Posts

Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Costa RicaCosta Rica, a country in Central America known for its beautiful Caribbean beaches and biodiversity, has the lowest rate of poverty in Central America. However, rural areas still struggle somewhat with poverty. About 20% of Costa Ricans are currently living under the poverty line, making less than $155 a month. Thankfully, there are many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica helping those most affected. New technologies, for example, are helping with education both remotely and in school. Here are a few innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica.

Education in Costa Rica

Academically, Latin America falls behind in mathematics. Children at a young age need to learn math to get a good start in school. But without resources, children in Costa Rica struggle to get a quality education. This not only affects their test scores but also their mindsets.

High-level education is also a problem in Costa Rica. As a small country, Costa Rica lacks the required resources to provide high-quality education for all of its students. About 4% of the country’s population 15 or older currently doesn’t know how to read and write. Poor early education often leads to illiteracy in teenagers. With preschool starting at the age of four, it is important that kids get a good start right away. Thankfully, there are innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica working to improve education in Costa Rica.

Tech Innovation in Costa Rica

To solve this issue, researchers and the country’s education ministry have implemented a pilot program focused on math and programming skills for preschool students. The Pensalo program offers a highly intelligent robot named “Albert” to assist students. This robot scans a series of flashcards, helps with sharpening memory and shows instructions that use mathematical and numerical concepts. This innovation in poverty eradication in Costa Rica has impacted 392 schools in four different provinces. So far, this robot has given children a great start to education.

Albert’s Impact

SK Telecom designed Albert after an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to figure out a solution so that kids can have more opportunities to grow and learn in Costa Rica. With IDB being a good source of development in financing for Latin America, it was able to provide 1,500 robots for schools. Not only does this help education in Costa Rica, but it can also set a good influence in different countries. Albert shows that Costa Rica is able to create a sustainable level of quality education.

This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica that have helped provide a good education to young students. Thanks to the Albert robot, children can now get a strong start to their education. This will have a ripple effect in the future, as education is a significant obstacle for children to overcome to escape poverty.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Pixabay

Sanitation in Belize
Belize has increasingly become a popular tourist attraction over the past several years. Not only is it a favorite among celebrities, but it is also a place where many non-famous people choose to purchase property. Vast natural ecosystems and welcoming locals draw visitors to the country for rest and relaxation. As the nation continues to evolve, byproducts of expansion take a toll on the preservation of natural resources, in turn creating waste and other issues that affect sanitation in Belize.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Belize

  1. Water quantity is not a problem for Belize. Water is a natural and ample resource in the country. Groundwater, as well as rivers and the sea, provide an unlimited supply. According to a publication that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) submitted, Belize’s water supply exceeds that of other Central American and Caribbean nations. Only a mere 3 percent of the population does not have access to a sustainable water source. By 2009, residents enjoyed a generous supply of improved water connections. When the Belizean government stepped in to revise its infrastructure, this led to a significant improvement compared to prior years. Since then, the government has not slowed down its policies toward the improvement of sanitation and access to drinkable water. Companies such as Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) has doubled its water supply to the residents they serve by investing within the country’s infrastructure.
  2. Small villages keep sanitation infrastructure at bay. Locals in rural areas use basic outhouse toilets in various places. Some are located in the middle of the forest while people have constructed others over the sea. Due to the high cost of organized sanitation systems, the estimated 200 small villages that exist in Belize lacked adequate systems to support a much-needed sanitation system as early as 6 years ago. Some are located either close to or in tourist destinations. Improvements have occurred since the construction of a landfill named Mile 24 in 2009. Local private collection companies send out trucks to collect waste from the homes and houses of residents in rural areas. Because of this, tourist areas and villages have fared much better by having access to toilets and supported solid waste disposal.
  3. Water and sanitation systems improvement is on a continual rise. With the involvement of the Belizean government, the gap between poor sanitation and sound infrastructures continues to narrow. The nation’s government has welcomed assistance from other companies both local and abroad in order to improve the health and lives of its citizens through safe drinking resources. The work to develop solutions for basic clean water and waste management systems has paid off. This includes bathrooms in basic housing as well as some rural areas. A near 25 percent increase of tourist visits to the country from 2017 to 2018 is a telltale sign of a demand for an improved quality of life for citizens and visitors alike.
  4. Businesses contribute greatly to this improvement. Belize Water Services Limited (BWS) is a public company that serves nearly all cities in Belize as well as about 30 percent of the country’s small villages. It serves drinkable and potable water that has received treatment through the company’s exclusive “double run” water treatment plant. The company began in 2001 and the Belizean government is a majority shareholder.
  5. Some residents prefer raw water. Some citizens in Belize do not completely trust treated water. They prefer natural raw water or source water, which is essentially rainwater in cisterns, which are commonly on rooftops in Belize. This water then receives treatment with chlorine or an in-home filtration system to make it safe for consumption.
  6. Tourists should know their water source before drinking. In the city of San Pedro as well as other tourist cities, many residents prefer water from their own familiar cisterns. Water can come from a few different sources, and the taste or safety can differ greatly. Belize advises vacationers with sensitive stomachs to stick to bottled water as some locals already do. While cistern water is safe to drink, it can often be unpleasant due to a noticeable chlorine taste.
  7. Ocean water can transform into drinking water. In Belize, BWS treats water from the sea using a reverse osmosis procedure to remove the salt from it. The majority of the water comes from the enormous amounts of rainfall the country sees each year; however, as the country continues to grow, it may increasingly tap into this water source. As a solution, the government continues to support companies like BWS in acquiring more facilities to support the growing population.
  8. Sanitation in Belize took nearly 25 years to develop. Starting in 1991 with the creation of the Solid Waste Management Authority Act, the Belizean government began to address the issue of solid waste disposal. Five years later, the Department of Environment (DOE) put an action plan in place. By 2013, the DOE created the first transfer stations for the management of solid waste products. The organization of waste disposal helped residents of smaller villages as well as some rural areas eliminate the need to transfer their own solid waste. While deep rural areas continue to struggle, local truck routes owned by private companies help residents in the far outreaches of the country.
  9. The environment is safe. The Belize Solid Waste Management Authority (BSWMA) works with the Department of Environment to ensure that sanitation in Belize receives proper management in order to protect the environment. Part of BSWMA’s mission is to incorporate feedback and cooperation from the country’s citizens. These initiatives help to continually improve upon the safe and eco-friendly collection of waste throughout the country.
  10. Some waste comes from outside. In some cases, cruise ships have utilized waste management facilities to empty their vessels of trash while coming to port. As the country continues to grow, there will likely be demands for more waste solutions that are entering the country. The largest area that is suffering is that of the rural villages. Many who live in the countryside dump their trash in rivers or the sea, undoing the lengthy progress that has occurred to materialize into sustainable systems that exist in the city.

Most of Belize’s infrastructures are stable and use the latest technology. The growth of Belize and the growing health of its citizens are evidence of these facts. There is a definite standard in place to ensure little to no impact on the environment. Business and commerce are on an upward trend. The government plays a significant role in growing the nation’s civil framework as well as addressing issues of sanitation in Belize. Belize is a country with a unique ecology. Its popularity as a place to unwind, and perhaps stay, is growing.

– Julie Jenkins
Photo: Pixabay

Northern Triangle
On June 14, 2017, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) arranged $2.5 billion in infrastructure projects for the nations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. IDB invested $750 million, plus additional funding for another $1.75 billion from public and private sectors within the Northern Triangle. One year later, with levels of violence and regional emigration still growing, it begs the question, what is the U.S. doing to help?

U.S. Aid To The Northern Triangle

This funding was proposed to compliment the Plan of the Alliance for the Prosperity of the Northern Triangle, which has made progress in addressing security issues and strengthening local institutions.

The initiative intends to improve the region’s infrastructure and, above all else, to slow the path of northern migration by providing economic opportunities in the region. However, it is estimated that the Alliance For Prosperity, in place since 2014, directs 60 percent of the budget towards security measures.

With the additional $2.5 billion in regional and IDB backing, far more development progress should be achieved. IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno stated in 2017 that “the key over the next five years will be to tap the private sector to help build critical infrastructure that will generate jobs, improve competitiveness, and create the conditions that encourage people to build prosperous lives in their homelands.” Only one year into a five year plan, numerous of the project’s goals need time to produce results.

Northern Triangle Migration

In 2017, 54 percent of migrants detained at the border arrived from the Northern Triangle, in comparison to only 13 percent back in 2010. The Brookings institute reports that migration to countries like the U.S. has much to do with unprecedented levels of violence, including kidnapping, sex crimes and extortion in home countries.

Former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, suggested that United States’ demand for drugs is what drives “violence” and “lawlessness” in the Northern Triangle nations. The majority of those arriving in the U.S. are not a part of the violent gang crime themselves, but rather are fleeing this crime seeking asylum and safety.

Regional Efforts

Surges of gang violence coupled by weak institutional support, corruption and a general lack of economic opportunity have undermined regional efforts to address the crisis. With 95 percent of crimes going unpunished, refugees have little choice but to flee. Eric Olsen at the Wilson Center argues, “There has been so much penetration of the state and so much criminal involvement in security forces, it makes it difficult to think about how they would [reform] without some outside intervention.”

It’s understandable that so much funding is needed to address organized crime, but this allocation leaves the Northern Triangle to struggle with a multitude of other concerns. IDB’s development pledge in coordination with the existing Alliance for Prosperity projects addressing security is a great step towards addressing the larger institutional infrastructure problems of the Northern Triangle.

U.S. Response and the Alliance for Prosperity

In recent years, the U.S. has responded in various ways to help El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. allocated hundreds of millions to the Northern Triangle and focused on increasing growth, trade and stability. President Barack Obama established the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) that provided over $1 billion to help law enforcement, counternarcotics and justice systems in the region.

This initiative was designed to coincide with the Alliance for Prosperity to promote commerce and security. Under President Donald J. Trump, Alliance for Prosperity has continued, but his administration has established a much harsher line on immigration policies affecting Northern Triangle refugees.

After one year, the anticipated effects of IDB’s pledge have yet to be realized. Recent media coverage of separated migrant families has raised more awareness of the realities faced in the Northern Triangle, and presents a new opportunity to direct new projects to restore the prosperity of these three nations.

With Central Americans still dealing with forced emigration, it is clear additional measures must be taken by the U.S. government to prevent atrocities in the Northern Triangle and that the congressional IDB pledge is just one step of many needed in the right direction.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Jamaica
The Government of Jamaica has revealed that the series of dry weather that the country is experiencing will continue to affect the country. “That is a problem that is critical in Jamaica right now,” said Albert Gordon, director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation and chairman of the Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR).

The recent drought caused the National Water Commission (NWC) to take action by strategically shutting off water in certain areas during scheduled times. With disparities between urban and rural areas, water availability varies with each area, often revealing the country’s need of proper water storage facilities and distribution systems to improve accessibility and water quality in Jamaica.

Water Quality in Jamaica: Regional Assessment

  • Water in Rural Jamaica: Access to household running water remains something that most residents living in rural Jamaica have been without for most of their lives. The Minister of Water Robert Pickersgill expressed that some parishes are experiencing more severe signs of drought with as low as eight percent rainfall since May of 2016. Schools, particularly in rural Jamaica, that lack drinking water and hand washing facilities create high risks for children and staff to environmental health hazards.
  • Water in Urban Jamaica: Water storage levels at the Mona Reservoir have depleted significantly to 32.8 percent. This reservoir serves as a critical source of water for the island. In addition, water levels at the Hermitage Dam have depleted by 44.2 percent of its capacity. Individuals living in the outskirts of the urban area or in illegal settlements have little or no access to piped water supply. According to Gordon, the government of Jamaica needs assistance in tackling their current water issues. “There are things that need to be strengthened. We don’t have a water sector law that can facilitate more people coming in and providing alternatives to NWC (National Water Commission),” said Gordon. “How do we incentivise others to come in? Because NWC cannot do it.”

Government Involvement in Water Quality in Jamaica

Access to water will be one of the main issues discussed at the 14th Annual Conference Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) in Montego Bay set to happen Oct. 26 to 28. The conference will feature presentations from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the benefits of international water investments as well as the importance of public-private water partnership to improve water quality in Jamaica.

While there are no immediate plans to build additional dams or reservoirs, mitigation measures have been employed to assist southern farmers who have been most affected by the drought. Trucking via the Rapid Response Unit and through the National Irrigation Commission allows access to water by the gallon in these areas.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Bahamas National Feeding Network
The Bahamas National Feeding Network (BNFN) and AML Foods Limited have collaborated to award 60 single mothers with $100 gift vouchers for the purchase of staples, ground produce and other food items. This initiative is one of their many attempts to expunge hunger among local Bahamians.

Selection Process and Statistics

In 2013, the Commonwealth Government of the Bahamas, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Department of Statistics conducted a household outlay revealing 12.5% of the population in the Bahamas lives in poverty conditions. The poverty rate is significantly higher in the Family Islands at 17.2% and New Providence at 12.4%.

The women were selected by community leaders who believed that they would be suitable beneficiaries of the Bahamas National Feeding Network Initiative. These women are faced with the economic hardship of single parenthood.

AML Foods Limited recognizes this concern and drives the impetus to help eradicate hunger. “We at AML Foods Limited feel strongly about hunger prevention and healthy living,” said Renea Bastian, Vice President of Marketing & Communications of AML.

What is the BNFN?

The Bahamas National Feeding Network is a non-profit group that consists of 13 individual organizations who have decided to tackle the hunger crisis evident among the archipelago of islands. The Feeding Network started in 2013 and has been in operation for the past three years. The main function of the organization is to collect and distribute food items to the indigent living among the Bahamian enclave.

AML foods have committed to donating 100,000 over the next three years towards eradicating hunger in Grand Bahamas. The company has contributed over $30,000 in food coupons through the BNFN. The BNFN has donated more than $350,000 to its web of 110 partners in its three years of operation.

The Bahamas National Feeding Network also provides the foundation for self-empowerment and independence in a sustainable way for poor families. “While we are giving, we are also teaching people to grow,” said diplomat, businessman and philanthropist Frank Crothers, Bahamas Feeding Network Chairman.

More on the Ground

The BFN has also played an integral role in the funding of the Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel presenting a $1,000 donation. The temporary childcare facility relies primarily on donations for maintenance and daily functioning such as providing food, supplements, clothes and healthcare for children who have been abandoned or neglected.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Dangerous Roads
A recent study by the University of Michigan has found that Africa, Latin America and the Middle East host the world’s most dangerous roads, and that traffic accidents in developing nations claim more victims than in wealthier countries.

Similar conclusions have recently been drawn by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) which specifically examined this year’s mortality rates due to traffic accidents in Latin America. The FIA study reports that Brazil has the worst record, at 20 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

FIA regional representative Leandro Perillo of Argentina observes that “the biggest problem we face [in Latin America] is the lack of enforcement of the rules.”

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) sees dangerous roads as a serious development issue in Latin America, reporting that “at 17 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, this region’s roadway fatality rate is nearly double that of higher income countries.”

Leading reasons for this discrepancy besides lax law enforcement include roadways clogged with bicycles, motorcycles and all around bad driving. Anyone who has traveled throughout Latin America understands that traffic lights, lane markers and warning signs are more like suggestions than rules. Poor infrastructure, including the infamous baches (potholes that many times resemble sinkholes) and lomadas (mountainous, unmarked speed bumps,) can also play a part in driving accidents.

Automobile wrecks take more lives in Latin America each day than does HIV/AIDS, and road incidents kill 100,000 people every year in Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, car crashes have become the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 29.

Injuries due to poor roads and bad drivers also have a high social and economic cost. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that Latin America loses two percent of its GDP to traffic accidents each year.

Speaking on the importance of road safety in Latin America, IDB Transport Division Chief Nestor Roa states that “when it comes to improving road safety, isolated efforts will only get us so far. Curbing our region’s high traffic death rates requires making this issue a priority for our national development agendas and committing everyone to achieve this goal.”

The IDB is becoming more involved in the region’s transportation situation, performing vehicle evaluations and overseeing the design of better roadways. The institution states that successful confrontation of this issue will require “the coordination and collaboration of virtually all sectors of society, from governments to schools, NGOs, motor vehicle manufacturers, drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Although road safety is not typically seen as a central development concern, addressing this issue will help pave the way to a safer and healthier future for developing nations.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Global Post, University of Michigan, Inter-American Development Bank
Photo: GravityBolivia

clean water
As of 2005, one in six people are without access to clean water. Perhaps they spend a huge fraction of their income to gain access to a truck that distributes clean water to them, which, ultimately, might not even be clean. They might simply drink available water that holds dangerous bacteria, or that is laced with chemicals. Slightly less than 1 billion people wake up knowing that their first demand of the day is to find any source of water at all.

It isn’t as if water purification hasn’t been perfected in a number of other contexts. Drug companies purify water in huge quantities to produce medicine. The U.S. Navy found methods by which drinking water could be desalinated.

But both of these methods lack the level of portability needed to address the issue of water deprivation in impoverished regions. Methods like chlorine tablets exist, along with reverse osmosis plants. Yet problems of portability persist. It’s possible only some pollutants get purified, and others remain. Sometimes parts are too expensive to replace or are difficult to find.

The struggle with water purification for those in poverty has obviously been a long one, but it looks like the end might be in sight. It comes in the form of a plain-looking box, no larger than a mini refrigerator. Behind its design is a unique story, and its benefits have been a long time coming.

Dean Kamen has been working on what he calls the Slingshot for over 10 years. The inventor of the Segway, Kamen came to the project when Baxter International asked for his help. They had built a device to perform a procedure called peritoneal dialysis, which uses sterile saline to filter a patient’s blood. Kamen’s job was to refine and improve the machine.

It required huge amounts of purified water, or what amounted to multiple gallons a day for each patient. Kamen and his team turned to a simple scientific principle to solve their problem: they recycled the energy used when water evaporates. Now, Kamen has a device that he says can “take any input water, whether it’s got bioburden, organics, inorganics, chrome and… make pure water come out.” Kamen explains that the Slingshot could provide perfectly clean water using less power than a typical hairdryer.

Kamen’s last challenge is getting the Slingshot where it needs to go. Alongside Coca-Cola in October of 2012, Kamen announced plans with the company to bring the Slingshot to remote regions of Africa and Latin America. The partnership had already sent 15 of the machines to Ghana in 2011. Also involved in the process were the Inter-American Development Bank and Africare.

But Kamen has even bigger plans. His next project will work to reach even more people in need of clean water with his energy-efficient Stirling generator, solving the lack of electricity that could inhibit the use of the Slingshot. In the near future, Kamen has made it quite possible that millions of people will no longer face water insecurity.

— Rachel Davis

Sources: Popular Science, HowStuffWorks, Coca-Cola
Photo: Business Week