Jamaica is a land of extremes. If one were to only visit the stunning beaches and world-class resorts, it would be easy to assume that this beautiful island was one of the most progressive in the Caribbean.
In the tourist areas near Kingston, wealthy Jamaicans live in fine houses, have access to shopping centers with luxury imported goods and enjoy an excellent standard of living. These Jamaicans send their children to private schools, then on to universities abroad.
Yet, not far from these wealthy enclaves, significant numbers of Jamaicans live in squalor, suffering from poor housing, limited food supply and inadequate access to clean water, quality health care or education. In these Jamaican households, more than half of the family income is spent to purchase food and beverages for daily survival.
Other challenges to breaking the cycle of poverty in Jamaica include:
- Sixth most violent country in the world^
- Second poorest Caribbean country, after Haiti *
- 30% youth unemployment*
- School attendance compulsory only through 6th grade
- Low weekly minimum wage of roughly $51 US+
- High (8.29%) inflation rate*
- Reliance on imported goods for daily necessities (food, clothing, gasoline)
- Although government supports education, it is not free; most poor children do not attend school
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