In an effort to address the critical issues facing the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, USAID provides assistance that reduces youth involvement in crime and violence, increases epidemic control of HIV/AIDS, reduces the number of pregnancies affected by Zika, strengthens local non-governmental organizations, and supports environmental resilience. USAID/ESC implements activities in Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, and Guyana.
Youth unemployment in the Eastern and Southern Caribbean is at acute levels. It ranges from 20–40% and contributes to increasing youth disillusionment, marginalization, and social dysfunction. Coupled with concerning illiteracy levels and increased drug trafficking, youth are at higher risk for involvement in crime and violence. Reducing youth crime and violence is a high priority for citizens and governments in the region.
USAID, under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), supports citizen security, youth development, and juvenile justice programs that target youth (ages 10–29) at–risk for involvement in youth crime and violence. Some may be in conflict with the law, have dysfunctional families and disengaged parents, suffer from domestic violence and/or substance abuse, or be at risk after dropping out of school. USAID uses a positive youth development approach where youth are not only beneficiaries, but active participants. Through a range of interventions, USAID provides pathways for Caribbean youth away from crime and violence and toward productive participation in the community and economy. USAID delivers an integrated program that includes family counseling; connects youth with positive role models; assists youth to develop employability skills; delivers structured sport, recreational, and cultural activities; and builds community resilience.
An integral aspect of USAID’s approach is promoting evidence-based decision-making so that policy and programming to reduce youth crime and violence prevention use robust data. In addition, the focus in the juvenile justice system shifts from punishment to rehabilitation and then reintegration back into society. USAID also ensures that secondary and post-secondary graduates have the academic, technical, and life skills necessary to enter the labor market or continue further education.
Despite relatively high enrollment rates at both primary and secondary schools in the Caribbean, recent assessments show that the majority of Grade 2 students are not reading at or above grade level in the OECS Member States. Low proficiency in reading directly impacts student performance, affects longer term prospects for employment or advanced education, and drives high school drop-out rates. Being a school drop-out puts youth at higher risk for involvement in crime and violence. USAID’s early grade reading program contributes to improving the reading achievement levels of learners in grades K-3. Program activities address several interrelated factors that affect low reading performance in the early grades. These activities include: 1) facilitating language of instruction policy design and endorsement; 2) improving teachers’ ability to assess and teach reading; 3) providing individualized coaching to reading teachers; 4) designing assessments to evaluate student reading needs; 5) procuring literacy teaching and learning resources; 6) facilitating the revision and endorsement of the curriculum framework; and 7) funding school improvement community projects.
Throughout the Caribbean, climate variability is causing more frequent and intense weather events: changing and less clearly defined wet and dry seasons; periods of heavy rainfall and drought; increased ambient atmospheric and sea surface temperatures; and rising sea levels. Climate variability impacts the region’s economic growth, food security, public health, and livelihoods. USAID is building technical capacity to collect and analyze climate data, strengthening the use of climate data and science in decision making, demonstrating innovative pilot initiatives to adapt to climate variability, and increasing access to climate financing to scale-up and replicate successful pilot adaptation initiatives.