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The Dominican Republic is located in the eastern part of the Caribbean Island Hispaniola with the Republic of Haiti occupying the Western Part. The territorial extension of the Dominican Republic is 39,000 Km² which represents two-thirds of the island.
The Dominican Republic gained its independence in the nineteenth century and was principally an agriculture-based economy until near the end of the twentieth century. Over the last few decades, it has become a popular international tourist hub, but it continues to struggle with many structural issues including low social spending as a percentage of GDP compared with other Latin American countries, poor educational and health care systems, and high levels of poverty. As a result of unhygienic and cramped living conditions, the lack of access to health services, and risk-taking behavior, rural Dominicans suffer high rates of persistent health problems including diarrhea, respiratory problems, hypertension and HIV and AIDS. Limited access to education and generally poor educational quality has further exacerbated the marginalization of poor Dominicans. Save the Children is working on a number of programs to address and find solutions to these issues.
Save the Children in the Dominican Republic
Save the Children has worked to improve the lives of vulnerable Dominican children and their families since 1972. Currently, Save the Children works in 69 communities located along the northern and central border with Haiti as well as approximately 20 communities in the Sugar Cane Production Region called bateyes. Through the effective implementation of development programs in health and nutrition, preventive health care, water and sanitation, education, community development, and children's rights, Save the Children now helps more than 70,000 men, women and children throughout the Dominican Republic attain their rights and improve their quality of life.
The Dominican Republic has the lowest investment in education in Latin America and the Caribbean with only 1.9% of its GDP invested in public education. Without sufficient funds being invested in school supplies and infrastructure, extracurricular activities, teacher/parent training and transportation to and from schools, Dominican children lack the resources needed for a proper education. These deficiencies, among others, are very important conditions that affect enrollment, attendance levels, drop out rates, cognitive capacity of students, and graduation rates. Along with problems in education, children suffer significant and chronic health and nutrition problems. Areas of particular concern are access to care, maternal child care including nutrition, general hygiene, and the prevention of STI, including HIV/AIDS.
Save the Children ensures that families achieve better nutrition through various activities aimed at improving food production. In recent years we have worked extensively in the implementation of school, home and community gardens for the production of fruits and vegetables; sheep and goat modules for production of milk, cheese and meat; and poultry modules for eggs and chicken production. More specific projects such as the solar food drying project teach women how to sustain nutrients by dehydrating foods rich in vitamin A.
Save the Children prevents numerous health problems by educating the Dominican people about health risks and providing them with the necessary tools to avoid these risks. Some of these efforts include: training on prevention of contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the installation of first-aid kits in communities, the promotion of closer relations between community and health care providers, support for community health promoters, and the distribution of de-worming medicines, vitamins, and oral hygiene kits in schools.
Water is a basic component of development and its impact on children is significant and long term. Through the provision of potable water, Save the Children promotes health and hygiene, and encourages crop planting, cultivation and animal breeding. In recent years, Save the Children has installed 92 aqueduct systems, 33 irrigation canals, 6 small irrigation dams and a small hydroelectric dam in the community of El Aguacate in the province of Dajabón.
Save the Children strives to improve access to, the quality of, and community awareness of the importance of education, as well as promoting child protection and strengthening community participation in basic quality education. We also work on improving the conditions of safe learning environments that also provide students with necessary school supplies and recreational facilities. Along with training for teachers, parents and children on children's rights and quality education, workshops on new technologies are available in many school districts. In total, Save the Children has worked with 169 schools and 51 preschools. We continue to train teachers from these schools on issues related to quality education, children's rights and non-violence. Also, five community computer and communications centers, built by Save the Children and powered by solar energy, benefit the communities of Santiago de la Cruz, El Aguacate and Aminilla in the province of Dajabón, and 2 others in Matayaya and Bánica. Hundreds of students have graduated from these centers.
Save the Children strives to build structures which benefit the whole community and facilitate the improvement of community infrastructure. We have installed, and will continue to install bridges, irrigation channels, hydroelectric generators, and community and home solar lighting systems throughout the Dominican Republic. Already, 17 wells have been installed along the Dominican-Haitian border as well as 350 individual solar home systems. The preservation of natural resources is also essential not only for the well-being of future generations, but also for the environment. Our Natural Resources and Environment program aims to improve living conditions for the underprivileged by restoring the quality of soil and discouraging deforestation in especially environmentally degraded areas. Finally, we support access to micro-credits for farmers and other micro-enterprises for household income generation.
Save the Children protects children's rights by encouraging the positive treatment of children in school and at home, preventing child labor, promoting education, and implementing emergency preparedness programs focused on children. One specific example of Save the Children's efforts is its summer camp where about 60 youths learn about children's rights through activities that reinforce specific child rights themes. Past themes include: Non-violence against children, Non-discrimination, environmental conservation, and community participation. In addition, each year youth leaders from the area with prior training oversee and carry out the activities. Along with their young campers, these leaders benefit by learning how to manage large groups, which ultimately prepares them for work as leaders in their communities.
Save the Children is implementing the Batey Community Development Project which is an integrated development project with the goal of improving the lives of public Batey residents through community based activities in health and nutrition, education, infrastructure improvement and emergency preparedness. Health and nutrition strategies will improve access to high quality community-based health services in child health and nutrition; reproductive health knowledge; access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructure; knowledge of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infection (STI); and hygiene. Education strategies will increase access to quality primary school education by improving infrastructure, materials, equipment and educational quality; and increasing community involvement in schools. In addition, Save the Children will improve housing and increase access to emergency safe shelters in these target communities which are vulnerable to hurricanes. This project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has an initial duration of two years, and is implemented in eight public bateyes in the provinces of San Pedro de Macorís and Hato Mayor.
Plans for the Future
Save the Children will continue its focus on improving access to quality education, with the goal of improving educational attainment and promoting the importance of education among key stakeholders, especially mothers and fathers. In an effort to reduce drop-out rates, Save the Children plans to help girls and boys ages 7 to 12 develop their abilities and decision-making skills to enable them to positively affect their future. This plan includes making infrastructure improvements in schools, taking into account key criteria such as hygiene, security, capacity and adequate learning spaces in rural and peri-urban schools in poor areas.
Save the Children is working to improve family nutrition, with a particular focus on mother-child health. Potential projects include household vegetable garden planning for improving diet, income generating strategies, and livestock modules (chicken, pig and goat breeding) so that households would have access to an improved and more balanced household nutrition. Additional health opportunities include an adolescent training program aimed at developing life skills, life plans and disease prevention which would include topics such as health, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
As part of its health and community-based development program, Save the Children carries out activities for reducing poverty by working on the improvement of basic infrastructure conditions in the communities. The plan proposes to improve access to services such as water, energy and sanitation so as to reduce the incidence of poverty-determining variables within a rights-based approach. This program takes into account the three pillars of the Convention of the Rights of Children: non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, development and participation.
Dominican Republic Facts and Statistics
Unless otherwise noted, facts and statistics have been sourced from Save the Children’s 2012 State of the World’s Mothers report. You can access detailed data here.
Other sources as follows: Infant Mortality Rate: CIA World Factbook 2012; Life Expectancy at Birth: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; National Poverty Rate: World Bank's World Development Indicators 2012; Population: CIA World Factbook 2012; Human Development Index Rank: United Nations Development Program
Last Updated October 2013