Jamaica, the fourth largest island country in the Caribbean, is hungry. The root of hunger is based on inequality and racism. Grassroots projects and programs are developed to alleviate an empty tummy. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Jamaica:
- Jamaica is highly focused on the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDG), especially the ones that address the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger across the globe. After the devastating global recession, Jamaica is keen that their strategies for poverty reduction are financially supported.
- Jamaica is not all poverty yet lines of marginalization are obvious. Not far from the country’s wealthy communities live the Jamaicans that have limited access to clean water, food supply, health care and education.
- Hunger in Jamaica is largely a reflection of racial inequality. With a heritage rooted in slavery, descendants of black slaves hold a much larger probability of residing amongst the poorest classes of Jamaica. Meanwhile, descendants of the white race and mixed-race plantation owners tend to be much better off.
- Most Jamaicans in poverty spend more than half of their income on food. Due to Jamaica’s extreme inflation and reliance on imports, hunger in Jamaica is greatly exacerbated. Despite governmental food subsidy programs, Jamaica’s poor have to spend a large portion of their small incomes on the basics just to survive.
- The main cause of nutritional problems in Jamaica still appears to be the lack of economic access to food. With almost 20 percent of the national population living below the poverty line (and many additionally living in rural lands, an unfortunate compounding factor), access to socio-economic infrastructures is nearly impossible.
- The rural land doesn’t encapsulate all of Jamaica’s poverty, as high levels of malnutrition in the cities have been observed as well. The urban sectors exemplify an unfortunately high level of unemployment and a decreasing percentage of mothers that are breastfeeding their newborns, ultimately depriving young children of essential nutrients.
- Teachers and school staff in Jamaica see hunger as a painful challenge in the everyday lives of students. Inattentive, moody and exhibiting behavioral problems, hungry children struggle to reap the benefits of their education due to malnutrition.
- Food For The Poor, a charity organization, is spearheading self-sustaining agriculture projects at schools in order to provide healthy foods for daily meals and combat hunger in Jamaica. At-risk students gain hands-on experience in agriculture and learn methods of self-sustainability. School staff notes that the rate of student attendance has greatly improved as a result of these projects.
- The National Infant and Young Child Feeding Policy is an advancement introduced to reduce rates of morbidity and mortality among children. In a nutshell, the policy advocates for the promotion of both breastfeeding and adequate weaning practices. From ages six months to two years old, the policy seeks to encourage breastfeeding and, subsequently, adequate solid foods. According to both the WHO and UNICEF, the mental development of children who are exclusively breastfed is better than those who are not.
- Executed by an NGO, The Roving Caregivers Programme (RCP) focuses on providing child-rearing knowledge and practices to parents of children younger than four. Through home visits with trained personnel, families are given ideas for income-generating activities and are provided a heavy focus on the health and nutrition of the children.
The above-mentioned facts about hunger in Jamaica reflect the need for a global shift in the widening gap of global income inequality. To be hungry and experience malnutrition is largely a result of lacking an adequate income to feed a household as well as little to no access to healthy and nourishing foods. Luckily, the presence of grassroots programs and education are turning the tides and allowing for a self-sustainable community, and these facts are just the beginning of instilling awareness among the masses.
– Mary Grace Miller