Learning How to Help People in Panama

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PANAMA CITY — Panama’s status as upper-middle income gives it a distinct advantage over many other nations that receive aid from the United States. However, issues like drug trafficking and dangers to its environment still threaten the country’s livelihood. When considering how to help people in Panama, it is important to note that there are a variety of organizations dedicated to this goal.

The Nature Conservancy has a number of opportunities for people to get involved, including donations, volunteering and gaining membership to the organization. Its website notes the vibrant environment Panama has to offer while simultaneously addressing concerns like deforestation.

SOS Children’s Villages International focuses on hardships faced by Panamanians including drugs, disease, wage gaps, gangs and child labor. It also provides opportunities to help, such as sponsoring a village or child.

However, one of the most effective ways to ensure that Panama remains stable is by supporting U.S. aid funding. In 2015, aid disbursements from the U.S. to Panama ranked highest in activities related to combatting narcotics and drugs. The Department of Defense, Department of State and Peace Corps remained its top partners.

The following year (partially reported) the primary activities of U.S. disbursements involved the Peace Corps, while the main sectors were education, environmental protection, basic health and government and civil society.

Efforts by the United States in Panama to combat drug trafficking and other offenses involve combined efforts of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Panamanian National Police, comparative statistics technology (COMPSTAT) and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), among other entities that are relevant and effective.

Catching drugs, mapping crime and training Panama’s law enforcement are all examples of the greater push to address problems like drug trafficking, gang activity and money laundering.

Other difficulties plague the country too, however. Because some of the main sectors that the United States focused its attention toward in 2016 involved the environment, education and health, it is vital to consider what these issues look like to better understand how to help people in Panama.

Statistics suggest that while Panama in 1970 had about 70 percent of its territory covered in forest, only about half of that number was reported in 2011. A report from 2012 described a number of other issues the country experienced in years prior, such as soil erosion and mining activities, the latter of which led to water pollution.

The Rural Productivity Project is focusing its attention on providing environmental safeguards to the country, such as preserving its forest and marine life.

Another problem Panama must confront applies to its rate of poverty. While the country brought its poverty rate down to a little less than 19 percent in 2014, indigenous communities tend to live in less urbanized regions and on indigenous lands, where they face much higher rates of poverty.

The World Bank detailed various programs in place in Panama, including the Basic Education project and the Metro Water and Sanitation Improvement Project.

Furthermore, programs to address the needs of specific demographics — like the rural sector, impoverished people and mothers — also exist. These include the Health Equity and Performance Improvement Project, as well as the Water Supply and Sanitation in Low-Income Communities Project.

Understanding how to help people in Panama can begin at the individual level, through volunteering, donating directly and other methods. But continuing to fight for funding from the United States — as well as from other powerful nations and organizations — is necessary to ensure populations are helped on a greater scale.

Maleeha Syed

Photo: Flickr

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About Author

Maleeha Syed

Maleeha writes for The Borgen Project from San Antonio, Texas. Her academic interests include Journalism, human rights and social justice, business and public policy. Maleeha has also been an active officer for an Amnesty International chapter for the past two years. She hopes this will prepare her for a future in reporting on the stories she is fascinated by, which deal with humanitarian struggles and how the political sphere either helps or hinders people.

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