With its long trail of death and destruction spanning the Caribbean and the US East Coast, hurricane Sandy will surely be remembered as one of the most damaging storms in recent history. As I write this blog, Sandy has claimed over 100 lives and caused more than US$50 billion in damages.
After ravaging Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica, Sandy took a turn to the Northeast, instead of pursuing a westerly trajectory, sparing the Gulf of Mexico coastline from its deadly punch.
Alphonsine and her three children walk over 10 hours a week just to meet their basic need for drinking water. The journey is best done in the early hours of the morning before the heat becomes unbearable.
Rural water coverage in Haiti continues to be the lowest in the Western hemisphere, with only 55% of the population having access to an improved drinking water source compared to an average of 80% for rural areas in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the latest available figures from WHO and UNICEF.
Water is vital, not only for people but also for green policies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Managing it not only includes preventing fatalities due to natural disasters or climate change adaptation but also providing the most vulnerable people with access to drinking water.
This is why one of the most important “green¨challenges the region faces is to create an efficient, practical and accessible water supply for all. In this video blog, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, World Bank Sector Director for Sustainable Development for Latin America and the Caribbean, explains Mexico´s achievements and successes in this area.
Chile has long been known as a superstar in liberalization reforms and innovative export-led growth strategies. The country successfully exports tourism and transportation services.
But these successes are, in some ways, yesterday’s news. The country’s performance in more modern service exports – internet and communications technology, business process outsourcing and others – has been less remarkable. Chile is no India.
The earthquake in Costa Rica caused serious damage, including to major national utilities such as the water network. More than 1.3 million people in San Jose depend on this system for their daily water supply. The good news though, is that the supply of this vital resource is secure, thereby saving lives and inconvenience.
Although fictional, imagine receiving this piece of good news in the midst of a disaster, as described above.
What’s more. If you are an engineer like I am, imagine the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (s) (AyA or government water agency) reported that, while more than 15% of its infrastructure had been damaged extensively by this hypothetical earthquake, vital components such as water towers and pumping stations hadn’t been compromised.
The tree provides shade but scant respite from the heat. Chantal, four months pregnant, has just returned from washing her family’s clothes in the nearby river.
Her small village, just twenty houses and a single dirt road located about 60 kilometers north of the capital Port-au-Prince, has no health facilities of any kind. The nearest health post (staffed for two hours a day by a high school graduate) is an hour’s walk away while the nearest health center is two.
Do longer classroom hours equal good grades? Spending more time in school is a subject currently being discussed as one solution to improving students' academic performance with the ultimate goal of making countries more competitive in the global economy.
This is true for emerging and advanced economies alike.
Women are increasingly becoming Latin America's critical development partners. Moms, students, working professionals, women from all walks of life, are a driving force behind a gender revolution that has made huge contributions to our region's prosperity.
Over the last decade, Latin American countries have made big strides in reducing poverty and bringing down inequality. And much of that progress, we now know, can be credited to women. So much so that, had there not been so many women in the workforce, extreme poverty in the region in 2010 would have been 30 percent higher. Something similar can be said about the region's recent inroads against persistent inequality, as highlighted in Poverty and Labor Brief: The Effect of Women's Economic Power in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Costa Rica has become the crown jewel of Latin America in terms of environmental protection and its respect for biodiversity. After more than 10 years of putting “green” policies in to practice to protect its forests – which cover 51% of its land mass- the Central American country aims to be fully carbon neutral by 2021, the first to reach this global milestone.
“In the 1970s, we destroyed much of the forest and now I want to reverse the damage we’ve done to humanity,” says Virgilio, owner of a 196-hectare lot in Puriscal and participant in an innovative program that provides money to small and mid-sized property owners to encourage them to take care of their land. So far, the program has managed to protect 12% of the country’s forests.
During my visit to Costa Rica to film this video on the country’s environmental advances, I also spoke with Sandra María, a woman who manages a small inn many would pay a fortune for the opportunity to visit. “Here we don’t cut trees down 3because trees give life,” she says with the confidence of one who knows she is doing the right thing.
"Water" and Latin America are inextricably linked. The region's vast expanses lose their meaning without their clear blue lakes, the roar of their waterfalls or the deep depth of their rivers. Despite these natural riches, the region faces various challenges to manage water in a way which is accessible to everyone and also contributes to improved sanitation for the population.
To find solutions to these challenges, water experts from around the world are gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, for World Water Week, the biggest annual meeting on world water issues. For us, water and sanitation folks, this event is an important opportunity to look at how the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is doing towards meeting the water and sanitation needs of its population within the context of green and inclusive growth.