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Homelessness in the BahamasHurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on Sept. 3, 2019. It loitered for three days over Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands, the northernmost parts of the archipelago. A Category 5 hurricane, it was the worst storm ever to befall the small island nation. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) estimates Hurricane Dorian’s damages to the Bahamas at $3.4 billion, including almost $15 million in housing damage. All of the damage has led to severe cases of homelessness in the Bahamas.

Exacerbation of Bahamian Homelessness

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) estimates that Dorian destroyed 1,100 buildings and damaged 2,300 more in the Abaco Islands’ largest town, Marsh Harbor, alone. Among displaced Bahamians, Maxine Ferguson, mother of two teenage boys, former hotel employee and lifelong resident in Abaco, has neither insurance nor the money to rebuild her home. She shares her predicament with many Dorian survivors, thousands of whom struggle to find new sources of income following the hurricane’s destruction of their former workplaces without cars or clothes for interviews.

Economic Impact of the Storm

Due to the hurricane, the nation faces a complicated and expensive process combatting joblessness. Homelessness in the Bahamas has also proved to be a struggle in the months following the storm. Dr. Pallab Mozumder, an environmental economist at Florida International University, predicts the cost of public and private reconstruction in the northern Bahamas could reach $15 to $25 billion.

Besides immediate construction costs, Dorian has had an ongoing economic impact on some of the nation’s largest industries, including fisheries, agriculture and tourism. The economic impact is due to asset damage, loss of potential revenue and loss of additional public and private spending.

Tourism supports nearly half of the Bahama’s $5.7 billion GDP. Fortunately, large resort locations in Nassau, the nation’s capital, remained unharmed during the storm. These locations are in other southern areas of the archipelago as well. However, smaller resorts and rentals in the Grand Bahama and Abaco Islands, which are the locations of 19% of all hotel rooms in the nation, were destroyed.

The IDB calculates total damages to the tourism industry at nearly $530 million. This is in addition to over $325 million in lost potential revenue. Fisheries and agriculture, which support 5% of the nation’s GDP, faced over $13.5 million in damage. They also faced more than $10 million in lost potential revenue.

Opportunities for a Storm-Resilient Future

So far, Hurricane Dorian has had an economic impact and exacerbation of homelessness in the Bahamas. However, the storm’s infrastructural destruction offers a novel opportunity to emphasize storm resiliency. This opportunity is available in government and private financing of future construction and conservation projects on the impacted islands. Bahamians like Ken Hutton, head of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce and founder of Project Resurrect, advocate to make green, storm-resilient construction a priority as the Bahamas rebuild a devastated community.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) anticipates increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards in the Bahamas. It also urges prudent resource allocation to mitigate the future impacts of natural disasters. An ecosystem investment study conducted by Stanford University’s Natural Capital Project proposes investing in the natural ecosystem. Investing in coastal forests, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses surrounding the islands would provide future storm resiliency. This study, among others, indicates that healthy natural ecosystems defend communities against storms more resiliently than manmade infrastructure. Instead, manmade infrastructure can be costly to build and maintain. The health of marine ecosystems also contributes to fishery health, which protects industries like tourism and fishing in the storm’s economic aftermath.

Further safeguards to protect against storm-induced homelessness in the Bahamas include settlement relocation and storm-resilient infrastructure design. Possibilities include revised building codes that mandate elevated structures to prevent flooding and installation of windows. They also include doors that can withstand high wind speeds, underground utility systems and strategic placement of dunes and indigenous plants to aid site drainage.

Avery Saklad
Photo: United Nations

Tuberculosis In Tanzania

Tanzania holds a spot on the list of the 30 highest-burden countries for tuberculosis (TB) and TB/HIV coinfection. Many things contribute to the spread of TB in Tanzania, like infrastructural barriers and transportation difficulties for those in rural areas. While the burden of costs associated with addressing TB in the country falls largely on the government, the United States and Tanzania have formed several partnerships to attack infectious diseases with a united front. 

Tuberculosis in Tanzania

Victims of active TB in Tanzania endure chronic coughing fits, fevers, night sweats, persistent exhaustion and severe weight loss. Annually, more than 166,000 Tanzanian inhabitants are infected with TB. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers classifies the infectious disease as “highly endemic” in the East African country. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that TB is the fifth leading cause of death for Tanzanians, trailing behind heart disease and HIV/AIDS. Moreover, the five percent of Tanzanians with the HIV/AIDS infection are at a higher risk for TB co-infection, according to the World Health Organization.

The Science Behind Tuberculosis

The two strains of TB most common in Tanzania are airborne pulmonary TB (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and bovine TB (Mycobacterium Bovis) sometimes found in unpasteurized dairy products. Pulmonary TB occurs globally because it travels through small, aerosolized droplets that settle in the lungs. A mere cough or sneeze, or even singing, can pass the infectious droplets from one person to another. The CDC reported that the disease can also stay suspended in the air for hours if the environment allows. 

Latent TB comprises 90-95 percent of cases, a stage that can last many years in which carriers do not exhibit symptoms. However, when activated, the disease can prove lethal. Broad-spectrum antibiotic treatments can cure TB, although multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is becoming more common. Without proper treatment, TB evolves to resist antibiotics, making it difficult to kill the bacteria.

Factors Contributing to the Prevalence of Tuberculosis

Infrastructural barriers increase the spread of Tuberculosis in Tanzania. Densely populated communities provide a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. The International Organization for Migration identifies the mining sector as a hot-spot for TB, a problematic externality to an industry that stimulates the Tanzanian economy. 

While crowded environments increase the spread of disease, remote regions experience delays in the diagnosis and treatment of TB. The National Institutes of Health reported that people living in rural areas are more likely to pursue traditional healers before seeking health care services, preventing early diagnosis and prolonging infectionMoreover, especially during the rainy season when roads are inaccessible, inhabitants of remote regions face difficulties with transportation to medical facilities and testing sites.

Within the health care sector, inadequate adherence to preventive measures allows for the risky exposure of TB to health care workers. Tanzania also lacks the human resources (i.e. health care personnel) and technical diagnostic tools to properly tackle widespread TB infection.

Efforts to Mitigate Widespread Tuberculosis in Tanzania

The financial burden of TB testing and treatment falls mostly on the Tanzanian government, which covers the majority of costs associated with health care services. However, other agencies, such as volunteer organizations, donate in order to help stop the spread of TB.

For instance, since 2003, USAID has partnered with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health to combat Tuberculosis. In 2017, the partnership yielded concrete changes, such as initiating 2000 new patients for TB treatment and expanding drug-resistant TB services to 48 sites throughout the country. USAID pledged an additional $5 million to continue the prevention and treatment of Tuberculosis in Tanzania for the fiscal year of 2018.

Beyond government agencies, medical schools aid Tanzania through academic support. In December of 2018, Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine and 50 participating Tanzanian partners united for a symposium in Dar es Salaam. The symposium sought to address TB through the exchange of research and a strengthened relationship between the United States and Tanzanian academics.

Lisa V. Adam, director and dean for Geisel School of Medicine, said “the [symposium] addressed both the progress with TB care and prevention in Tanzania and the many challenges that lie ahead.”

Well into 2020, TB continues to diminish the quality of life throughout Tanzania and poses a threat to the livelihood of its people. Yet, governments, organizations and academic centers are working to eliminate Tuberculosis in Tanzania. These groups are furthering the fight against infectious diseases — together.

Maya Gonzales

Photo: Flickr

human trafficking in Latin America

According to the work of Benjamin Skinner, a writer who has extensively investigated and documented the modern-day slave trade, there are more enslaved persons in existence today than any other point in history. Precise data is difficult to attain, but roughly 1 of every 280 human beings are forced to exist in modern slavery. There are challenges inherent in the efforts to dismantle such an entrenched, profitable, and hidden industry. However, communities are making progress.

Human trafficking exists in a myriad of forms in the modern global economy. It can range from forcing teenage boys to commit murder in organized crime, to 16-hour days of domestic housework to the most profitable sector, sexual exploitation. Women and children are disproportionately affected. However, for each unique trafficking challenge, there are unique solutions.

24-hour Courts

In Gerona Guatemala, local leadership created a 24-hour court specifically to process cases of violence against women, including human trafficking cases. The United States Agency for International Development worked alongside the Attorney General’s Office of Guatemala to provide innovative technology and equipment along with personnel training so the court could be staffed with prosecutors, psychologists, doctors and lawyers. This addition of supplies and workers streamlined the process of bringing a case before a judge. It even included a forensic clinic in the building to gather much-needed evidence in a timely and reliable manner for trial. In the first 6 months of operations, the court passed 846 protection measures for women, issued over 300 arrest warrants and sent 125 perpetrators to prison for crimes against women.

Prevention through Education

Tlaxcala, Mexico is a region that has chronically suffered from the presence of organized crime that utilizes human trafficking. However, in 2019 the state opened only three criminal cases regarding trafficking. To change this landscape, teachers in Tlaxcala are putting faith in the next generation to have different attitudes toward human trafficking. In one school, teachers have added their own take on the traditional “Snakes and Ladders” game. In addition to advancing via rolling dice with the traditional rules of shortcuts and setbacks, blocks on the game board include statements such as (in Spanish) “Less consumption = fewer exploited women” or “love does not mean supporting violence” or “we must not put money above the lives of women”.

The overall purpose of the game is to normalize the equality of men and women. It is also meant to combat attitudes that normalize trafficking or glorify traffickers in a community where some young men look up to family members who traffic humans for monetary gain and power. Those involved in the workshop now include older teens, who are effective and relatable role models for the younger students. The team believes small but countercultural activities such as this might be enough to show students that trafficking is violence. The team also believes changing the perspectives of even a few students would mean the project is a success. Although this is one possible solution, it is an example of the ingenuity of local leaders coming together to create a multifaceted approach to stop human trafficking in Latin America.

Transnational Approaches

In addition to efforts being piloted in local communities, transnational approaches are also necessary. Tumultuous border regions between nations are a dangerous area for vulnerable persons who are subject to increased risk of becoming involved in the trafficking business against their will. Due to the current socio-economic and political upheaval in Venezuela in recent years, spanning from water shortages to high unemployment rates, large numbers of Venezuelan citizens are moving across borders into neighboring states. As of June 2019, four million Venezuelans have fled the country, creating circumstances of social upheaval that are ideal for traffickers to profit from.

Refugees International is conducting research in Colombia, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago and Curacao to monitor how migration patterns and scarce resources can create hot spots of human trafficking. Recommendations born out of this research include the following:

  1. Expanding legal pathways for refugees to enter neighboring countries to reduce migration via trafficking networks
  2. Creating avenues for refugees to work in host countries to prevent needing to work with traffickers for monetary gain
  3. Ensuring any victim can file a legal complaint against traffickers with local authorities regardless of immigration status

Although these efforts require expanded access to resources for organizations, federal and local legislative policies such as these are a crucial part of stopping human trafficking in Latin America.

An effective counter-trafficking agenda requires an interdisciplinary approach. It requires protecting refugees and creating new legal systems, while simultaneously prioritizing financial security for vulnerable victims and changing attitudes in 21st-century teens. Even celebrities have a role to play, such as the music group Calle 13 that has recently and extensively raised awareness against human trafficking. With so many humans falling victim to trafficking in every country around the globe, each organization, individual, and state agency must pool resources. Together, organizations must strategize about how to finally put an end to an industry that deprives millions of people of the ability to create their own life.

– Patrick Tolosky

Photo: Flickr

U.S. foreign assistance to Central AmericaRecently, there has been an ongoing debate regarding U.S. foreign assistance to Central America with an emphasis on the countries in the Northern Triangle. The countries include Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. This topic has gained recent attention due to the ongoing border crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Some government officials believe cutting aid will improve the crisis while others believe it will enhance the problem.

Foreign Aid

President Donald Trump announced in April 2019 that he would cut aid to countries in the Northern Triangle. President Trump believed that this decision was an appropriate response to limit the number of refugees from these countries who seek asylum in the U.S. He used this tactic as a punishment directed at Central American governments for allowing record levels of displaced persons to migrate to the U.S. border.

On the other side of the debate, U.S. foreign assistance to Central America may actually be what is necessary to curb this problem. In Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador there are multiple factors that contribute to why people are leaving their homelands. People are seeking asylum in the U.S to escape crime, poverty, corruption and violence.

What Does U.S. Assistance Do in Central America?

The U.S. funds in the Northern Triangle assist a variety of programs. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supports increasing security and economic development, ensuring human rights and working towards a more self-reliant population among other projects.

  • El Salvador: In El Salvador, the State Department and USAID projects aided 50 towns by integrating the police force with a community-level crime prevention plan. In these areas, homicide rates shrunk by an average of 61 percent from 2015 to 2017. The El Salvadorian government expanded its yearly revenue by $350 million with the help of a $5 million investment from the U.S. that helped to reform El Salvador’s tax system.
  • Guatemala: In Guatemala, USAID leveraged more than $7 million in private investment, which in turn, helped more than 230,000 children with nutritional support. In the agricultural sector, USAID helped promote the advancement of sales for rural farmers by 51 percent. This aid also helped to create 20,000 new agricultural jobs.
  • Honduras: USAID, in collaboration with Feed the Future, helped lift 89,000 people out of extreme poverty. They also convinced the Honduran government to invest $56 million into the program. USAID and the State Department also helped to drastically reduce homicide rates in dangerous neighborhoods. Through community policing and youth programs backed by the U.S., murder rates dropped by 78 percent between 2013 and 2016 in at-risk communities.

U.S. Strategy for Central America

The U.S. plan for Central America is a bipartisan, multi-year plan that promotes institutional improvements and sparks conversation about developmental challenges. There are three different facets to this strategy.

  1. Promoting prosperity: In the Northern Triangle, USAID projects helped to create nearly 30,000 jobs in 2017 and more than 18,000 in 2018. Furthermore, the U.S. helped facilitate more than $73 million in exports and domestic sales. U.S.-led projects also fostered comradery and interconnectivity between different countries, which led to the formation of new organizations. In May 2016, the Mexico and Central America Interconnection Commission was established. This organization will help to advance power market integration, which will decrease power costs in the territory and increase economic activity.
  2. Enhancing security: U.S. backing makes it easier for regional governments to stop illegal narcotics from reaching the U.S. In 2018, Honduras seized almost 45,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics. U.S. foreign assistance to Central America also helps countries outside of the Northern Triangle. With the help of the U.S., Costa Rica seized more than 35,000 kilograms of illegal narcotics. The enhanced security also got dangerous gang members off the streets. In September 2017, U.S. support helped coordinate an operation that led to the arrests of nearly 4,000 gang members in the U.S. and Northern Triangle countries.
  3. Improving Governance: The U.S. projects help support the improvement of tax collection and fiscal transparency in the countries in the Northern Triangle. This leads to improved effectiveness of public spending and helps professionalize the civil service. In Guatemala, this service limited the number of steps needed to submit a customs and tax complaint, which made it easier to prompt an investigation.

Many politicians believe that it would be a bad idea to cut funding to Central America. “We will work with our colleagues in Congress to do everything in our power to push back on the President’s misguided approach to Central America,” said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY). Across the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted, “Reducing support to CentAm and closing the border with Mexico would be counterproductive.”

U.S. foreign assistance to Central America currently remains a controversial issue in the U.S. But, the statistics don’t lie. Foreign aid has helped the countries in the Northern Triangle. Cutting that aid will not slow the stream of immigrants trying to enter the U.S., but making improvements to the countries through continued aid might.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

How Emergency Transportation Has Addressed Disparity Gaps in Women's HealthIn September 2017, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) High Impact Health Services Project constructed emergency transport systems in Tienfala, a small community located in Mali, which has allowed for pregnant women to be transported to health facilities in order to give birth. This project was a part of USAID’s efforts to increase health outcomes around the world and close the consistently widening disparity gaps in women’s health.

According to USAID, the completion of the emergency transport systems were in large thanks to a community effort. People from the small Tienfala community worked together in order to help increase the health outcomes of pregnant women in their community. USAID’s project in Tienfala is very promising for the promotion of women and girls in developing countries.

Many other organizations have placed a focus on increasing the health outcomes of women and girls in developing countries in order to address the widening disparity gaps in women’s health around the world. In fact, the aim of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in regards to women and girls, is to “promote the equal rights of women and girls and to support their full participation in the political, social and economic development of their communities.”

Like UNICEF, USAID has placed a value on promoting women’s health in developing countries like Mali. Specifically, according to USAID, the focus of the High Impact Health Services Project is to decrease the incidence of maternal and child deaths, and the construction of the emergency transport systems in Tienfala has greatly helped reduce such mortality rates.

Kadia Coulibably, a woman from Tienfala, lacked any sort of prenatal care during her fourth pregnancy, reports USAID. However, the emergency transport systems allowed Coulibably to experience an organized, healthy childbirth. Without the valuable help of U.S. foreign aid through the governmental agency USAID, Coulibaly may have faced complications during her childbirth due to the lack of proper care.

Of course, a focus on the health of women and girls in developing countries is incredibly vital to the empowerment of women in their respective communities. When pregnant women can receive accessible, adequate health care, they can thrive happily and healthily. Thus, the construction of the emergency transport systems for pregnant women in Mali is a step in the right direction for the advancement of women’s health.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr