5 charities operating in BoliviaFor 20 years, Bolivia’s poverty rates have spiraled downward due to wage increases and strongly supported social programs. For those still in poverty, there are at least 5 charities operating in Bolivia to improve the quality of life in the nation.

Bolivia’s Progress

Bolivia has made significant progress in reducing poverty. In 2009, about 40% of Bolivians lived in conditions of extreme poverty. More than 10 years later, in 2020, that percentage decreased to 4.4% (based on the 2011 Purchasing Power Parity of $1.90 a day).

Much of the credit belongs to Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales. He used income from nationalized industries and “the commodities boom,” during which the international prices of Bolivia’s key exports grew 800% between 2000 and 2014, to fund schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Morales also raised the minimum wage multiple times and set up social programs to support vulnerable groups, such as senior citizens and pregnant women.

Current Issues

Even with all of Bolivia’s success, issues persist. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 16% of Bolivian children face stunting due to malnutrition. Furthermore, anemia affects almost 54% of children younger than 5. Marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, struggle to find work or attend school. Fortunately, these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are addressing these issues.

5 Charities Operating in Bolivia

  1. Fundación Bolivia Digna. The first of 5 charities operating in Bolivia is Fundación Bolivia Digna. This nonprofit was set up in 2006 to protect the rights of vulnerable young people and other marginalized groups. It is based in the city of Cochabamba, near the center of Bolivia. With more than 250 Bolivians and almost 240 international volunteers helping over the years, Fundación Bolivia Digna provides children with a “safe environment” to receive educational support and promotes good hygiene habits and positive influences. Volunteers help children with homework, lead creative activities like singing, dancing and instrument lessons, teach English courses and run sports activities. Fundación Bolivia Digna has helped more than 200 children from roughly 100 families.
  2. Help Bolivia Foundation. In 2018, Matt and Lydia Hill established the Help Bolivia Foundation to give disadvantaged women and children access to educational and nutritional resources. Operating in the Tahuantinsuyo Community Center in El Alto and in Villa Ingenio, Help Bolivia Foundation provides children with health, education and lunch programs. In 2020 and 2021, the foundation used grants to purchase tablets for online classes. In 2022, the foundation used a grant to run a year-long Sewing & Entrepreneurship Training Program for 30 Indigenous women. Other classes include cooking classes and painting classes.
  3. Aktion Sodis. Another one of the 5 charities operating in Bolivia is a German nonprofit called Aktion Sodis. It operates within the mountainous Micani region south of Cochabamba to help the locals improve their food security and access clean water and education. One of Aktion Sodis’ current projects looks to improve food security by creating “resilient food systems and sustainable agriculture” adapted to the Micani region’s extreme weather conditions, the Betterplace.org website says. The project began in 2017 when Aktion Sodis (along with a Bolivian vocational school) established water-efficient irrigation systems for four village school gardens. These improved gardens now have rain-fed water storage and drip irrigation systems. The project later “expanded to all 16 village schools in the region.” Currently, Aktion Sodis is building solar tents over six of the school gardens to create a “microclimate” suitable for growing vegetables outdoors. For the upcoming phase of the project, Aktion Sodis will focus on families. The organization will help families create or extend food gardens and will give lessons on “balanced nutrition and sustainable agriculture.”
  4. Bolivians Without Disabilities. Matt Pepe founded Bolivians Without Disabilities in 2015 after living in Bolivia for years. Around 15% of Bolivians have some type of disability, according to the organization’s website, equating to more than 1.5 million people. Seventy-five percent of Bolivians with disabilities are unemployed and less than 40% of children with disabilities attend school. Bolivians Without Disabilities helps people by providing prosthetic limbs, raising awareness in the United States and funding other organizations that help Bolivians with disabilities.
  5. Smiles Forever Foundation. Smiles Forever, founded by dental hygienist Sandy Kemper, provides free dental care to children and hygiene education to Bolivian women near Cochabamba. Since 2000, Smiles Forever has helped more than 60,000 children and has placed 37 Indigenous women in its two-year dental hygiene training program so that the women can become professional dental hygienists. Educating women not only helps them make better dental hygiene decisions for themselves and their families but also increases their self-esteem and independence in a society rife with gender inequality.

Even with economic success, NGOs like these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are needed to educate and lift people out of poverty. In time, the knowledge gained from these NGOs will spread and Bolivia will be a better place for it.

– James Harrington
Photo: Flickr

President Arce
On September 21, 2022, the President of Bolivia, Arce Catacora, gave a lecture at Yale University before participating in the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. Speaking to a small room of students and faculty, President Arce presented macroeconomic data from Bolivia’s last 20 years, noting successes during the 15-year reign of his political party, Movimento al Socialismo (MAS). Throughout his lecture, he emphasized a focus on resource extraction as the primary engine behind the country’s short and long-term growth.

About President Arce

President Arce began in a celebratory tone, comparing the successes of MAS’ socialist model compared to the “neoliberalist model” which existed before it. He noted that between 2006 and 2019, the years in which his party held power, GDP per capita grew by 4.7% compared to 3% from 1985 to 2005. He also spoke about Bolivia’s success in distributing those gains fairly, raising the income of the bottom 40% by 12.5% and adopting what he labeled a “democratization of the economy.”

Additionally, he stressed Bolivia’s financial stability, pointing out the country’s low levels of external debt. Drawing from data collected by the central bank, President Arce drew the crowd’s attention to the external public debt prior to the presidency of MAS’ Evo Morales, which reached a historic high of 63% of GDP in 2003. He then noted that after 2006, Bolivia’s external debt never rose above 33%, sitting at 28.9% of GDP under his administration.

Responding to critics of his “economic social communitarian productive model” he highlighted the continual growth of businesses in Bolivia as a sign of sustainable development. Beginning in 2005, Bolivia saw more than 250,000 companies originate over the course of 14 years, with smaller growth during the pandemic years. Going out of his way to address concerns over private investment under the socialist model, he claimed Bolivia had found a viable way to mix state involvement in the economy with entrepreneurship.

Bolivia’s Challenges

Although Arce’s presentation portrayed the last 20 years in an overwhelmingly positive tone, it omitted many of the challenges that Bolivia faces. Although his model is based upon natural resource extraction, with Bolivia’s primary resource being natural gas, this cannot keep up with the rate of growth of the Bolivian economy. In fact, Bolivia has already become a net importer of hydrocarbons, at a time when energy prices are at historic highs.

The Environment

In addition, Bolivia grapples with numerous environmental issues, including poor management of its portion of the Amazon rainforest. President Arce announced in July 2022 that he would be investing in palm oil to increase the country’s energy output, something that is both inefficient and environmentally harmful. Furthermore, Arce’s administration did little to quell the massive fires in Bolivia’s Chiquitania region, and his political predecessor Evo Morales actually signed a decree in 2019 making it easier for agribusiness to exploit the land. This is a far cry from his speech at Yale, in which he promised to “respect mother earth” after a question from a faculty member.

Human Rights Issues

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bolivia’s questionable actions regarding human rights within Bolivia and South America threaten to sour any notions of success. During the questions which followed the presentation, President Arce was asked how Bolivia could claim to support human rights while remaining on friendly terms with Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, even amidst human rights abuses. His answer, vague and evasive, did little to conceal the fact that Bolivia continues to have close ties with Venezuela, even choosing to opt out of a regional conference if Venezuela did not receive permission to attend.

The Justice System

Even within Bolivia, others have accused Arce and his party of tampering with the justice system for political gain. In June 2022 former interim president Jeanine Anez received a 10-year sentence in prison for plotting a coup, despite her rise to Bolivia’s supreme court upholding the president. Prosecutors claim she was part of a plan to remove President Evo Morales from office in 2019, despite the fact that she did not participate in the largely peaceful protests which led to his resignation. Anez claims her imprisonment is a purely political affair, designed to legitimize MAS after its fall from power after allegedly committing fraud to win the 2019 presidential election.

Looking Ahead

President Arce’s economic model has proven that it can succeed, and his presentation is a testament to the fact that Bolivia’s growth under nearly 20 years of MAS rule has been truly unprecedented. However, it does not take away from Bolivia’s murky future, and dubious record with human rights. The country has the economic potential to develop strongly, but strong political and environmental protections still remain uncertain.

Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Bolivia
Although Bolivia does show signs of growth, economic and political difficulties have marred its few successes. In addition to having one of the highest rates of poverty in South America, corruption, political persecution and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hamper Bolivia. These issues distract from efforts to improve the lives of the nearly 4 million Bolivians living in poverty in 2018, politicizing programs like the “Patriotic 2025 Bicentennial Agenda” which is supposed to work toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Thus, the very people who should be ending poverty are hampering poverty reduction in Bolivia.

Corruption in Bolivia

With Bolivia experiencing political turmoil, its politicians have often squandered the limited resources available to the nation. In 2017, ex-president Evo Morales built a $7 million museum dedicated to himself in the town of Orinoca, where 90% of the population lives below the poverty line. Interim-president Jeanine Añez’s brief administration included several examples of corruption, with both her Interior Minister and Health Minister receiving a charge of graft, the latter making a profit off of government-bought ventilators during the pandemic.

This has meant that funds intended to fight poverty in Bolivia have disappeared. A 2021 evaluation of the previous year’s government budget found that actual spending on public programs was always significantly lower than the expected amount, suggesting widespread corruption. The budget has also seen a decrease in funds appropriated for public services, further hampering anti-poverty efforts. Given this, Bolivia has been incredibly fortunate to see its poverty rate decline as dramatically as it has over the last 10 decades, but this is mostly due to an unsustainable boom in oil and natural gas. Institutional weaknesses thus present a major challenge to an economy reliant on volatile resource extraction.

Protests in Bolivia

Deepening Bolivia’s woes are the ongoing dispute between Bolivia’s socialist party, Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), and the country’s opposition parties. In 2019, protests erupted over whether incumbent socialist president Evo Morales could run for an unconstitutional fourth term, as well as the fraudulent nature of the election which gave him a sweeping victory. Following MAS’ return to power in 2020 after an interim government, and the election of Morales’ ally Luis Arce as President, many of those that participated in the interim government received charges of sedition. This includes President Jeanine Añez, who received a 10-year sentence in prison for staging a “coup” despite not having involvement with the 2019 protests. The upheaval and resources wasted on these political fights have ground Bolivia’s economic growth to a halt, with the pandemic only accentuating the country’s dire situation.

The International Response

These breaches of democracy have also drawn the attention of other international actors, straining Bolivia’s already tense geopolitical situation. President Arce attacked the Organization of American States (OAS) for interfering with the 2019 elections, to which the OAS responded by reaffirming it only documented instances of fraud and was concerned about the persecution of MAS’ political opponents. Similarly, the European Union and the U.S. State Department have expressed disapproval over the politically motivated imprisonments.

All of this prevents international aid from reaching the struggling nation, handicapping efforts to fight poverty in Bolivia. Following President Morales’ election in 2005, he expelled the U.S. ambassador and rejected assistance from USAID, permanently removing the latter by 2013. Morales chose to focus on short-term economic growth and reducing inequality, leveraging the country’s oil and gas resources to make significant reductions in the poverty rate by 2015. However, it is uncertain whether Bolivia’s extraction-based economy will be successful in the long run, or whether it made a mistake in shutting the door to aid.

Poverty Reduction in Bolivia

Even amid economic and political uncertainty, progress is occurring to promote poverty reduction in Bolivia. President Luis Arce’s government has seen a reduction in the extreme poverty rate from 13.7% to 11.1% in 2021, suggesting the economy might be rebounding after the pandemic. In addition, the yearly ‘National Report’ emphasizes Bolivia’s commitment to 13 ‘pillars’ of development, including the end of extreme poverty and investment in public health. With the report stressing Bolivia’s commitment to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), fighting poverty may be making a comeback in public policy.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Unsplash

Rule of Law in Bolivia
Protests in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, threaten to hamper an already struggling economy. A city-wide shutdown occurred on August 8, 2022, over the government’s decision to postpone the 2022 decennial census until 2024. On one hand, Santa Cruz’s legislators believe that delaying the census is an attempt to deny the municipality more political representation as its population has ballooned in the previous three decades. Santa Cruz’s leadership in the battle for the census reinforces the city’s trend of opposition toward the ruling government (Movimiento al Socialismo), but also its power as the economic center of Bolivia.

By strongly opposing itself to the rule of Movimiento al Socialismo, Santa Cruz’s situation shows the fragility of the rule of law in Bolivia. The United Nations highlights that rule of law plays an integral role in the development of countries and the reduction of poverty as poverty often arises from “disempowerment, exclusion and discrimination.” The rule of law upholds the voices of the people, safeguards democracy and ensures the protection of human rights.

A History of Protests

Santa Cruz’s governor Luis Camacho announced that the capital of the municipality could freeze for 48 hours starting August 8 until President Luis Arce agreed to discuss an earlier census date. As the largest city in Bolivia and its economic center, estimates indicate that each day of the shutdown will equate to an economic loss of $33 million, leading to accusations of crippling the economy for political gain. Alongside the economic problems caused by the protest, there have been reports of violence from those in favor and against the shutdown, with mayor Jhonny Fernández’s home coming under attack.

This is not a temporary issue either. Santa Cruz has undergone numerous shutdowns in previous years, dating all the way back to the nationwide shutdown in 2019 over ex-President Evo Morales’ alleged fraudulent election victory. As recently as July 2022, protestors spoke out against Movimiento al Socialismo’s imprisonment of many opposition members. Among the imprisoned is former President Jeanine Añez whose interim presidency was upheld by the Bolivian Constitutional Court prior to her condemnation.

Hope for Resolution

Although these incidents point to the fragility of the rule of law in Bolivia, there is strong hope for a resolution to the conflict. President Arce agreed to revisit the 2023 census’ date with delegates from Santa Cruz, an important step toward reconciliation between Movimiento al Socialismo and Santa Cruz’s opposition government. Another promising feature of the shutdown is that despite sporadic violence, both the central government and Santa Cruz’s mayor have called for a peaceful resolution with dialogue from all sides.

Additionally, foreign nonprofits, governments and organizations form an active part of the efforts to strengthen Bolivia’s fragile political situation. In 2019, the Organization of American States and the European Union reviewed Bolivia’s election results, reporting possible instances of electoral fraud. In 2020, with oversight once again, Bolivia held an election with a fair democratic process in place.

To safeguard democracy and the rule of law, the International Republican Institute works to strengthen “democracy and freedom” and “guide politicians to be responsive to citizens” while “[motivating] people to engage in the political process.” In Bolivia specifically, the IRI aims to “support free and fair elections, democratic institutions and local government, civil society capacity building, and efforts to promote peacebuilding and reconciliation.”

Looking Ahead

In the Declaration of the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law, states stressed that “the rule of law at the national and international levels is essential for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, all of which in turn reinforce the rule of law.”

Ultimately, fragility remains a key issue for the rule of law in Bolivia, but both local and federal governments are showing a desire to prevent violence and enforce institutional authority. The rejections of violence by Governor Camacho and President Arce indicate that although there are differences between the states and the Bolivian government, there is also a willingness to bring issues like the census to an amicable resolution to strengthen the rule of law in Bolivia.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Bolivia 
Over the past two years, Bolivia grappled with the global Coronavirus pandemic and political instability. However, another invisible challenge lay hidden underneath these precarious situations. Long stigmatized and overlooked by Bolivian society and government alike, the lack of proper mental health care in Bolivia is an invisible challenge.

The Data

Bolivia is a country in central South America and has a population of around 11 million. Mental health in Bolivia is an esoteric topic which the lack of official records on mental illness illustrates. Thus, there is no reliable data to indicate the number of Bolivians with mental illness. There are only 45 psychiatrists and 35 psychologists practicing in the nation. Therefore, few Bolivians have access to psychological resources.

However, the data accumulated from those that had the ability to see a mental health professional shows that many suffered from the abuse of substances, especially alcohol. Approximately 90% of patients in psychiatric hospitals struggled with alcohol. Psychotic disorders, mood disorders and depression were also common. According to Mental Health Atlas 2020, 6.82 out of 100,000 Bolivians committed suicide, although the actual count may be higher due to underreporting.

A Promising Start

Despite the current taboos and limited infrastructure toward mental health in Bolivia, the country developed one of the first mental health plans in South America. Bolivian authorities designed this plan to meet the principles enshrined in the 1990 Caracas Declaration. Delegates from across Latin America met in the Venezuelan capital to announce a watershed declaration that established human rights for those with mental illness and aimed to restructure mental health care across the continent.

In 2002, Bolivia passed its national mental health plan. However, it remained merely a symbolic piece of legislation because of the lack of government funding. Authorities revised the law in 2009. However, its provisions ceased to become a reality because of the continued dearth of financial support. In 2008, WHO reported that Bolivia earmarked 0.2% of its health budget for mental health, according to an article published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

While expenditures hampered significant developments in mental health in Bolivia, two additional developments serve as a source of optimism. According to an article published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, first, in 2007, Bolivia shifted its health care system to the public sector. Second, in 2009, Bolivia amended its Constitution to explicitly protect the right to health.

Societal Stigma

Coupled with scarce federal funding, cultural stigma also limits access to proper mental health care. In Bolivia, people hide their mental illness, especially depression. Bolivian psychologist Aruquipa Yujra reported that many Bolivians simply view depression as a “bad mood” and not a mental illness. Yujra explained that this societal downplaying of mental illness leads many Bolivians to avoid seeking treatment.

Dr. Josue Bellot, the director of San Juan de Dios Centre of Rehabilitation and Mental Health in La Paz, Bolivia, also sees societal stigma as a problem for Bolivia. He stated that he believes that in Bolivia “there is this stigma that psychiatry relates only to ‘crazy’ people. The moment that a doctor refers a patient to a psychiatrist, the patient is labeled ‘loco’.”

Reason for Hope

Minimal government funding and societal stigma resulted in the concentration of much of Bolivia’s mental health care in La Paz. Because of this, it is out of reach for many of its citizens. However, Daniela Riveros, a dedicated UNICEF volunteer, harnessed the power of technology to reach these marginalized communities. In 2020, she launched a call center, Familia Segura (Safe Family), to assist people in crisis in rural households across Bolivia.

The hotline that Riveros implemented redirected calls to the appropriate destination, frequently to mental health professionals in La Paz. Additionally, if Familia Segura volunteers detected signs of violence, they contacted the authorities to intervene. Between April 2021 and July 2021, the hotline made approximately 13,500 calls to vulnerable Bolivian families.

Another transformative organization is Esperanza Bolivia. Rather than fielding calls from afar, in 2019, Esperanza Bolivia provided in-person psychological services at Eustaquio Mendez High School in Tarija, Bolivia in order to prevent violence stemming from the adolescent population. Jesús Cáceres, a teacher at the school, noticed a positive change in his students since the team arrived.

Steps for the Future

The humanitarian work that organizations like UNICEF and Esperanza Bolivia conducted does not neglect the need for more funding towards improving mental health in Bolivia. The Bolivian government and Western powers, especially the United States, must devote more money to mental health care so that Bolivians are able to attain accessible and equitable psychological treatment.

While the Biden Administration’s joint commitment with The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to deploy 500,000 new health workers to Latin America is encouraging, Bolivia needs a more comprehensive strategy to address mental health disparities. However, in recent years, Bolivia and humanitarian organizations have made great progress in addressing social and financial inequities. A hopeful future is on the horizon.

– Alexander Portner
Photo: Unsplash

Skateboarding Girls in Bolivia
Skateboarding girls in Bolivia are challenging gender norms and stereotypes. Skateboarding is predominantly a male sport around the world. However, girls in Bolivia are trying to change that by learning to skateboard. They are not only learning how to skateboard but they are also doing it in traditional clothes.

Traditional Clothes

The traditional clothes of Bolivia include bright colored shirts, hats and long colored skirts. Some might find it difficult to skateboard in a skirt but these girls embrace it. These traditional clothes are a part of their culture.

This allows the girls to bring their culture into the world of skateboarding while also helping them connect to their culture. These colorful skirts are called “pollera.” They have learned from their grandmothers to wear these skirts with pride and they do so while skateboarding.

ImillaSkate

ImillaSkate is a female collective that three friends created in 2018. This collective has empowered women in one of the largest cities in Bolivia, Cochabamba. Dani Santivanez is one of the founders of ImillaSkate. They formed the female collective as a way to reclaim their roots and as a “cry for inclusion.”

“Imilla means “young girl” in Aymara and Quechua, two of the most widely spoken languages in Bolivia,” according to The Guardian. ImillaSkate also uses hairstyle as a part of cultural identity for skateboarding girls in Bolivia.

While brushing each other’s hair, the girls form a connection to each other. “The Imillias” the collective’s nickname compete in local competitions while empowering women and creating an acceptance of diversity.

Poverty in Bolivia

Bolivia has some of the highest poverty rates in South America and this is largely due to the lack of basic necessities. These basic necessities include a lack of food and clean water. This has greatly affected the children of Bolivia including young girls.

In Bolivia, one in three children suffers from stunted growth which prevents them from growing. This is due to the lack of healthcare systems and malnutrition. Skateboarding has become an outlet for many young girls as well as a way to empower them.

Empowering Women

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bolivia has the highest proportion of Indigenous people in the region. This means that more than half of Bolivia’s population is Indigenous. However, these skateboarding girls are not only looking for a way to connect to their roots but also a way to empower women.

Skateboarding emerged in Bolivia over two decades ago, according to National Geographic. Dani Santivanez, one of the founders of ImillaSkate, shares a similar experience with many young girls in Bolivia. As a young girl, she learned how to skateboard and made it her hobby. However, as she grew older, her mother started complaining about her bruises which led her to quit skateboarding.

After college, she rediscovered her passion and started skateboarding again. This led to the discovery that many other girls also had a passion for skateboarding. It also brought to attention that while boys in Bolivia often get together to skateboard, girls rarely do. The question of why arose and this led to the creation of Imillskate which helps empower young girls to continue skateboarding. Many of the young girls in the group have stated they never imagined girls skateboarding.

ImillaSkate wants young girls to feel empowered to skate and it is no longer rare to see girls skateboarding. ImillaSkate hopes to see more skateboarding girls in Bolivia.

– Sierrah Martin
Photo: Flickr

Smart Cities in Latin America
According to TWI, “a smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare.” The primary purpose of a smart city is to improve the lives of its citizens by using innovative technology “to optimize city functions and promote economic growth.” According to the Inter-American Development Bank, “a Smart City is one that places people at the center of development,” highlighting the value of smart cities in addressing issues that impact a city’s most marginalized population. In particular, smart cities in Latin America have the potential to lift the region out of poverty.

Addressing Poverty with Information and Communication Technology

In Latin America, smart cities are gaining more traction as nations look for innovative ways to address poverty and improve the lives of their citizens. Across the region, developing nations are embracing information and communication technology to address environmental concerns, improve energy efficiency and provide people with essential resources such as running water.

Investment in smart city infrastructure allows for the opportunity “to build more reliable power grids or expand the Internet” to stimulate economic growth in low-income communities. In addition, technological advancements in public transportation have the potential to create an equitable and accessible city, providing people on the periphery the opportunity to access urban centers unlike ever before. More than half of the world’s population live in cities with a projected increase to 66% by 2050. As rural communities continue to seek economic opportunities in the urban landscape, it is more important than ever for cities to implement the people-centered model of smart cities.

4 Smart Cities in Latin America

  1. Santiago, Chile: According to IESE Business School, the Chilean city of Santiago “is the smartest city in Latin America,” with initiatives in “mobility, environmental control and citizen safety.” To prevent water wastage, the city has developed a sensor data collecting method in which parks and other public green spaces undergo irrigation based on the amount of moisture necessary. The city has also implemented an advanced electric transit system.
  2. La Paz, Bolivia: This Bolivian city overcame its geographic challenges by creating an extensive cable car system to serve the population living in the steep Andean hills rising 500 meters above the city center. The cable car system has now become the main mode of public transportation in the city, allowing residents on the outskirts access to the main areas of commerce and employment.
  3. Guadalajara, Mexico: Guadalajara is the first Mexican city to receive designation as a smart city. Through the city’s Digital Creative City (DCC) initiative, Guadalajara is revitalizing its city center by emphasizing historical and cultural preservation while relying on technology to improve the city’s infrastructure and accommodate its population growth. The city is also relying on various technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and a smart grid, to provide its citizens with clean water, efficient transportation and affordable electricity. The city relies on a participatory model to engage residents in the city planning process.
  4. Montería, Colombia: Montería is one of the first Colombian cities to establish a sustainable infrastructure plan aimed at tackling extreme weather patterns and emissions. It intends to reduce emissions by declaring city-wide car-free days and improving public mobility. The city is also home to an innovation lab, which focuses on developing digital technologies and training individuals to work with these technologies. Montería is also tackling public health issues through its e-health initiatives and is installing solar panels in its public schools.

Rising Smart Cities in Latin America Alleviate Poverty

Cities throughout Latin America are alleviating poverty by integrating smart technology into their frameworks. Urban areas that focus on creating smart and connected systems of living offer numerous benefits for their people, including improving the quality of life and ensuring the sustainable application of resources. With an urbanization rate of 80% in 2017, Latin America stands as the world’s most urbanized region, which means there is ample opportunity for smart city implementation.

Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in BoliviaBolivia is one of the most impoverished countries in South America with about 37% of the population living in poverty in 2019. More than 63% of elderly people in Bolivia live in poverty and Bolivia’s elderly population is growing rapidly. This elderly poverty in Bolivia involves circumstances such as food insecurity, limited livelihood possibilities, abandonment by family members moving to urban areas and discriminatory policies.

Developing a Solution

Despite being one of the most impoverished countries, Bolivia ranks above many Eastern European countries in terms of the well-being of senior citizens. The global population of the elderly is growing and it is expected to reach two billion by 2050. Out of these two billion people, 80% will live in low to middle-income countries with few people receiving income support.

Latin American countries are addressing the issue of elderly poverty by raising pension schemes in addition to their strong traditions of international healthcare. Pension schemes act as future investments. These investments take the economic burden of looking after older family members off of younger generations. These investments also allow the elderly more independence, and in turn, increases spending power and the ability to save. Bolivia introduced its universal pension, Renta Dignidad, in 2008. Households eligible for Renta Dignidad have seen a 14% lower poverty rate compared to ineligible households.

The Success of Renta Dignidad

Since the introduction of the non-contributory old-age pension Renta Dignidad, Bolivia has closed coverage gaps and achieved universal coverage. Renta Dignidad only costs about 1% of Bolivia’s GDP and is financed by “taxes on oil and gas production” as well as dividends from state-owned companies. Renta Dignidad has been very successful. Beyond the 14% reduction in poverty across eligible households, the pensions scheme has increased household income and consumption rates.

Child labor is more than 50% less prevalent in households receiving these pension benefits. Because many households no longer require children to work to contribute to household income, many children can now go to school. As such, the Bolivian school enrolment rate is almost 100%. In addition to reduced child labor, households receiving pension have 8% higher school enrollment rates than households without. Renta Dignidad reaches 91% of the population older than 60, and in 2013, had a monthly benefit of 250 bolivianos or $35. Renta Dignidad is the first, and currently, the only, universal pension program in Latin America.

Benefiting Rural Areas

Rural areas experience much more extreme poverty than urban areas. More than 80% of the rural population is unable to meet their basic needs. Additionally, the proportion of undocumented older people is much higher in rural areas. In order to administer Renta Dignidad, the military and national banking system is assisting the Ministry of Economy and Public Finance to deliver benefits. The involvement of the military is crucial in ensuring that remote rural areas reach high coverage rates. Military mobile units utilize mobile satellite dishes that allow beneficiaries to collect their pensions anywhere in the country.

The registration campaign conducted by the program also allows people living in rural areas more access to obtaining personal identification documents. The increased number of people with personal identification documents combined with the increased local demand for goods and services in rural areas due to pensions have helped formalize the rural economy and reduce elderly poverty.

Overall, Renta Dignidad is improving elderly poverty in Bolivia, ensuring that the oldest and most vulnerable population is taken care of.

Jacqueline Zembek
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Human Trafficking in BoliviaHuman trafficking in Bolivia is a serious problem in need of progress. The battle to end human trafficking is underway with many countries making significant changes to help bring an end to the illicit trade. Many of the changes made by governments are internal, such as creating harsher sentencing for those caught involved in the trade. However, other actions are external, like the creation of programs to aid victims of trafficking. Criminalization of and aid for those involved are both heavy blows to the trade, yet many governments, like Bolivia’s, still lag behind most of the world in terms of concrete actions taken toward ending the trade within their borders.

Human Trafficking in Bolivia

The United States’s Trafficking report ranked Bolivia as a Tier 2 country. This indicates that its government falls short of the baseline level of effort of fighting trafficking. Despite having a population of more than 11 million people, the Bolivian government only prosecuted five people for the crime in 2019. In addition to a government that doesn’t take the problem seriously enough, efforts to end human trafficking in Bolivia face another challenge: poverty.

Trafficking is Tied to Poverty

Like in other countries, human trafficking in Bolivia is a problem that partially stems from the socioeconomic status of the country. Poverty is a root cause and result of human trafficking. Extreme poverty makes people vulnerable to trade for a variety of reasons. In addition, impoverished parents are more likely to neglect children because they can’t provide for them. Furthermore, people lack economic security and take seemingly promising jobs only to enter into the forced labor market.

Young girls are sold to be married to bring an income to families. An estimated 15.4 million of the world’s human trafficking victims are women in forced marriages. Young victims of human trafficking often become perpetrators of it when they become adults as a way of escaping the system and gaining security. In total more than 30% of Bolivians live in poverty, leaving a significant portion of the population vulnerable to human trafficking.

Nonprofits Fill in the Gaps the Government Leaves Open

Although the government is not taking enough steps to address human trafficking in Bolivia, nonprofits are stepping in to fill the gaps. For example, nonprofits like Save The Children aim to lift vulnerable children out of poverty and prevent their abuse. A key way the nonprofit aims to help children is through education, which both aids in preventing their abuse and sets them up for success in the future. Additionally, the nonprofit enables children to have access to pre-schools that provide a robust education.

Furthermore, Save The Children provides children with many programs and opportunities that provide education about human trafficking. They equip children with the knowledge necessary to avoid entering the trade. Programs like these have protected 7,000 children from harm and lifted 9,000 out of poverty.

As nonprofits and Bolivia’s government work to tackle the economic and social problems that proliferate human trafficking, many are hopeful that Bolivia will soon be able to improve its Tier 2 status in human trafficking.

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact in Bolivia Since September 2020, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has greatly improved. The country’s COVID-19 cases have reduced, possibly due to the fact that 25% of the population is fully vaccinated. Compared to the fact that less than 0.1% of the population was fully vaccinated in March 2021, this is good progress.

Small Town Controversies

In the small town of San Jose de Chiquitos, they immobilize the virus for a period of time via a controversial method. They use a chlorine dioxide solution (CDS), which is produced from the public university of Santa Cruz de la Serra, and administered by professional healthcare workers to treat people with coronavirus strains.

The town came about this alternative treatment due to the fact that it does not have a lot of advanced equipment, such as respirators, to keep up with COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia.

Originally, the government did not exactly approve of the treatment; however, the lower house has approved a special bill that authorizes the production and therapeutic use of the CDS. It is known as MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution).

Tourism Hit and Recommendation

Bolivia was one of the most tourism-dependent countries in South America, and the hit was felt by many since tourism provides 110,000 jobs for the people. Even domestic travel has suffered greatly. Even though the total percentage of unemployment in 2020 was only 5.61%, according to Statista, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has affect many. These people are eager to get back to work in any way possible.
Travel to Bolivia is still not recommended, and it is not allowed if it is deemed nonessential. According to the CDC, Bolivia is still at level 3, and it is ranked among the 10th highest for coronavirus cases in South American countries and countries in the Caribbean. Those who are fully vaccinated are permitted to go, but upon returning, they should get tested three to five days afterward. According to Statista, due to the lack of tourism, the tourism economy has taken a big hit in domestic tourism, with a loss of $530 million.

Vaccines for Everyone

On September 7, Bolivia received a shipment of 150,000 doses of the vaccine from Mexico. President Luis Arce’s administration estimated that some 7.5 million out of 11 million inhabitants are a vulnerable population that should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The country has already seen a dramatic increase in vaccinations in just a short period of time.
The country has also been encouraging and promoting everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, including the indigenous groups in rural areas. The country tends to spread the awareness of the vaccine, and just like many South American countries are now doing, they want to help all of their people.
Rinko Kinoshita, Bolivia’s representative for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), did a 5-question interview with The Pivot. She stated, “Through United Nations interagency collaboration, we also are supporting the government with communication campaigns to promote COVID-19 vaccination, especially in indigenous rural communities on the border with Brazil”.

– Veronica Rosas
Photo: Flickr