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Solar Technology Alleviating PovertyGivePower, founded in 2013 by Hayes Barnard, is a nonprofit organization whose aim is to use solar technology in alleviating poverty worldwide. The United Nations reports that, as of 2019, “over two billion people live in countries experiencing high water stress, and about four billion people experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year.” These water-related stress levels are expected to rise with increased population growth and global economic development. Ultimately, yielding a rise in poverty.

Solar Technology: A Solution to Poverty

Solar technology presents a solution to this growing, global, water crisis. This is because solar technology holds the power to supply clean water and efficient energy systems to communities located in virtually any part of the world. Since 2013, GivePower has worked to help some of the world’s poorest countries gain access to a source of clean, renewable and resilient energy. This has in turn allowed for more readily available, clean drinking water, agricultural production and self-sustaining communities. For example, in 2018 alone, GivePower granted access to clean water, electricity and food to more than 30,000 people in five countries. Since its founding, GivePower has completed projects in the following six countries:

  1. Nicaragua: Though education through the primary stages is mandatory for Nicaraguans, school enrollment numbers are low. During its first-ever, solar microgrid installation in 2014, GivePower, recognized the importance of education. In this vein, GivePower shifted its resources toward powering a school in El Islote, Nicaragua. The school’s enrollment has improved tremendously, now offering classes and resources for both children and adults.
  2. Nepal: In Nepal, access to electricity has increased by nearly 10% for the entire Nepalese population, since GivePower began installing solar microgrids in 2015. Installation occurred throughout various parts of the country. Rural villages now have access to electricity — allowing schools, businesses, healthcare services, agricultural production and other forms of technology to prosper. Part of GivePower’s work in Nepal includes installing a 6kW microgrid on a medical clinic in a rural community, ensuring essential services.
  3. Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): During 2016, the GivePower team reached the DRC, where civil war has ended in a struggle for both people and the country’s wildlife. The DRC is home to many of the world’s endangered species, making protection of the country’s wildlife essential. GivePower has successfully installed solar panels for ranger stations in one of Africa’s oldest national parks. In this way, wildlife thrives. This power provides a means for rangers to meet their basic needs and increases the likelihood that rangers can protect wildlife.
  4. Puerto Rico: In 2017, Hurricane Maria, a powerful category four hurricane, devastated Puerto Rico. The disaster left many without shelter, food, power or clean water for months. GivePower intervened, installing solar microgrids and reaching more than 23,000 people. The organization provided individual water purification systems to families without access to clean drinking water and installed solar microgrids. In this effort, the main goals were to restore and encourage more disaster relief, emergency and medical services. Furthermore, the refrigeration of food and medication and the continuation of educational services were paramount in these efforts.
  5. Kenya: Typically, only about 41% of Kenyans have access to clean water for fulfilling basic human needs. Notably, about 9.4 million Kenyans drink directly from contaminated surface water. During 2018, using solar technology in alleviating poverty, GivePower provided electricity to Kenyans living in Kiunga. Moreover, GivePower also increased access to clean water through a large-scale, microgrid water desalination farm. The water farm provides clean water for about 35,000 Kenyans, daily. The organization has also reached the Namunyak Wildlife Conservatory located in Samburu, Kenya. There, GivePower installed solar panels to ensure refrigeration and communications at the conservatory.
  6. Colombia: In 2019, GivePower installed solar microgrids in Colombia to preserve one of the country’s most famous cultural heritage sites. Moreover, the microgrids helped to support research conducted in the area. The grids installed have been able to sustain a 100-acre research field and cold storage units.

Solar Technology Alleviating Poverty: Today and Tomorrow

Renewable, clean and resilient energy has granted many populations the ability to innovate. In this way, other basic, yet vital human needs are met. Using solar technology alone in alleviating poverty has been enough to create water farms that provide clean water to thousands. With water and energy for innovation — agricultural production flourishes. This, in turn, addresses hunger issues while also working toward economic development. Having already touched the lives of more than 400,000 people, GivePower and solar technology present a promising solution in alleviating global poverty.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic. A population of 3.194 million resides in Puerto Rico and represents more than 0.04% of the world population, yet many are living in severe levels of poverty to this day. Puerto Rico has been dynamic and competitive when it comes to its local economies until recent years. Its economy now relies mostly on aid from the United States government. Here are seven facts about poverty in Puerto Rico.

7 Facts About Poverty in Puerto Rico

  1. More than 44% of the population of Puerto Rico lives in poverty, compared to the national U.S. average of approximately 12%. That is 1.4 million Puerto Rican citizens in comparison to 39.3 million U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico relies mainly on financial and federal aid from the U.S. government because it has ties to the U.S. as a U.S. colony. As a result, the country often struggles to independently support itself.
  2. Before the recent hurricanes, around 1.5 million of the Puerto Rican population suffered from food insecurity. The child food insecurity rate was 56%, which is 281,335 Puerto Rican children. The main reason for food insecurity is that hurricane season often hits Puerto Rico rather hard, and its access to imported goods only comes from the U.S. There are local countries and islands surrounding that are willing to help, but due to the ruling that Puerto Rico can only receive U.S. goods, these essential goods have higher tax rates. To improve this, the Puerto Rican governor organized committees to correspond with third party task forces in the U.S. to ship essential supplies over, especially after Hurricane Maria.
  3. Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, made landfall on September 20, 2017. It compounded the destruction that Hurricane Irma caused just weeks before, affecting residential living, wildlife and everything in between. For example, areas that Hurricane Maria hit left homes without a proper roof, even over 600 days after the hurricane. Infrastructure damage can only receive so many repairs, as when hurricane season returns less than a year later, Puerto Rico often lacks proper recovery and preparation. An NGO aid project called All Hands Volunteers kickstarted to gut and remove debris, as well as demolish unsafe structures and repair cement roofing. It operates out of two cities, Barranquitas and Yabucoa.
  4. A year after Hurricane Maria, 10s of thousands in Puerto Rico are still living under blue tarps, designed as temporary roofs. This is the result of a lack of funds, resources and helping hands to Puerto Rico during its greatest and most desperate time of need. To improve this, task forces in U.S. states like Florida have been using small charter planes to import essential goods and supplies to bring relief and rebuild as best as possible. This is necessary even years after the initial storm.
  5. Families are struggling to find work to afford food, water, shelter and resources to rebuild their homes. Whether families have a solid income or not, it is apparent that most are food insecure to this day as a result of the storm. This is especially accurate when 80% of the island or 2.5 million people were without electricity for over a year after the hurricane. People also only have employment from establishments that are still standing or that people rebuilt.
  6. Due to the living conditions of the island, several thousand citizens have moved out of Puerto Rico and have yet to return. This could mean that they flew to stay with family in the U.S. or had to find work and shelter elsewhere with short notice. Some left temporarily, and others have yet to return to their homes due to a lack of funds for repairs. Puerto Rico wants to avoid further devastation and harm to its citizens during the season.
  7. While Puerto Rico is still recovering, the damage it experienced could have been much worse. The citizens still living on the island have shown compassion, resilience and teamwork toward one another. Without water or power, the people have shown great strength and support through waiting for recovery assistance, both financially and physically. This shows that against all odds, the citizens of Puerto Rico have managed to come back with all the strength they could muster to rebuild and recover.

Poverty in Puerto Rico is minimizing gradually and it is thanks to the help and assistance from the citizens of the United States standing alongside the island. These seven facts about poverty in Puerto Rico have shown that hurricane season will always have a destructive impact, but with continued assistance, poverty in Puerto Rico can reduce.

– Kimberly Elsey
Photo: Flickr

How an Earthquake affected Homelessness in Puerto Rico
An earthquake registering at a 6.4 magnitude struck Puerto Rico on January 7, 2020. Consequently, families are still reeling from its destruction and records state that it was the strongest earthquake in a century. The aftermath of the earthquake has been unbelievable, causing the homelessness in Puerto Rico to spike. Currently, almost 5,000 residents had to move to homeless shelters. Also, there was at least $110 million worth of damage. In addition to the damage, a mass power outage occurred as a result of the earthquake. Reports indicated that nearly all of Puerto Rico did not have access to power.

The Aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake

The last earthquake to register as strong as this one happened in October 1918. That earthquake registered at a magnitude of 7.3 and it took the lives of 116 people.

The latest earthquake has caused havoc throughout Puerto Rico. The aftermath led to 950 earthquakes and aftershocks throughout the area. This has caused even more issues for those who were already going through hardships. Moreover, these aftershocks caused people to evacuate from their homes and seek new places of shelter. Over 200 people took shelter in a nearby gym after an earthquake on Monday, January 6, 2020. However, the 6.4 magnitude earthquake damaged that building and the citizens had to evacuate again.

Homelessness in Puerto Rico After the Hurricanes

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 placed 10,000 people in shelters all across Puerto Rico. The island is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, as thousands are still homeless and struggling as a result of it. The total damage after Hurricane Maria was around $100 billion.

After the earthquake in early 2020, 5,000 residents remained in homeless shelters even after Puerto Rico restored power. In addition, there are still others who choose to sleep outside of their homes, in order to avoid the damage from aftershocks.

Tourism

The country is planning to use tourism to get the economy back on track and reduce the alarming rate of homelessness in Puerto Rico. Ricardo Rossello and his administration are attempting to encourage visitors to continue to visit the island. They want visitors to continue to show their support for the Island as tourism is vital to recovering the economy.

IsraAID

IsraAID came to the rescue to provide aid for those homeless due to the damage of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Puerto Rico in early 2020. This organization has been assisting and helping around Puerto Rico since the devastation that Hurricane Maria caused in 2017. Some teams have been in Puerto Rico since the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

In early 2020, IsraAID initially went to the heart of the damage that the 6.4 magnitude earthquake caused to evaluate and determine what its first steps of assistance should be. It determined where teams should go to provide first aid, clean water, sanitation and psychological assistance.

In the case of Hurricane Maria, IsraAID and other volunteers provided food and water to over 6,000 citizens in six different communities throughout Puerto Rico. The organization set up its own mobile clinics and assisted hundreds of citizens in the poorest areas throughout Puerto Rico. Since this was one of the most catastrophic storms in history, there were a lot of mental health issues related to this event. IsraAID provided mental health treatments and psychological support and assistance to citizens.

Initially, IsraAID set out to assist and help in any way that it could. Since then, its efforts have extended into maintaining resiliency against natural disasters. The organization started working on two projects after Hurricane Maria to ensure and create resilience, working with nearby schools and creating a clean water filtration system in the remote community of El Real.

The current 6.4 magnitude earthquake caused chaos adding up to $110 million worth of damage along with increasing homelessness to 5,000 residents. Tourism could help the economy of Puerto Rico recover while Israeli nonprofit organization IsraAID has been of huge assistance to the residents of Puerto Rico. With continued support, Puerto Rico should be able to reduce its homelessness and improve its economy in the aftermath of its most recent devastating earthquakes.

Jamal Patterson
Photo: Flickr

IsraAID Responds to Global Crises
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, the nonprofit organization IsraAID responds to global crises, such as natural disasters and poverty, and sends teams of volunteers to help those in need. After its founding in 2001, IsraAID responded to crises in over 50 different countries. Its expertise in crisis relief includes emergency aid distributions, pinpoint trauma support and prevention training for local government and non-government professionals. These are some of the global crises IsraAID has responded to:

Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines

IsraAID sent its first mission to the Philippines after Typhoon Ketsana in 2009. Working in collaboration with local partner Operation Blessing International, IsraAID dispatched a team of nurses and doctors to assist in the emergency medical operations. In 2013, another typhoon devastated the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people, injuring more than 28,000 and affecting over 16 million people overall. IsraAID responded within 48 hours with its medical team on the ground less than four days after the event. It spent the first three days of its efforts assisting the local health workers in one of the many hospitals the typhoon had destroyed. After that, IsraAID spent the next two years operating with the local government, instigating programs in medical support, psychotherapy and the rebuilding of the fallen cities.

Earthquake in Nepal

After a major earthquake left Nepal in ruins back in 2015, IsraAID sent a team to help the local police force locate survivors and provide emergency medical treatment. This was a relief to the local authorities and medical personnel outnumbered by the number of injuries and the chaos that ensued. Working alongside the authorities and an emergency response from the Israeli Defense Forces, IsraAID volunteers risked their lives to save and treat the survivors who the rubble had trapped. IsraAID not only provided the immediate essentials of food, water, shelter and medical aid to the Nepalese but also focused its efforts on long-term recovery via farming, fishing and a new supply of clean water. It also provided psychosocial services to the victims, helping them cope with and build resilience in the wake of the tragedy.

The Dadaab Refugee Camp and Famine in Kenya

Since 2007, IsraAID has been sending emergency relief teams to the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya—the largest refugee camp in the world—to aid the victims running from violence and famine. Later in 2011, when a drought caused one of the worst famines to ever strike the Horn of Africa, IsraAID returned to Kenya with a distribution of food and relief items for the refugees and locals still suffering from hunger and chaos. It also offered that same assistance to the people of Turkana, Kenya’s poorest county. IsraAID has maintained a steady presence in Kenya since 2013, helping those in poverty and the refugee camp with medical treatment, water management and psychosocial support.

Refugee Crisis in Greece

During the refugee crisis in 2015, IsraAID responded by sending a team of volunteers to Greece. Special mobile units provided immediate medical and psychosocial aid, distributed supplies and identified particularly vulnerable groups, such as children. IsraAID volunteers also rescued refugees whose boats had capsized and provided sleeping bags to anyone who had to sleep on the ground. Throughout the crisis, the volunteers provided food, clothing, medicine and hygiene kits to the refugees, as well as psychotherapy training to the local government and non-government professionals so that it could better care for the traumatized population.

Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico

After Hurricane Maria devastated the Puerto Rican population in 2017, IsraAID responded with a Spanish-fluent team of psychosocial and medical support, as well as experts in water and sanitation. At the time, the country’s poverty rate was 43.5 percent and the unemployment rate at 10.3 percent, on top of 95 percent of the populace losing electricity as a result of the storm. IsraAID provided emergency relief programs in the distribution of food, water and basic supplies, medical treatment and mental support. The team then shifted focus to long-term recovery and implemented a system to provide water and sanitation to the people of Puerto Rico.

The aforementioned countries and many others have benefitted greatly from IsraAID’s support, and IsraAID responds to global crises to this day. The organization has even established ongoing training programs for water management, psychosocial services and other relief efforts in the countries listed above, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Haiti, Jordan and South Sudan. As IsraAID responds to global crises, those in need have a chance to lead better lives.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in the Virgin Islands

Acquired in part by Britain in 1672 and the rest by the United States in 1917, the Virgin Islands are a semi-autonomous group of about 90 Caribbean islands of varying size about 50 miles east of Puerto Rico, administered as the territories of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The islands are home to booming year-round tourism industry, attracting visitors every year to its 200 miles of beaches and over 7,000 acres of scenic national parkland. For the islands’ 150,000 residents, though, their expected 79 years of life are more complicated than a brief sojourn in a tropical paradise. Living in the Caribbean presents its own set of unique challenges, but the resilient population continues to prosper in spite of them. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in the Virgin Islands.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Virgin Islands

  1. The islands are vulnerable to hurricanes and their remote location makes repair efforts difficult. While recent hurricanes have not been a leading cause of death in the Virgin Islands, their effects have harshly impacted the locals’ quality of life. In June 2018, NPR reported that relief crews were still working in the islands to restore power and water after the devastating back-to-back Category 5 hurricane Irma and Category 4 hurricane Maria that tore through the Caribbean in September 2017.
  2. Residents have some serious concerns about health care: For a 2012 study published in the Journal of the Association of Black Nursing Faculty, nursing and sociology professionals conducted focus groups in the Virgin Islands to “discover how residents of the United States Virgin Islands think about their health, health status, health problems, and the quality of the health care delivery system.” Common concerns shared by the focus groups included limited resources and high costs of insurance, co-pay and services. Because of this, many Virgin Islanders are forced to either go to great lengths to obtain sufficient healthcare, such as traveling to Puerto Rico or the mainland United States, or forgo seeking medical treatment altogether.
  3. Infant mortality rates are higher than in the mainland United States: The CIA World Factbook states that the Virgin Islands experience an average of 7.7 infant mortalities out of 1,000 live births, almost 75 percent more than the United States despite its status as a territory of the latter. Data indicating the exact cause of this statistic is unavailable, though it can likely be attributed to the great difficulty of health care access at one of the only two hospitals servicing the three United States Virgin Islands, in tandem with the territory’s inflated medical prices. Fortunately, this figure still places the Virgin Islands firmly in the bottom 30 percent of countries by highest infant mortality rates.
  4. The leading causes of death are not too different from the United States’: In 2017, the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation determined that despite the Virgin Islands’ issues with inclement weather and access to resources, the leading causes of death (heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer) are all similar to those of the US. These issues, with the exception of cancer, can largely be traced to poor local nutritional practices and a lack of proper dietary and physical education on the islands.
  5. The islands are poor:  Ranking 181st in GDP purchasing power parity, the Virgin Islands are almost in the bottom 20 percent of world economies. The internet lacks recent data on poverty in the USVI, the latest available data put over one in five families below the poverty line. With health care so difficult to access and most goods and food imported and sold at a much higher markup price, this forces many families to choose between putting food on the table and seeking medical attention.
  6. Tourism and trade are the Virgin Islands’ primary economic activities, contributing to low wages and a low standard of living: Due to its limitations in climate and space, the agriculture and manufacturing sections of the Virgin Islands are economically marginal. As a result, tourism and trade account for nearly 47 percent of the USVI’s GDP and most Virgin Islanders work low-wage service, hospitality and transportation jobs, making it difficult to afford commodities like medicine and food that must be imported rather than produced domestically. Fortunately, NGOs work to make necessities more affordable for Virgin Islanders. One such NGO, Patient Assist VI, connects struggling patients with affordable prescription drugs and medical care they otherwise would not receive.
  7. Murder rates are high, but they are decreasing: In 2017, a study conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime determined the USVI had the fourth-highest murder rate in the world, citing 52 reported murders per 100,000 inhabitants. The FBI said that in 2016, the USVI had the highest murder rate per capita in the US and its territories. However, according to The St. Thomas Source, a local publication, only half that amount has occurred in 2019 by mid-September. Most of these murders are concentrated in the urbanized islands St. Thomas and St. Croix, where NGOs such as Project Promise work to guide at-risk youth and tackle the underlying causes of crime and violence in the islands, providing local middle and high schoolers with tutors, life coaches and opportunities to get involved in volunteering and extracurricular education. Since 2015, Project Promise has renovated playgrounds, planted gardens and provided children with school supplies and access to health care to give the children of the Virgin Islands a brighter future.
  8. Despite economic challenges, the Virgin Islands have a working infrastructure: Though hurricanes Irma and Maria, shattered the islands’ infrastructure, it has since recovered and provided power and water to most of its residents. All of the islands have access to electricity and access to clean drinking water via local ocean water desalination plants, thanks to federal aid, local reconstruction efforts and the thriving partnership between locals and volunteer organizations such as All Hands and Hearts, which labored for 18 months to restore homes and rebuild a dozen schools in the wake of Irma and Maria.
  9. Life expectancy in the Virgin Islands is higher than in neighboring areas: According to the World Bank, the Virgin Islands have had a higher life expectancy than its neighbors in the Caribbean and Latin America. While the gap has closed significantly over the last 60 years, the Virgin Islands still boasts a life expectancy of 79, four more years than the region’s average of 75.
  10. The Virgin Islands ranks in the top 20 percent on global life expectancy lists: The CIA World Factbook states that the Virgin Islands rank at 49th place for average life expectancy, outranking many of the world’s countries and territories by a significant margin.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Virgin Islands demonstrate a pattern of hardship and resilience, while also highlighting the need for more self-sustaining local industry and heavy investment in hurricane preparation to protect its residents and improve their quality of life.

– Calvin Lemieux
Photo: Flickr

 

Corruption in the Puerto Rican Government
On July 10, 2019, Puerto Ricans had proof that their government was as corrupt as they suspected. The Center of Investigative Journalism leaked a chat from the Telegram app between the governor, Ricardo Rossello, and some of his past and current members of staff. With hundreds of pages as evidence, the people of Puerto Rico found the group making vulgar, racist and homophobic comments towards several people. Although some say the corruption has been years in the making, it was the leaked 889 pages of content that took down the Rossello administration. Most of all, the corruption scheme that led to millions of dollars of the public’s funds going to the administration’s personal bank accounts became known, showing the corruption in the Puerto Rican government.

The Situation

The conversations between Elias Sanchez, Edwin Miranda and Carlos Bermudez in the chat reveal that a multimillionaire network of corruption had taken place. On paper, they operated as private citizens and contractors, but in reality, they hold more power than any of the secretaries in the constitutional government, according to the Center of Investigative Journalism.

Along with different companies and institutions, they managed to keep the country in poverty. One example is Unidos Por Puerto Rico, an organization that Rossello’s administration created. It seeks to find hurricane relief aid after the past natural disasters. The organization obtained $14 million in aid but no one really knows how the organization spent that money. Whenever someone made a donation, they would get a receipt from a company that Edwin Miranda, one of the men behind the corruption, owns.

After two hurricanes, there was a recession economically. A lot of companies, local businesses and schools closed down due to lack of funds and supplies. Puerto Ricans had to turn their attention to their own survival. Despite the people’s endurance, several compartments full of supplies sat untouched and covered in rat excrement, according to Radio Isla. Among the reported expired supplies were water, medicines, baby food and others. Although Rossello’s administration did not confirm it, locals believe that La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, held compartments for themselves. One of the main causes for the sudden death toll was because of the lack of supplies and aid the people of Puerto Rico received.

The Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

In early December 2017, a few months after Hurricane Maria, the government’s official death count was 64 people. The chat leak revealed that they were manipulating the media with a very low death count, another fact that shows the corruption in the Puerto Rican government. However, eventually, independent researchers started to question the official death count. The New England Journal of Medicine estimated 4,645 excess deaths following the natural disaster, but it could not confirm this because of the lack of forensic scientists. To this day, there are cadavers still in forensics because the government has not been able to get the resources to properly examine them.

The Puerto Rican Protests

Through the reveal of all the injustice, the people of Puerto Rico have protested, and after almost four weeks, their efforts produced results. On August 2, 2019, Ricardo Rossello resigned his post as governor and the other members of the chat have either resigned their post in government or taken some time off. The Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vazquez, has since become the governor. The people of Puerto Rico cheered to their victory with a new hope of ending the corruption in the Puerto Rican government and to reduce the poverty.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Puerto Rico
The island of Puerto Rico is a country located in the Caribbean Islands. After the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rico and various organizations are making efforts to ensure life expectancy for those victimized. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Puerto Rico and how people are seeking to improve it despite obstacles.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Puerto Rico

  1. The World Bank Group documents the statistics for life expectancy in Puerto Rico as approximately 79.974 years as of 2017. This is in contrast to 68.72 years in 1960.
  2. The World Bank determines the population of Puerto Rico to be approximately 3.2 million people as of 2018. WorldBank.org also documents the population of Puerto Rico as declining since its peak in the years 2000-2006 with a population in the 3.8 million range. Pew Research indicates that Puerto Rico’s current decline in population is due to the effects of Hurricanes Maria and Irma which led to the significant loss of 123,000 citizens leaving the country between 2017 and 2018.
  3. Statistics show that women are more likely to live longer than men in Puerto Rico. According to the CIA World Factbook, men generally live 78 years in Puerto Rico and women live about 85 years.
  4. The median age of Puerto Rico has increased over the past decade. The World Bank indicates that the median age for males is approximately 40 and for females 44, making it about 42 years averaged together. Pew Research also documents that 81 percent of the population is over 18. This indicates that living past childhood in Puerto Rico can increase one’s life expectancy when a person is in a more independent stage of life.
  5. The Puerto Rican Integrity in Medicare Act, H.R. 6809 (PRIMA) highlights the country’s desire for proper Medicaid coverage. This act of reform emerged in October 2018 with the intentions of helping stabilize medicare coverage for those in Puerto Rico, a needed reform because Medicaid spending for the island is just 26 percent of the mainland average. The effects of Hurricane Maria has also made the need for affordable Medicare coverage dire. The PRIMA Act would require Medicare Advantage plans to spend at least 50 percent of funds on provider payments, giving an incentive for physicians to work on the island. The PRIMA Act would overall benefit Puerto Rico’s Medicare Advantage plan and increase life expectancy for the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Puerto Rican Representative Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon also sponsors this act.
  6. Infant mortality rates have gone down in Puerto Rico according to Index Mundi and the CIA World Factbook. In the year 2000, there were approximately 10 deaths for every 1,000 live births, whereas, in 2017, the number of approximated infant deaths was lowered to six per 1,000 by 2018. This could be due to the number of births decreased from 24,000 births in 2018 to 46,000 births in 2008. As the population has been decreasing, the chances for infant mortality rates have as well.
  7. Life expectancy for senior citizens in Puerto Rico has risen, as those 65 and older make up 21 percent of the population in 2018 versus 14 percent in 2018. This could be indicative of older citizens staying in the country as younger people are moving away due to the significant migration loss in Puerto Rico from 2017 to 2018. The Puerto Rican AARP system has also seen an increase in senior citizens in the country becoming valuable consumers as they become a more significant part of the population.
  8. The Taller Salud Incorporation is an organization particularly interested in helping the female population in the Puerto Rican town of Lozia, a municipality with a fatality rate of 43 women in 2017. Through its self-advocacy programs, Taller Salud is an advocate for peace and equality for both sexes. The organization’s anti-violence campaigns have resulted in a 90 percent decrease in violence in Lozia in 2018. Life expectancy for these women also increased as Taller Salud uses its funds to provide them with initial medical screenings, along with STI screenings and workshops on reproductive health.
  9. To combat natural disasters, the Puerto Rico Rises Corporation seeks to increase the chances of protecting Puerto Rican citizens in the future by producing and distributing Solar Shelter Kits (SSKs). These kits include water filtration structures and a solar generator in cases of power outages. The SSK’s overall goal is to provide relief for Puerto Ricans during storms while also using a low carbon footprint.
  10. As a highlight of general improvement in Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has done much. Beginning in December 2018, the organization made recovery projects to benefit Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. These improvements include an advanced warning system, enhanced emergency planning, new water testing facilities, stable power grids and rebuilt schools.

This varied information about the lives of Puerto Rican citizens indicates that life expectancy in Puerto Rico is fairly average. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Puerto Rico also indicate that despite the country’s recent hardships, its people are vigilant.

– Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Pixabay

Agroecology
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, the agricultural sector of Puerto Rico suffered one of the most devastating losses in its history. The island lost about 80 percent of its entire crop value in the initial aftermath alone; according to the Puerto Rican Department of Agriculture, the damage amounted to approximately $780 million in lost agricultural yields. The organization, Boricua, however, promotes agroecology in the hopes of limiting agricultural damage in the face of future disasters.

The Impact and Aftermath of Hurricane Maria

For weeks after Maria, felled trees in the hundreds of thousands dominated the landscape of rural Puerto Rico, stripped of their leaves and bark. The storm also flattened fields of crops or simply blew them away. To make matters worse, the hurricane also killed thousands of livestock and decimated the infrastructure of the area.

For the few farmers who were still able to produce anything, the loss of infrastructure and supply chains rendered it virtually impossible to transport food from farms to cities or towns. Not long after the catastrophe ended, one dairy farmer reported that he had thrown out about 4,000 liters of milk a day for almost a week, since there was no way to transport or sell milk and nowhere to store it safely.

These losses occurred at the worst possible time; according to Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, the island of Puerto Rico had “only enough food for about a week.” Before the hurricane, Puerto Rico was importing roughly 80 percent of its food, a large percentage of which came from other islands in the Caribbean, including St. Martin and the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico became vulnerable to starvation between the destruction of homes, roads and vehicles, as well as the hurricane’s damage on nearby islands that exported food to them.

Food Vulnerability and Efforts to Rebuild

Many Puerto Ricans described the aftermath of Maria as a revelation, exposing the vulnerability of an island dependent on external sources for all of its food. For Puerto Rico to avoid this vulnerability in the face of future disasters, it needed to be able to rely on its own agricultural sector – the same agricultural sector that Hurricane Maria had recently ripped to shreds.

Despite the destruction, some Puerto Ricans saw this as an opportunity to begin rebuilding. After the end of the catastrophe, the Organization Boricua de Agricultura Eco-Organica (often known simply as Boricua, a local word for a native Puerto Rican), along with various other local organizations, such as the Resiliency Fund, mobilized to clear roads and provide assistance and food to rural communities affected by the hurricane. This help came mainly in the form of solidarity brigades, which were groups of local volunteers who had banded together to help their neighbors survive and rebuild after Maria.

Organization Boricua

For the Organization Boricua, these relief brigades came in moving camps which would spend three or four days in each farm they visited. During this time, volunteers would help rebuild farm structures and repair damage to farmers’ houses, along with helping farmers replant crops that had been ruined or blown away.

These relief camps represented a long tradition for Boricua. The organization, which emerged in 1989, promotes agroecology and solidarity among rural communities in Puerto Rico. For Boricua, the use of volunteer brigades was not a new development in response to the hurricane, but an old tactic being put to use in rural Puerto Rico’s time of need. Farmers affiliated with the Organization Boricua frequently form brigades to help their neighbors in times of need. Needy farmers may invite volunteers from neighboring farms to come over with food or spare tools or simply to help with harvests, plantings or repairs.

Agroecology

However, the organization’s work goes beyond promoting solidarity and mutual aid. Boricua is a proponent of agroecology – an ecological approach to agriculture which promotes biodiversity, sustainability and the use of native vegetation in farming. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Boricua relief brigades did more than simply help bereaved farmers keep their heads above water – the organization, along with many others, began preparing rural Puerto Rico for a more sustainable way of life.

Boricua promotes a holistic approach to farming, in which farms contribute to and rely on the natural biodiversity of their surroundings. In addition, agroecology allows farmers to stop being dependent on the use of commercial seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. By cutting free from commercial farming supplies, agroecology both fosters independence in small farms and denies the use of common agricultural practices that damage the environment.

Also, farmers in Puerto Rico have good reason to reject commercial agricultural practices. Research shows that one-third of greenhouse gas emissions come from agricultural production around the globe. Because of this, unsafe and unsustainable farming practices can come back to bite farmers; as the world’s climate grows warmer and more erratic, storms and droughts are growing more and more frequent. Hurricane Maria itself is a perfect example of this as the hurricane was one of the worst storms on record ever to hit Puerto Rico. Experts are worried that storms of Maria’s size and destructiveness may become the new norm if the pattern of global warming does not change. So, by turning Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector away from commercial practices, Boricua may be contributing a small part to the aversion of future storms like Maria.

In addition, there is a reason to believe that a more sustainable, more biodiverse method of farming would be less vulnerable in the face of another disaster like Maria. Research shows that smaller, diversified farms, on average, suffer less damage than larger farms that use monoculture.

Thanks to the efforts of the Organization Boricua and other local environmental organizations, Puerto Rican farmers have begun the slow climb out of the wreckage of Hurricane Maria and toward a greener, more sustainable future. Hopefully, if this trend continues, agriculture on the island will not only be able to heal from the hurricane’s damage but also better prepare itself for the next storm to come along.

– Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Dominica

Dominica is one of the islands in the Caribbean that suffered from two destructive hurricanes within the last four years. The hazardous climate in this region has been a catalyst for the building of resilient infrastructure. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Dominica highlight the benefit of disaster relief.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Dominica

  1. Dominica’s government is funded through the exchange of passports through the Citizenship by Investment Program. This program invites foreign residents to come and live on the island under certain agreements. One-third of the population of 74,027 lives on the coastline. The rest are scattered inland.
  2. Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has expressed concern for the living situations caused by Hurricanes Erika and Maria. The Citizenship by Investment Program is funding projects for housing developments that brave Dominica’s natural hazards. The residential reconstructions include electrical, cable and telephone lines that run beneath the surface.
  3. The state has an international disagreement with Venezuela’s dominion over Aves Island. This calls into question whether the circumstances fall under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. But instead of a military, the Commonwealth of Dominica has a police force that includes a coast guard.
  4. Dominica has subtropical valleys and cool coastlines. However, the mountainous parts of the island can experience flash floods. Between June and October, hurricanes pose a major threat. These natural hazards contribute to soil erosion.
  5. Dominica suffered disruption in more than 40 of its water systems as a result of Hurricane Maria’s destruction. The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to provide support with water, sanitation and hygiene. Access to safe drinking water was an urgent need for hurricane survivors.
  6. The Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership donated wood chippers, tillers, brush cutters, seeds, water tanks, soil testing equipment, machine-powered mist blowers and laptops to 40 Roseau Valley Farmers. The total cost of the project to equip farmers affected by Hurricane Maria’s devastation of agriculture $390,000.
  7. In an effort to sustain school feeding programs and engender the value of farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture is working to form an agro-entrepreneurship program in schools nationwide. The ministry has invested $70,000, not including other resources. The Junior Achievement Agricultural Program will use this opportunity to give students the experience of fundraising to cultivate their own food.
  8. The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme assisted the Dominican government in the maintenance of public services following Hurricane Maria. The restoration of four hospitals, five medical clinics, three schools and six structures at the Dominica State College took place in the summer of 2108. More than 400 contractors learned the methods of climate resilient reconstruction.
  9. Plastic pollution has affected the island’s coast. In an effort to heal Dominica’s ecosystem, the country will have to restrain from using plastic through a plastic ban that the Prime Minister has introduced. The U.K. government is also funding the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme (CME), which will improve the economy’s tourism sector by developing navigation charts to reduce the damage to Dominica’s coral reefs.
  10. The U.K. government’s CME Programme will also restore a tide gauge at Roseau’s port to detect unsafe sea patterns. Instructions on the conservation of data equipment, like the Tidal Analysis Software Kit, and connections to the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, as well as to other experts, will contribute to the region’s tsunami warning system. These foundations and skills will bring stronger pre-disaster security.

Though strides are being made to establish Dominica as the first climate-resilient country, there is still danger in the unpredictability of these natural disasters. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Dominica show how proactive development of a stable infrastructure is the most effective way to respond to calamity. Systems must be put in place to overcome adversity before the blow.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Worst Hurricanes

Hurricanes represent an annual threat to the lives and livelihood of millions living in coastal or insular geographic regions. Throughout history, certain natural disasters have stood out as especially destructive. This is a compilation of the 10 worst hurricanes in modern history, with 10 being the worst.

The World’s 10 Worst Hurricanes

  1. Sandy
    • Death Toll: 186
    • Economic Losses: $65 Billion
    • Summary: In 2012, this massive, slow-moving storm wreaked havoc not only in Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica but also on the United States East Coast in New Jersey and New York. Sandy caused devastating flooding, killing 80 people in the Caribbean and damaging 18,000 homes. Sandy hit especially hard in Haiti, where the storm execrated food insecurity, which Haiti had already been struggling with after Hurricane Isaac.
  2. David
    • Death Toll: 2,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.54 Billion
    • Summary: In 1979, Hurricane David, a powerful Category 5 storm, struck both the Dominican Republic and the East Coast of the United States. In the Dominican Republic, David killed at least 600 people and left over 150,000 homeless.
  3. Jeanne
    • Death Toll: 3,000
    • Economic Losses: $8 billion
    • Summary: Jeanne was the deadliest hurricane of the 2004 season. Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane, which caused devastation in the same region as the prior storms on this list, the Caribbean and the East Coast of the United States.
  4. Flora
    • Death Toll: 7,000
    • Economic Losses: $125 million
    • Summary: Flora struck in 1963, but it remains one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes of all time. The storm swept through Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, triggering massive landslides and destroying crops. Inland flooding caused by the storm surge was among the chief causes of crop destruction, especially in Haiti. In Tobago, crop destruction was so great that the agricultural backbone of the economy was abandoned in favor of a new emphasis on tourism as a means of revenue.
  5. Katrina
    • Death Toll: 1,800
    • Economic Losses: $125 billion.
    • Summary: Katrina is infamous for being one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike the United States. Coastal flooding caused by Katrina completely devastated many communities on the gulf coast. Katrina nearly completely submerged New Orleans and destroyed around 800,000 homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. While it is not quite among the deadliest hurricanes of all time, the extensive destruction caused by Katrina makes it by far the costliest in terms of economic damages.
  6. Maria
    • Death Toll: 4,500
    • Economic Losses: $90 Billion
    • Summary: Maria is the most recent of the tropical storms featured on this list, and the devastation that it brought is still fresh in Puerto Rico, Dominica and Guadeloupe. The most severe effects of Maria were felt by Puerto Rico, where Maria severely damaged the infrastructure, leaving countless citizens without power for extended periods. Maria was also the most costly hurricane in modern history for the island territory. Fortunately, thanks to efforts funded by the federal government, Puerto Rico has seen a slow, but steady recovery, with power being entirely restored.
  7. Fifi
    • Death Toll: 8,000
    • Economic Losses: $1.8 Billion
    • Summary: Fifi was a catastrophic storm that struck Central America in 1974. Fifi triggered landslides and flash floods, which swept through crop fields and small towns throughout the region. Dozens of villages in Honduras were completely wiped out. Twenty-three hundred people were killed when a natural dam in Choloma gave way to the flooding and burst. The impact of Fifi sparked a series of reconstruction projects among the villages of Honduras, which succeeded in rebuilding housing and infrastructure across the nation.
  8. Galveston
    • Death Toll: 8,000-12,000
    • Economic Losses: $20 million
    • Summary: Galveston was a vibrant trading port, and the largest city in Texas at the turn of the twentieth century. Though Galveston had endured many tropical storms since its founding, the 1900 Hurricane was in a class of its own, and the ensuing 15-foot storm surge wiped out the city, destroying 3,600 buildings. Galveston was the deadliest natural disaster in the United States history at the time. Remarkably, despite the immense damages, and the loss of 20 percent of Galveston’s inhabitants, the people managed to rebuild and construct a new seawall to protect it from future catastrophes.
  9. Mitch
    • Death Toll: 10,000-20,000
    • Economic Losses: $6 billion
    • Summary: Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that predominantly affected Nicaragua and Honduras. Flash flooding and landslides caused by Mitch destroyed thousands of homes, rendering 20 percent of the population homeless. Mitch also caused extensive damage to the infrastructure of Honduras, leaving numerous roads and bridges destroyed, which prevented the transport of much-needed aid. In Nicaragua, a mudslide off of La Casitas Volcano killed over 2,000, and over 1 million homes were damaged or destroyed. In the aftermath of Mitch, countries around the globe donated billions to Central America, which the affected countries used to rebuild, constructing stronger foundations to withstand future disasters.
  10. The Great Hurricane of 1780
    • Death Toll: 22,000-27,000
    • Economic Losses: Unknown
    • Summary: The Great Hurricane of 1780 predates modern storm-tracking technology, but it is widely accepted to be the deadliest storm in history. Making landfall on Oct. 10, the Great Hurricane devastated Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean, causing incalculable damage and claiming more lives than any other storm in recorded history. The Great Hurricane represents a disaster of unprecedented scale and truly belongs at the top of the 10 worst hurricanes of all time.

Hurricanes often serve as a bitter reminder of human vulnerability, however, even when in the path of the 10 worst hurricanes, people show an incredible capacity to adapt and recover from tragedy. The 10 worst hurricanes of all time illustrate not only the fierce violence of nature but also the ingenuity and tenacity of humanity.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr