Hunger and crime among St James youth

Dr. Hibbert Gayle

Clinton Pickering
Freelance Writer

A worrying picture has been painted of food security and depression among young people in the parish of St James.

Noted Anthropologist of Social Violence and Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Herbert Gayle, recently outlined to principals, teachers and parents of a large number of schools in western Jamaica, the results of a survey among young people aged 16 to 24 in the parishes of St. James, Manchester and St Catherine on Food Insecurity and Depression among youth.
The outcome brought into sharp focus the lyrics of Fantan Mojah song “Hungry” which says in part:

Bless di ghetto yute dem through stress and pain
Nuh matta how it tough and hard out there

My people cry
Tell dem momma hungry, poppa hungry
Bredda hungry, sista hungry
Do someting for di poor
Emerging from the survey was that 27 percent of boys between ages 16 and 24 in St. James were living with food insecurity that left them hungry very often, but 15 percent were hungry all the time. Among females in the age group, 15 percent were food insure with three percent a worse state of being hungry all the time.

At the same time, St. James urban youth are carrying a heavy economic burden with 17 percent for males and 7 percent for females bearing total weight for their families’ survival. A larger number of 70 percent of males and 36 percent of females have to help out for the families to survive.

Regarding the state of young men in Jamaica, Dr. Gayle said his research found that a country with a homicide rate of 30 per 100,000 had civil war benchmark features with the expectation that “Your state agents are going to get killed, all kinds of stuff are going to be happening.” Against that background, he noted that the homicidal rates in St James and Kingston were higher than the homicidal rate of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
“The homicide rate of that war was 205/100,000; for Kingston and St James, their homicide rates and male combatants 15 to 34-year-old surpassed Iraq at full scale war,” he bemoaned. The homicide rate for St. James stood at 187/100,000 and combatants at 282/100,000.

The homicide rates for other parishes in the County of Cornwall were: Westmoreland 101, Hanover 96, Trelawny 55 and St. Elizabeth 31.

Twice as many males in St. James were said to be involved in illegal activities; with 14 percent for males and 7 percent for females. And, 7 percent of St. James boys were said to be homicidal compared to 8 percent for females.


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