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Resiliency in Sint Maartin
Located in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten and St. Martin comprise one small island of fewer than 80,000 people. The northern part of the island, St. Martin, is a French territory, while Sint Maarten, the southern portion, is a former Dutch colony that gained independence within the Dutch Kingdom in 2010. The local island economy centers around tourism, as the island draws more than one million tourists every year to its scenic beaches and resorts.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 182 miles per hour, devastated the once serene and lively island. Responsible for 14 fatalities, Irma destroyed infrastructure and left residents without electricity, running water and telecommunications. Nearly two years after Irma hit the shores of the dual-country island, here are five facts about the resiliency in Sint Maarten.

Five Facts About Resiliency in Sint Maarten

  1. Irma took a massive hit on the island’s economic powerhouse: tourism. Since more than 99 percent of employees work in the service or industry sectors, many locals faced unemployment due to the destroyed restaurants and shops, the drastic drop in tourism and devastated resorts.
  2. Hurricane Irma caused as much as $3 billion in damages. Collapsed infrastructure, roofless buildings and homes and a deserted airport are all signs of how much physical damage Irma caused. However, some see reconstruction as an opportunity for new and improved resorts and tourist attractions, which will hopefully boost the tourism economy again, attracting millions of cruisers and destination vacationers who can revitalize the tourism-dependent economy.
  3. Improvements to Sint Maarten surpass improvements to St. Martin. This Caribbean island is unique in that both the Dutch and French governments preside over their half of the island. The relief responses of the European nations differ greatly and the results are visible, as the Dutch side rebuilt quicker than the French. The Dutch government also offered $650 million for relief and recovery efforts, which the island eventually accepted. However, residents report lacking basic necessities, even after the interim government accepted the sum.
  4. Prime Minister Leona Romero-Marlin has a seven-year recovery plan. This plan estimates $2.3 billion to recovery for the island. After two years, that included emergency, immediate and short-term needs, and the next five years include plans for recovery, resilience and development. Examples of disaster mitigation include improving emergency response coordination, involving the community in climate-change adaptation curriculum, awareness campaigns and emergency drills at all levels of society.
  5. The island still has access to the sea, a connection to nature and a feeling of home and community. Although residents withstood a terrifying storm and face the fear of uncertainty for the future, Sint Maarten/St. Martin is still home to thousands of residents who know and appreciate the natural beauty and deep-rooted connection to the island. Hurricane Irma brought together the local community, uniting residents to aid each other in rebuilding the place they know as home. The eye of the storm has long passed, but locals have a long way before returning to a sense of normalcy they had before the 2017 hurricane.

Almost two years since the winds and rains of Hurricane Irma transformed the once welcoming island into a deserted entity flooded with water and rubble, the remaining residents remain to show the resiliency in Sint Maarten to rebuild their homes and return the island to its former beauty.

– Keeley Griegor
Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau

Sint Maarten Poverty RateSint Maarten is a country located in the Caribbean that shares a portion of the island it is located on with the French part of the island, known as Saint Martin. Although the island is a beautiful and popular destination spot for tourists, poverty is a problem for the citizens of Sint Maarten.

Poverty has created very dangerous problems for the small country, including issues such as crime, illiteracy and teenage pregnancy. Poverty is defined as “the total absence of opportunities, accompanied by lack of education, physical and mental ailments, social instability and unhappiness”. The Sint Maarten poverty rate has not quite reached a state of crisis, but there have been definite warning signs for the country.

The Sint Maarten poverty rate is an issue that has been present for the past few years. The Board of United Sint Maarten Party has said that “The increased crime rate wherein people are scared to carry out their daily routine, and are in constant fear of becoming victims of crime even in their very home, is evidence enough that the poverty exists on St. Maarten. Another example is when you visit certain communities and you find up to 6 persons living in a one-bedroom apartment with just the bare essentials to get by, that is poverty.”

According to Trinidad & Tobago MCO, the unemployment rate in Sint Maarten is 11 percent, the illiteracy rate is 4.1 percent, residents without a secondary school education is at 42.9 percent and 22 percent of households have no income.

Fortunately, the Sint Maarten poverty rate can be reduced. The country has been recovering from the recession of 2008-2009, and a positive economic growth is envisaged in the coming years. The economy is very open in Sint Maarten, meaning that developments in the external environment—mainly the U.S. economy— will directly affect the small island country’s economy in return. According to the Economic Outlook of Sint Maarten, the economy has a relatively good starting position for further expansion, and is also said to be able to absorb financial as well as economic setbacks better than other Caribbean countries. These factors will contribute to improving the Sint Maarten poverty rate.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Sint MaartenSaint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean divided between the French Republic (Saint Martin) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Sint Maarten). The Dutch side, Sint Maarten, is one of the four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Common diseases in Sint Maarten range from non-communicable to more high-risk communicable diseases.

When traveling to any island or foreign country, the CDC recommends a series of vaccinations to prevent illness from communicable diseases. It is recommended that travelers to Sint Maarten receive these vaccinations:

  • Routine vaccines
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow fever

These vaccinations help prevent common diseases in Sint Maarten from spreading to tourists. A non-vaccine-preventable disease that is common is dengue fever. This is a leading cause of febrile illness among travelers from the Caribbean, South America and southeast Asia.

Common diseases in Sint Maarten can be spread by many means. The female Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue and chikungunya. Taking precautions against mosquitoes by using bed nets at night, insect repellent and wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants can prevent these diseases. Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women, as it can lead to birth defects. Others should use protection when there and home, and while traveling.

According to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), cancer is a non-communicable, common disease in Sint Maarten that causes death. Among females, breast cancer is the most prevalent, followed by cervical cancer. Prostate cancer is the leading cause of death among men, with lung cancer coming in second. Lung cancer is also a contributor to a high number of deaths among women. These cancers can be caused by genetics or environmental factors.

Non-environmental factors such as overeating have led to childhood obesity, which is seen as an epidemic in the youth of Sint Maarten based on the Youth Obesity Research study done in 2010. In 12-17-year-olds, the prevalence of overweight is 39 percent, and of that group, 54 percent are obese. The study also indicated that 60 percent of youths do not participate in sports and rarely consume fruits and vegetables.

The government has declared its aim to ensure that their “education sectors promote programs aimed at providing healthy school meals and promoting healthy eating.” They want to make a difference by promoting physical activity and providing healthy food choices in the schools. In order to achieve this goal, the schools will need to cooperate with the parents and educate them on healthy eating at home as well as at school.

The common diseases in Sint Maarten vary from non-communicable to communicable, to preventable and non-preventable. The good news is that making healthy lifestyle choices and taking the necessary precautions, one can easily avoid disease.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr