Jamaica is one of the most beautiful tropical paradises known to man. Often, when we think of our Caribbean neighbor, it is of powder white sand beaches, tropical breezes, island rhythms, crystal clear water, five star resorts, endless gourmet buffets, constant parties, and a nightlife that lasts all day. While all of this is true, it is not the norm for most citizens. Many live in abject poverty; suffer from exhaustion, yet receive menial pay to provide an extravagant escape for tourists.
This small island has been hijacked by greed. Westerners, and the wealthy world-over, travel to Jamaica to find a scrumptious getaway and live large at the expense of others. While the elite continue to succeed, the poor seem to get poorer. Survival has been bred with corruption resulting in the exploitation of the population.
Rampant unemployment compounded by severe, underemployment fatigues the already exasperated economy that wrestles with extremely low wages and hyperinflation. The evils associated with poverty: hunger, teen pregnancy, AIDS, homelessness, crime, addiction and street wars further erode the morale and hope of these wonderful people.
Still a third world country, Jamaica continues to wade through the miry residue of globalism and strives for national stability, and seeks an escape from colonialism. Yet, these good people are willing to work hard and are only asking for a small start, somewhere to begin, a little help, an opportunity, a glimmer of HOPE . .
Unemployment (before the global recession in 2007) was reported at 28.5%. Current data has not been released, but it is evident there is a significant increase in unemployment only compounded by severe under-employment. The typical wage is less than US$36.00 per week. As an import culture, everything costs more in Jamaica: food, utilities, clothing, school supplies, etc. One can only imagine the challenges supporting a family in a hyper-inflated economy with $36.00 a week, if they are working. Now, imagine life for the chronically unemployed or those only getting day labor.
Jamaica, without question, is a third world country, with all the associated maladies. While I have traveled and seen worse situations, the great tragedy of Jamaica is that you will find some of the most industrious, talented, sincere, passionate and caring people; especially healthcare providers and teachers, with little to no equipment and supplies to provide the most basic of human services and medical needs.
In July 2009, the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States reported that the population of Jamaica was 2.8 million and the Jamaican government reported that nearly one million residents were living in squatter settlements. Most fled rural poverty looking for work in the urban or resort areas. This is more than one/third of the population who suffer in shacks and shanties. Although there is no sanitation or social structure, they prefer to live in substandard housing to shield themselves from the high crime in other areas.
The food shortage has worsened because of reoccurring droughts and the global recession. The longtime healthcare crisis has been further frustrated by lack of resources, high carb-ohydrate diets (because of food shortage) and the rapidly increasing sanitation quandary due to massive squatter influx.