Realising Reality in the Dominician Republic

Recently I travelled to the Dominican Republic with my grandmother. We stayed in a beautiful resort on the coast where everything was all inclusive, luxurious and ultimately a paradise.

However, when we decided to venture out into the real country we were hit with a harsh reality. The resort had been designed so that you would not to have to explore outside, with a street full of shops with all the facilities you could ever need. Stepping out of the complex felt like the Truman Show. From the perfect tarmac streets to dusty dirt roads, the cleanliness turned to ubiquitous litter and the houses were little more than shacks.

This picture is unedited and depicts how close rich and poor worlds meet
This picture is unedited and depicts how close rich and poor worlds meet

Although this experience may not be completely relevant to medicine, it was an extremely eye-opening visit that has changed my perception on life. Memories of when I witnessed such poverty in Ecuador during my month long aid-working expedition came rushing back to me. Indeed, I have been reminded about the harsh consequences that the majority suffer for the small elite to indulge.

Arriving home I researched and found that 34% of the Dominican Republic’s population is below the poverty line and 20% live in extreme poverty. Moreover I was astonished to learn that the staffs at our hotel only earn $100 dollars per fortnight, with more than a third of the country living on less than $1.25 a day. The economy has been growing since 1996, though economic inequality still poses a major problem as no more than 4% of the GDP is spent on education so that only 30% finish primary school.

Map showing the number of people below the poverty line in the Dominican Republic
Map showing the number of people below the poverty line in the Dominican Republic

Tourism is the main industry of the Dominican Republic, so effectively by staying in the country I did contribute to their economy. Nevertheless it is hard not to feel guilty when a few meters separate a perfect resort world from such inadequate conditions. Yet something that was pleasing was the fact that everyone I met was joyful, smiling and friendly. They have nothing yet embrace in happiness within family life and with friends.

Certainly this is just one example of poverty; there are 1 billion suffering from poverty across the world which is every second child. Nevertheless tourism is aiding to alleviate this as it is responsible for 235 million jobs, and is either the 1st or 2nd source of export in 20 out of the 48 least developed countries.

I hope to contribute to helping relieve poverty during my future career. Protecting the health of the world’s poorest people is a major goal for me. I would like to aid communities that have been cut off from the outside world that are medically disadvantaged and have almost been forgotten. We definitely need to strengthen our health services worldwide to promote good health practice as well as tackling diseases that are a consequence of poverty.

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