Mon | May 29, 2017

Poverty haunting Hanover - Men, women and children struggling to survive despite tourism boom

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2017 | 2:00 AMClaudia Gardner

WESTERN BUREAU:

Despite the number of mega hotel developments going up along its coastline over the last 15 years, Hanover is still haunted by deep pockets of poverty, with concerns mounting about the number of destitute persons living in the western parish.

According to chairman of the Hanover Parish Homelessness Committee, Nerris Hawthorne, there are persons from all age groups and sex seriously destitute in the parish.

"Poverty is on the rise. Some women take successive partners, get pregnant for them; the men then disappear, leaving the women with many children to support. That causes great poverty among them.

"They live in family homes or rented one-bedroom homes that are in very bad condition. The young men - many are leaving school, no subjects nor training, leaving them to try and eke out an existence, and that creates a problem where scamming is concerned, as they see this as an alternative," said Hawthorne.

She added: "There is another category of poor, and that is older people who did not pay into any pension scheme, who are now weak, old and have no set income. Some depend on the church, on relatives, but that is totally insufficient to take them through.

"And the high cost of living, especially where the general consumption tax is concerned, any little money that they can get, by the time they go into the shops there is very little that they can buy, so this is keeping them on the poverty line."

below the poverty line

Hawthorne, who also chairs the Lucea Development Initiative, noted that the persons living below the poverty line in the parish include some who were professionals and are now unable to survive on the pension they are getting.

"Because the pension they get just cannot do what is required in these economic conditions ... in some of the schools, if it were not for the generosity of entities like Sandals, some returned residents and some of the charities in Hanover, then our schools and schoolchildren would be in a sad state," said Hawthorne.

Data from the Hanover Municipal Corporation show that there are 689 registered poor persons in the parish and 59 registered homeless persons. With the latest Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) report showing the parish with a population of 69,874, that would mean that approximately one in every 100 residents in the parish is impoverished.

According the population census published by STATIN in 2011, of the 23,753 households in Hanover, 5,571 (23%) had no kitchen facilities and 4,434 (19%) had no bathroom facilities.

In addition, 7,117 (30%) of households were either using pit toilets or had no toilet facilities, while 2,126 (9%) of households had no electricity supply and relied on kerosene oil for lighting.

poor potable water

The data also showed that 2,774 households (12%) relied on wood, charcoal or kerosene as fuel for cooking. The parish also had a poor potable water situation, as members of 7,261 or 31 per cent of households were still trekking to standpipes, springs, streams, and other catchment areas for water, or were relying on water trucks.

In 2007, the Planning Institute of Jamaica noted, in a report titled 'The Poverty-Environment Nexus', that Hanover in 1992 had more than half its population living below the poverty line, but that this was reduced to 13.3 in 1998 and moved to 14.1 in 2002.

Landlessness and the protracted wait to obtain land titles were other sore points raised by Hawthorne, STATIN data for which indicated that 6,032 (25%) of Hanover household heads did not own the land on which they were living.

"Some of these persons have land. If they were able to subdivide their land they could earn, but it can't be done, because the people don't have the money to start. It is too expensive and the process is too long. People cannot get titles for their land easily. These processes are too lengthy, too arduous for our people," said Hawthorne.