s app or website.

While food poverty in Ireland is improving, it is still not eradicated. Because food poverty involves many aspects and policies, an aligned front must be formed in order to continue to move in the right direction.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Worldwide deforestation has drastically changed our planet since the 1980s, with increased damage over the last ten years. Particularly in Brazil, mainly due to economic woes, deforestation has affected thousands of plant and animal species in the Amazon rainforest. Despite climate change efforts worldwide, deforestation in Brazil has worsened over the past two years after a consistent drop years prior. These are the five things you need to know about deforestation in Brazil.

5 Facts About Deforestation in Brazil

  1. Deforestation has grown over the past two years. A survey conducted annually by the Brazilian government showed that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon had increased for the 12-month period ending in August 2016 and again for the 12-month period before that.The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, but for the second year in a row deforestation in Brazil has been allowed to continue. During 2015, the survey showed that deforestation growth was 24 percent. In 2016 the growth of deforestation was 30 percent.
  2. Food exports are the cause of the high demand for deforestation. From July 2015 to August 2016, 3,100 square miles of forest had reportedly disappeared. The occurred due to the increased exportation of meat and soy in the region. Brazil is the world’s top exporter of meat. Brazil needs to needs to remain the top exporter of meat to prevent its economy from falling into further disrepair, as the country has been struggling for the last few years.Along with the need for space to accommodate cattle, the amount of soy produced has increased, affecting deforestation in Brazil. In rural areas, farmers buy plots of land with permits from the government with the intent to sell products to larger companies, like U.S. company Cargill. As reported by the New York Times, “One of those farmers, Heinrich Janzen, was clearing woodland from a 37-acre plot he bought late last year, hustling to get soy in the ground in time for a May harvest. ‘Cargill wants to buy from us,’ said Mr. Janzen, 38, as bluish smoke drifted from heaps of smoldering vegetation.”

    His soy is in demand as Cargill is one of several agricultural traders vying to buy from soy farmers in the region, he explained.

  3. Many species are affected by deforestation. Deforestation in Brazil has put the Amazon in a vulnerable position with certain plants and species becoming susceptible to extinction. Home to more than 2.5 million species of insects, 2,000 species of birds and 10,000 species of plants, the Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. When fires are used as a tactic to eliminate trees in order to make space, the emissions from the smoke release hazardous toxins into the environment. This space clearing also wipes away a number of rare ecosystems and displaces different communities of animals. Currently, only 15 percent of the world’s forests are still intact.
  4. Big companies are partly responsible. Cargill and Bunge are two American food giants currently operating in Brazil. Both companies are known for pushing locals to buy soy in order to build ties with them. In 2014, Cargill was part of a worldwide deal in which the companies signed a pact to eliminate deforestation for the production of oil, soy and beef by 2020.Despite the deal, in the two years following the signing, deforestation in Brazil increased, partially due to companies like Cargill. In order for real change to occur, more companies have to agree to curb deforestation.
  5. Efforts by the Brazilian government have decreased. The Brazilian government had previously been known to acknowledge these pressing problem in the Amazon and had stepped up its efforts to combat deforestation. As of late, the government focus has shifted from the environment to its own interior issues.Cuts to the budget for the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable National Resources, also known as IBAMA, have become detrimental to efforts to combat deforestation in Brazil. IBAMA’s focus on the Amazon is to prevent deforestation through surveillance of the Amazon. The budget has been cut from $25 million to $7 million.

According to NPR, the Brazilian newspaper Estadão reported that “the rise in deforestation is raising concerns about Brazil’s ability to meet its commitments as part of the International Paris Agreement on combating climate change.” With budget cuts and old technology, it has become harder for officers of the IBAMA to do their job. Their radios only reach a 1.3-mile range, and pickup trucks have become too visible to illegal deforesters.

On the bright side, National Geographic noted that the government has implemented new tactics to tackle the heightening of illegal deforestation. Proof of permits must be provided to IBAMA officers when in certain areas of the Amazon. Only time will tell if these efforts will positively impact the severe deforestation in Brazil, despite the drastic cuts in aid and budget.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

LDS Church

On July 17, 2016, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church (LDS Church), presented a $3 million donation from the Church to the World Food Programme to help provide food to refugees and displaced persons in Cameroon, Chad and Syria.

One out of nine people go without food every day, and one in two are malnourished. The donation follows other partnerships between the Church and the World Food Programme, which aims to eliminate acute hunger. LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, has partnered with the World Food Programme for three consecutive years.

In 2014, LDS Charities partnered with World Food Programme to help those affected by the Ebola crisis. In 2015, they helped alleviate hunger for those suffering from the drought in Ethiopia.

The World Food Programme has the largest transport network, which allows them to take food directly to those in need, including any humanitarian organization. The organization distributed 3.2 million metric tons of food, which directly provided food rations to 75.7 million people in 81 countries. Each of the rations supports an individual for 195 days.

In September, the Church sent $5 million to help displaced families amid the crisis in Europe. The First Presidency also encouraged Latter-day Saint women of all ages to assist refugees in their own communities.

Days after presenting $3 million to the organization, President Uchtdorf visited refugee camps in Athens, Greece. Hosted by Catholic Relief Services and International Rescue Committee, the president visited the Piraeus camp, which serves 1,322 people and the Eleonas camp, which serves as a temporary home to about 2,415 people.

The LDS Church “has been providing aid to refugees for more than a decade, donating hundreds of thousands of clothes, blankets, food, emergency medical supplies and other resources to refugees” in various locations.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Food shortages in VenezuelaBeginning in 2014, oil prices around the world began to plummet. This sparked an extreme financial crisis in Venezuela, whose economy is based solely on its immense reserves of the fossil fuel. This evolving crisis has contributed to dire food shortages in Venezuela. The CEO of Empresas Polar, Lorenzo Mendoza, is working to aid fellow Venezuelans in need. Oil became a source of vast political influence in Venezuela once the industry became nationalized in 1975. The Washington Post reports that oil currently makes up about 95 percent of the region’s revenue from exports.

Oil Profits Plummet

In 2013, following the death of Hugo Chávez, former Vice President and current Head of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro was elected president and promised to continue the policies of his predecessor. According to The Washington Post, Maduro is “discouraging private industry that could have diversified the nation’s economic base” and using revenues from PDVSA, the state oil company, to “pay for generous social welfare benefits that won votes.” This lack of diversification and unruly spending, combined with the harsh drop in oil prices, has left the economy and citizens of Venezuela in turmoil. The International Monetary Fund’s figures show that Venezuela “went from earning $80 billion from oil in 2013 to a projected $20-25 billion in 2016.” This discrepancy of billions of dollars has created food shortages in Venezuela, resulting in riots and violence. Numerous looters have been shot and killed, hundreds have been arrested and lines of hungry families continue to grow.

Uncooperative Government

Political and economic instability has allowed crime to prosper. According to the Los Angeles Times, “gangs on motorcycles have fought over the right to control and distribute food.” Instead of taking responsibility for the lack of revenue, mounting inflation and food shortages, President Maduro has shifted blame onto the U.S. government, as well as Mendoza. Mendoza’s business, a large-scale food processing and brewery corporation, is a unique entity within Venezuela’s socialist society. Empresas Polar is the largest privately owned enterprise in a country whose government controls a substantial portion of businesses.

President Maduro accused Mendoza of withholding goods and slowing production during the crisis. The Wall Street Journal reports that the government views Mendoza as “a traitor responsible for the scarcities.” Mendoza denies all accusations and believes that it is the government’s control of prices, lack of imports and halts in production forced by a lack of federal funds that is fueling the food shortages. In fact, Mendoza is actively fighting to end the overwhelming food shortages in Venezuela. The CEO is urging his government to cooperate with organizations that can offer aid.

Venezuela Refusing Help

In February, The Wall Street Journal reported that Mendoza contacted Harvard economics professor Ricardo Hausmann to speak of “Venezuela’s need for up to $60 billion of loans from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to avoid economic meltdown.” This cry for help will most likely go unheard, as Venezuela’s government has denied foreign aid from most countries, especially the U.S., since the time of Hugo Chávez.

While President Obama and President Maduro did meet for a few moments at the Summit of the Americas in April, Maduro spent most of his time lambasting Obama for his sanctions, which are based on human rights violations by a handful of Venezuelan officials.

Moving Forward

In this time of crisis, Empresas Polar and its charismatic CEO Lorenzo Mendoza are bringing hope to Venezuela. Empresas Polar represents a bright future for Venezuelan business, as it is responsible for the employment of thousands, offers price-conscious products, a provides a profitable business plan and diversification of the Venezuelan market. Moreover, despite attacks on his character and livelihood made by the government, Mendoza will continue to fight for foreign aid to end the food shortages in Venezuela.

Liam Travers

Photo: Business Insider

Ending Hunger in Italy

In the past few years, remarkable progress has been made toward ending hunger in Italy and throughout Europe. However, there are still 836 million people living in poverty worldwide along with 795 million people struggling with chronic hunger.

By looking at Italy’s approach to addressing hunger and poverty–both domestically and internationally–the achievements and shortcomings of Italy’s social policy reveals the complexities of the fight to end global hunger by 2030.

10 Facts About Ending Hunger in Italy

  1. The rate of undernourishment in Italy is at 5 percent, according to the Global Food Security Index. This low figure is in part due to Italy’s food safety net programs, school lunch programs and high nutritional standards.
  2. Italy has one of the highest child poverty rates in Europe. Children are subsequently more at risk of living in a food insecure household. About 15.9 percent of Italian children live in relative poverty, according to UNICEF. Relative poverty is defined as living in a household where disposable income is less than 50 percent of the national median income when adjusted for family size and composition.
  3. Over one in four Italians are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, according to Italian news agency ANSA. In 2015, Italy’s poverty risk rate rested at 28.4 percent versus the European Union average of 24.5 percent after years of facing an economic crisis.
  4. According to UNICEF, an estimated 13.3 percent of children in Italy are deprived of some basic necessities even if they don’t live below the poverty line. UNICEF included 14 items on the deprivation index including whether or not children had access to three meals per day, fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and at least one meal with a rich protein source.
  5. If you’re homeless and hungry, it may not be a crime to steal food from a supermarket in Italy, according to an Italian court ruling this year. The Supreme Court of Cassation revoked the conviction of Roman Ostriakov, a homeless man from Ukraine, attempting to leave a supermarket with cheese and sausage in his pocket after only paying for some breadsticks. The circumstances under which Ostriakov stole was enough for the court to decide that he stole in a state of immediate and essential need which does not constitute crime, according to ANSA.
  6. Social welfare resources in Italy, such as the Social Card, are inadequate for alleviating poverty and ending hunger in Italy. According to a national report by Combatting Poverty in Europe (COPE), the Social Card is a debit card charged on a bimonthly basis – financed by public resources and private donations – and is used to purchase groceries and pay basic utilities. The Social Card has been subject to heated debate due to the strict and very limited eligibility of getting a card, and the inadequate financial assistance the card provides to low income families.
  7. In response to the apparent need for improving social welfare programs in Italy, organizations like the Costa Crociere Foundation formed to provide humanitarian assistance. The Costa Crociere Foundation addresses the main causes of poverty by “giving people the tools they need to lift themselves out of hunger” in the long term while working to ease the short-term effects of hunger and homelessness. They do this through food assistance programs and providing shelter for the homeless.
  8. In 2015, Expo Milano was hosted in Milan, Italy centered around the theme “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life.” The exposition’s primary objective is to foster international dialogue on the challenges concerning food security, malnutrition and sustainable agricultural practices. Expo Milano was visited by an estimated 20 million people, according to the Brookings Institution.
  9. While the Italian government and local organizations continue to grapple with alleviating poverty and ending hunger in Italy, the country is also a top donor for international hunger relief programs. According to the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Italy is as a generous donor and partner with IFAD in their shared mission to make food security a reality worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations also recognizes Italy’s contribution to 39 projects that have been implemented in 85 countries “with the aim of addressing poverty and improving food security by enhancing agricultural productivity.
  10. Ending hunger in Italy is not Italy’s only goal. The United Nations, including Italy, aims to end world hunger by 2030. The UN and partner organizations plan to end world hunger by primarily focusing on increasing investment in rural infrastructure and agricultural resources in developing countries and reforming food security policies worldwide.

Daniela N. Sarabia

Photo: Pixabay
The difference between drought and famine has the potential to be very confusing. Both result in an insufficient supply of food and water along with the wide and rapid spread of disease. Potentially both disasters could lead to the economic and social collapse of the community. However, the truth about both disasters is quite simple.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, drought is defined as a period of dryness, especially when prolonged. Likewise, famine is defined as an extreme scarcity of food. While famine can sometimes be the outcome of a drought, it is considered to be more of a manmade disaster, therefore more preventable, and results from the lack of availability of food and water. A drought is solely the result of finicky Mother Nature and almost entirely unpreventable. In both cases, if aid is not immediately offered to the affected people, starvation, rampant disease, economic and social collapse and death will take its toll.

Here are eight quick facts that define these disasters in order to keep them straight.



  • The most common form of drought is a lack of water vapor in the atmosphere, which causes precipitation. A lack of moisture in the air causes wildfires that can damage communities and food supplies, ruin forests, or harm people and animals.
  • Of all the water on earth, only .003 percent is available fresh water that is not polluted, trapped in soil, or too far underground. During a drought, shared sources of water such as rivers, reservoirs, and groundwater for wells are in jeopardy of running dry.
  • Since the 1970s, the percentage of Earth’s surface affected by drought has doubled. Global warming is largely blamed.
  • Meteorologists predict drought based on precipitation patterns, stream flow, and moisture of soil over long periods of time.



  • Famines rarely happen because of a single event and often are the result of many years of struggling to grow food in a harsh environment.
  • Famine doesn’t usually cause the deaths of whole communities. Instead, it’s often old people and the youth who suffer from disease and malnutrition as they are the most vulnerable.
  • Different factors can trigger famine – the choice of crops planted, ineffective farming techniques, political systems and civil wars.
  • Famine happens when people don’t have the ability to cope during extreme natural conditions like drought.

-Kira Maixner
Source: Do Something, Merriam Webster Online
Photo: Asia News