By Rabindra Rooplall
The demographic profile of the Region is changing with the decline in both mortality and birth rates. According to United Nations (UN) estimates, by 2050, over 30 percent of the regional population will be over 60 years old, and if appropriate measures are not taken, population ageing will pose serious challenges to the already burdened health systems.
This is according to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Biennial Social Development Report – 2010.
The health situation in the Region is characterised by a continuing transition from communicable diseases to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
In fact, NCDs have become the most prevalent cause of morbidity and death. Also, child obesity is increasing. Studies reveal that the occurrence of obesity and disposition to diabetes are prevalent among children 0-5 years.
Headways have been made in the fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the Region. However, despite the decrease in the number of deaths, data for 2009 indicate that the prevalence rate of HIV cases among young women between 15 and 25 years of age has risen sharply.
However, CDB disclosed that with the attainment of the Caribbean Millennium Development Goals (CMDGs) which is slow and variable, several countries have integrated CMDGs into their national planning frameworks. Other countries are in the process of doing so, and most BMCs have completed national Millennium Development Goal (MDG) reviews.
These reports provided data on current progress at the national level on achieving CMDGs by 2015. Progress is variable. Based on the indicators collected thus far, some goals have already been achieved or will be achieved by 2015 in some countries. Nevertheless, monitoring the progress in achieving CMDGs is obstructed by an evident paucity of data.
In the report, CDB states that crime and violence are serious constraints to development. Organised crime poses a serious threat to urban communities and the social life of its inhabitants. Murder rates are increasing in many BMCs, such as Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad, and are the leading cause of deaths among those aged 15 to 24.
Available data indicate that domestic violence is among the most pervasive type of violence in the Region. However, the report also suggested that most victims are unwilling to report this type of violence.
An assessment of poverty and hunger across BMCs indicates that overall poverty levels in the Region are relatively high, with significant pockets also existing in countries with relatively low levels of poverty. A large proportion of the poor live in rural communities, but urban poverty is taking on greater significance in several countries.
The reports states undeniably, Caribbean countries have undergone important social and economic transformations in recent decades, raising the standard of living and improving infrastructural development.
Yet, large numbers of the Region’s population continue to live in poverty or on the margins of poverty (i.e vulnerable to economic shocks and face the risk of descending into poverty) – face malnutrition, live in inadequate housing and cannot complete a full course of schooling either at primary or secondary level. It is increasingly recognised that challenges such as crime, low educational attainment, poor health, unsafe housing, among others, undermine the very foundations of human development, and that economic growth alone will not resolve these issues.
The report has sought to show that poverty is a multi-dimensional and complex problem. It has not only economic dimensions (for instance inadequate income) but also, cultural, social, environmental and political dimensions.
Given the social and economic problems which continue to plague the Region, the call for more attention to the social sector as an evolving process to which all BMCs, national and local institutions, regional and international organisations and civil society at large are committed, should not be ignored.
This is a call which binds all the stakeholders together to achieve the common goal: securing a brighter future for the current and subsequent generations. No social ill can be properly addressed without considering the constraints presented by poverty.
Poverty thwarts the capacity of an individual to freely choose. Poverty, viewed as sustained deprivation of economic, social and cultural resources, denies and deprives a human being the right to freedom and dignity. Poverty, in all of its forms, is a threat to human life.
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