Industrialization in BoliviaAlthough Bolivia’s poverty rate declined significantly from 63 percent in 2004 to 36 percent in 2017, the industrial production growth rate has been slow at about 2 percent. One major challenge to continually reducing the poverty rate is industrialization in Bolivia. The country’s state-oriented policies discourage investment, especially in the underutilized mining sector. Further economic developments that include incentives to spur investment, as well as policies to improve income equality, are needed to continually reduce the high poverty rate.

Improving the Business Environment

Bolivia’s state-oriented policies is a barrier to development. According to Joe Lowry, head of Global Lithium and a former employee of FMC, FMC wished to develop Uyuni in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but “governmental chaos and poor infrastructure were too much to deal with.” President Morales is preventing external corporations from exploiting natural resources, such as lithium. FMC Corp, a major lithium producer, and South Korean steelmaker POSCO tried to make deals with Morales’ government, yet no agreement was made due to strict government control.

To induce foreign companies to form operations in Bolivia, reducing government control on the private sector is an essential requirement. This laissez-faire style of welcoming outside companies to build relationships with Bolivians would not only create jobs but also improve the poor roadways leading to its neighboring countries. A lack of infrastructure also creates difficulty for external corporations who wish to start operations within the country. Inefficient roadways slow transportation vehicles and create major obstructions to traveling throughout Bolivia.

About 12 percent of roadways are paved. The Inter-American Development Bank approved a $178 million loan to Bolivia in an effort to improve or add roads, traffic flow and increase security. The loan also increases job opportunities for women in non-traditional sectors through training in truck-weighing procedures, toll-collection and heavy machinery operation. The regions with paved roads earn the majority of the gross domestic product. In these areas, the travel time and cost of operating vehicles is less than areas with crude and poorly maintained roads. Additional infrastructure development is needed to create jobs and increase the probability of future investment prospects.

Key Sectors for Bolivia’s Growth

Lithium mining is one key sector to increase industrialization in Bolivia. With demand for lithium expected to double by 2025, President Evo Morales is set to invest $250 million into lithium operations after signing an agreement with ACI Group. Morales vowed to “industrialize with dignity and sovereignty.” Bolivia has nine million tons of untapped lithium, the second-largest amount in the world. Construction begins in 2021 and already companies are showing interest.

While Morales envisions Bolivia as a major lithium producer, Bolivia’s economy and finance minister, Luis Arce, perceives a future in the tourism industry. Arce agreed with Morales on its need for industrialization, especially in mining, natural gas and tourism sectors. Lake Titicaca, Salar de Uyuni and La Paz are three popular destination sites that receive tourists from across the world. Arce also plans to target income inequality by redistributing wealth. This would give compensation to families whose children complete a school year and a program guaranteeing a minimum retirement payment. Arce also stated salary increases outpacing inflation would help Bolivians, especially those in extreme poverty.

Present Infrastructure Status

Industrialization in Bolivia, especially in road construction, is already underway. Reducing state-oriented policies could offer an incentive to investors interested in lithium. It is an important component in batteries that power electric vehicles and an important resource for the future of vehicles. With a decrease in strict government control, Bolivia could rise out from its slow development, create jobs and reduce its high poverty rate.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay

Malaria eradication
Malaria is a common mosquito-borne disease that can be life-threatening due to its high fever and flu-like symptoms. The World Health Organization recently certified Argentina as malaria-free after nearly 40 years of eradication efforts. But one of Argentina’s bordering countries, Bolivia, is still dealing with the effects of malaria, though it’s making strides toward the disease’s elimination.

Here’s how Argentina managed to eradicate malaria.

Argentina’s malaria eradication successes

  1. Increased insecticide spraying. Argentina teamed up with its neighboring country Bolivia to spray more than 22,000 individual homes in northern Argentina. Within 10 years, the number of malaria cases dropped to zero in regions where malaria had been a regular occurrence.
  2. The Policy Spotlight Plan. Physician Carlos Alvarado began a program called the Policy Spotlight Plan to shrink the spread of malaria. This allowed specialists to track the flight range of malaria-carrying mosquitos and establish boundaries at the limits of the flight range to confine the potential disease transmission to a small area. Once this was complete, they introduced insecticide sprays into the area, and the malaria reduction process, initially estimated to take five years, ended up taking only two years.
  3. Trained health workers. Medical specialists were trained to instantly recognize the symptoms of malaria in patients and administer proper treatment depending on the type of malaria. Training also focused on immediate action: health workers were able to travel to small remote villages and address issues, analyzing blood samples and calling for insecticide sprays on the spot. This hastened the recovery process for patients and helped prevent further spreading of the disease.

Bolivia’s plans for malaria eradication

All areas in Bolivia lower than 2,500 feet above sea level are still at risk for malaria; this is more than half of the entire country. Yet there is still hope. The United Nations Development Program aims to eradicate malaria in the region by 2020.

These are Bolivia’s plans for malaria eradication thus far.

  1. The Malaria-Free Bolivia Project. This UNDP-sponsored program promotes prevention efforts and awareness for each individual region in the high-risk areas. The program has made it possible for physicians to travel on foot within communities, providing treatment and educating citizens about the common symptoms of malaria. At this point, the number of those infected with malaria has declined to two per 1,000 citizens because of these strategies to prevent the disease.
  2. Malaria Case Management and Vector Control. Two additional groups have been added to the Malaria-Free Bolivia Project. Malaria Case Management allows for quality and universal malaria care, including diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of the disease. Vector Control revamped the previous mosquito-prevention strategies to strengthen and enhance the quality and functionality of mosquito nets and sprays.

Malaria has decreased by 72 percent in the Americas since 2000, but a third of the world’s population is still at risk for the disease. In the next decade, global malaria eradication will continue, and eventually, the world can be malaria-free.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Safe, Quality Drinking WaterOn May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Industry in Bolivia
Since Bolivia gained independence from Spanish rule in 1825, the country has undergone several shifts in political power with long-term effects on economic stability. Similarly, the agriculture industry in Bolivia has experienced considerable changes, sometimes resulting in difficulty for farmers. A startup, PanalFresh, is working to improve difficult conditions and improve farmers’ access to markets.

Inequality in Agriculture Industry in Bolivia

In the late 1990s, former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada made substantial changes to the agriculture industry in Bolivia that have lingering effects to this day. Lozada’s Law of Agricultural Reform Services promoted a liberalization of trade in the agricultural sector and bolstered trade activities centered around exports. One negative consequence of the increased privatization was the fact that small-scale farmers were now forced to compete with much larger companies that could provide extremely cheap imports. The new structure crippled the ability of rural smallholder farmers to increase productivity and income.

The agriculture industry in Bolivia is a key part of the country’s economy, as it accounts for almost 14 percent of the total GDP and employs nearly 30 percent of the nation’s workforce. Unfortunately, with 57 percent of the rural population living below the poverty line, the potential for job creation and economic growth is not coming to fruition.

Tech Startups, Global Poverty and PanalFresh

Tech startups are tackling many of the toughest problems facing the world today. Companies like Viome and The Ocean Cleanup are undertaking monumental efforts to solve issues like prevalent diseases and plastic waste in oceans.

Similarly, a startup called PanalFresh is doing its part to address the “lack of infrastructure and access to markets” that results in rural poverty in Bolivia. PanalFresh provides next-morning delivery of fruits, vegetables and other grocery items through an online store available to customers in the cities Santa Cruz and Cochabamba. The truly unique part of PanalFresh’s business model is that all of the produce in the store comes from small-scale farmers in rural Bolivia. On top of providing farmers with an effective and far-reaching marketplace for their harvests, PanalFresh consults farmers on what to plant in order to meet with demands.

PanalFresh’s co-Founder, Andrea Puente, dedicates her time to helping farmers know what to grow and giving them a marketplace so they can be successful. Her platform claims to yield 10-15 percent better prices on the same crops and provides services to more than 400 farmers. By reconnecting the rural farmers of Bolivia to the more affluent urban customers, Puente is sure to increase the long-term financial stability of hard-working farmers who struggle with poverty day in and out.

While today’s agricultural sector faces many roadblocks, Panalfresh is an example of how achievements in technology can lift other industries into prosperity. With the collaboration of farmers and companies like Panalfresh, the future of agriculture in Bolivia is bright.

– John Chapman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bolivia
Bolivia has recorded growth in several important life categories. However, being home to more than 11 million people, the country has a long way to go before being considered a developed country. In the article below, the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bolivia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Bolivia

  1. Unemployment in Bolivia is currently at 6.2 percent. The poverty rate in 2016 was at 39.5 percent, and this number almost halved from 66.4 percent in 2000. Bolivia is one of the most impoverished countries in South America, but the numbers show vast improvement over the last decade.
  2. The expected years of schooling of 14 years ranks Bolivia at 118th place in the world for education below the countries like Chile, Columbia, Venezuela and Brazil. However, education in Bolivia used to average around 11 years in 1990, indicating great improvements in this area.
  3. According to the U.N. development program reports, both genders receive the same amount of primary schooling, but women still face more struggles on a day-to-day basis. Child marriage for girls below age 18 is at 19 percent and estimated yearly income for women is only about half of what men are paid.
  4. For the last 28 years, Habitat for Humanity has worked transforming lives and providing homes with basic facilities for 58 percent of Bolivians who live in slums. Dirt floors, crowded bedrooms and lack of clean water and essentials spell proliferation of illness and parasites. As rising urbanization means 68.5 percent live in cities, Habitat views managing the space of the millions who live in city slums as a human rights issue.
  5. Out of the total labor force, skilled labor makes up 45.2 percent. Socio-economic sustainability often relies on diversification of employment opportunities and resources. While child labor still exists, Bolivia has made strides in 2017 to eliminate child labor in agriculture. In the past, many children were allowed to work as young as 10 years old. Data from 2016 published by UNESCO estimates that 13.9 percent of the population aged from 7 to 14 are child workers, employed in agriculture, services, mining and other hard labor.
  6. Life expectancy is up to 69.1 years as of 2016, and with the assistance of organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and CHOICE Humanitarian, basic access to nutrition and clean water has increased within the last decade. Still, the country does not have a comprehensive health care system and around 60 percent of people do not have access to basic facilities like clean water and modern sewage.
  7. In 2017 alone, Action Against Hunger helped 12,651 people in Bolivia. Out of this number, 7,672 were reached by nutrition and health programs, 1,470 were reached by safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene programs and 3,509 benefited from food security and livelihood programs. Some 75 percent of Bolivians lack regular access to basic food and nutrition. Action Against Hunger began a project in 2000 providing long-term food security to thousands of residents and job support while working with the health system addressing child malnutrition.
  8. According to the World Bank data, 39.7 percent of the population has access to the internet, an increase of over 15 percent since 2010.
  9. Along with Action Against Hunger and Habitat for Humanity, CHOICE Humanitarian is working to end extreme poverty in the rural indigenous groups of the high plains. The director Willy Mendoza, whose Aymará heritage gives him special insight to the needs of the indigenous people the organization serves, directs the bulk of efforts into school construction, microcredit and enterprise programs, clean water and latrines. The long bond of trust established between CHOICE and the Bolivian people helps implementation of the programs run smoothly.
  10. In 2006, the Bolivian government instituted a national Zero Malnutrition program prioritizing undernutrition in communities with high rates of food security. CHOICE Bolivia is supported by the government as a means of battling extreme poverty and has changed many of the indigenous communities with access to water, sanitation, and credit opportunities. The organization hopes extreme poverty will continue to be eradicated through tools based on knowledge, science, technology and sustainable social development.

Overall, Bolivia has grown in its diversification of employment, access to basic facilities and consideration of human rights issues. Poverty still troubles 39 percent of the population and many still require access to clean water and nutrition, but with the help of leaders like Willy Mendoza and groups like Habitat and CHOICE Humanitarian, fundamental needs like good shelter and water continue to be satisfied. These changes and many of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Bolivia show what sustainable organizations backed by the government can accomplish in a developing country.

– Hannah Peterson
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Bolivia
Bolivia is one of Latin America’s poorest countries. Still, Bolivia’s government has ambitious development plans and its constitution declares the right to adequate food for its citizens. However, even with the government’s work toward self-sufficiency, hunger in Bolivia remains a major problem. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Bolivia to help understand the situation better.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Bolivia

  1. Approximately 39 percent of Bolivians live in poverty, one of the highest rates in South America. The Bolivian government’s work toward a stronger economy has helped reduce poverty from 59 percent, but poverty rates remain significantly higher in rural areas.
  2. Most of Bolivia’s people live in rural villages. Of Bolivia’s almost 11 million people, more than half live in rural communities where poverty rates are the highest.
  3. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “Access is the main cause of food insecurity in Bolivia.” Especially in rural communities, citizens lack access to a lot of resources, including food, water and infrastructure. Action Against Hunger (AAH), an NGO working in many poverty-stricken countries, reports that 75 percent of Bolivian households lack regular access to food.
  4. Rural households heavily depend on agriculture and eat only what they can grow themselves. Many rural people are peasant farmers with small plots that have little to no access to infrastructure or other food sources. Therefore, people often go hungry during lean seasons. Frequent natural disasters can also make farming an unreliable source of income.
  5. Nearly two-thirds, 63 percent, of households in Bolivia do not earn enough money to afford sufficient amounts of food, leaving the households unable to provide the minimum caloric intake for healthy living.
  6. Bolivia has the highest level of undernourishment in South America at 15.9 percent, meaning that a substantial portion of the population does not have enough food or eat enough nutrients.
  7. Approximately 27.1 percent of children in Bolivia are stunted, meaning they are too short for their ages. Stunting is a product of undernourishment and malnutrition. Stunting persists in adult populations, with nearly 10 percent of women aged 15-49 measuring less than 4 feet 9 inches (145 centimeters).
  8. Approximately 60 percent of children are anemic as a result of malnutrition. The high percentage of anemic children indicates chronic malnutrition in Bolivia.
  9. Many poor families eat insufficient diets based on cheap carbohydrates such as rice. Carbohydrates contain a lot of starches and fats, which often lead to obesity if not eaten in moderation. Approximately one-third of women aged 15-49 are overweight in Bolivia due to poor diets.
  10. Hunger in Bolivia not only affects children physically but it also affects their education. Many children have long walks to and from school, which are especially hard on empty stomachs. Sergio Torres, the head of WFP’s Bolivia operations, said, “When children arrive at school hungry after walking up to three kilometers, they cannot concentrate or assimilate what is being taught.”

Organizations Working to Address the Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Bolivia

Like poverty, hunger in Bolivia is steadily decreasing thanks to government work and foreign aid. AAH has helped 12,651 Bolivians in 2017 alone. Among those helped, 7,672 people’s lives were changed by nutrition and health programs, 1,470 were helped by water, sanitation and hygiene programs and 3,509 people were shown food security and livelihood programs.

WFP also does a lot of work in Bolivia, targeting three goals: enhancing emergency preparedness, improving enrolment and attendance of primary schoolchildren and reducing child malnutrition. Furthermore, The United Nations is working with the government of Bolivia to ensure food in schools for children. This is based on a law passed in 2015 that guarantees students complimentary school meals.

These organizations, along with the government’s commitment to a citizens right to adequate food, are working to help alleviate poverty and hunger in Bolivia. Although they have a lot of work to attain food security in the country, the efforts are being made and must continue.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Pixabay

Health Care in Bolivia
Tucked between five countries in South America, Bolivia is one of the most impoverished Latin American nations. With poverty rates just under 40 percent between 2013 and 2017, Bolivian citizens often lack basic access to health care and proper nutrition. However, Mano a Mano International (MMI), a non-profit organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota, works to improve health care in Bolivia by collecting and distributing medical supplies to underserved communities.

Rural Health Care in Bolivia

According to UNICEF, indigenous and rural citizens are at the highest risk for poverty in Bolivia, especially women and children. Similar inequalities exist between urban and rural areas: nearly 82 percent of rural Bolivians live below the poverty line, as opposed to 54 percent of Bolivians in urban areas.

This disparity between urban and rural populations also extends to health care access. Lack of infrastructure in rural areas leaves many Bolivians without the ability to receive proper medical treatment. Mano a Mano International helps make medical care accessible for rural communities across Bolivia by providing desperately needed medical supplies.

Mano a Mano International: Origin and Mission

Mano a Mano International grew out of the suitcase of one of its co-founders, Segundo Velasquez. Born into a working-class family in rural Bolivia, Velasquez witnessed the poor access to medical care in the country during his childhood. Years later, Velasquez married Joan Swanson (now Joan Velasquez), a Peace Corps volunteer, and they moved to the United States.

However, the couple never stopped thinking about how they might be able to help Bolivians. On trips back to Bolivia, Segundo Velasquez would bring medical supplies to his brother, who worked in a small hospital there. With the help of friends and family, Velasquez began collecting more and more medical supplies to take to the hospital.

Inspired by the impact of the donated medical supplies, Segundo and Joan Velasquez began looking for ways to provide life-saving medical equipment and supplies to other rural communities in Bolivia. In 1994, the non-profit organization, Mano a Mano International, was officially incorporated and it has been making significant strides to improve health care in Bolivia ever since.

Mano a Mano International’s Work

The donation efforts begin in Minnesota, where Mano a Mano volunteers and partners collect medical supplies. These efforts also reduce medical waste in the U.S., since the majority of materials that are donated would have otherwise ended up in landfills. In Mano a Mano’s U.S. warehouse, volunteers examine, sort and pack supplies for shipment.

Once they arrive at Mano a Mano International’s warehouse in Cochabamba, Bolivia, volunteers re-pack and distribute supplies to communities across Bolivia. These supplies, which include everything from wheelchairs and crutches to gauze, make real change for health centers, hospitals and clinics in Bolivia. So far this year, Mano a Mano International has received over 110,000 pounds of donated medical supplies in St. Paul and this figures are constantly increasing.

Moving Forward

Decades after its founding, Mano a Mano International continues to grow. Its donations program alone has grown to include school and construction supplies, in addition to medical devices. Since their incorporation, Mano a Mano International has shipped a total of 3.5 million pounds of supplies for distribution. Every day, this organization takes supplies, which would almost certainly go to waste in the U.S., directly to people who need them the most.

Beyond this, Mano a Mano works for sustainable growth, economic development and health care in Bolivia. Through its counterpart organizations, Mano a Mano undertakes various projects, such as the construction of clinics and wells, to improve the quality of life in Bolivia overall. With these and many other projects, Mano a Mano improves lives across Bolivia, by making basic needs, such as water, health and education, more accessible.

– Morgan Harden

Photo: Mano a Mano

Credit access in BoliviaCredit access is considered a key driver of economic growth and poverty alleviation, capable of granting the poor and small businesses the funding necessary to invest in their future. In the past, credit access in Bolivia has seen an expansion through innovative commercial initiatives and through recently imposed laws, Bolivia’s government has sought to encourage the expansion of credit in the country and to direct it toward productive and socially useful sectors.

In one respect, the story of credit access in Bolivia has been particularly influential: commercial microfinance. When BancoSol, originally a charity sponsored by Acción Internacional, transformed itself into a microfinance commercial bank in 1992, it became the first chartered microfinance bank in the world.

The transition showed the country that microfinance could function without the largesse of nongovernmental organizations and within a commercial environment. Significantly, by proving this model was feasible, it provided a meaningful lesson for international observers.

Since then, the country has continued to burnish its legacy of credit initiatives in microfinance and beyond. It has consistently ranked highly in the annual Global Microscope, a report prepared by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that assesses the regulatory environment for financial inclusion in 55 countries.

In 2016, Bolivia ranked thirteenth of 55 and sixth of the 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries included, and in its 2015 report, the EIU highlighted the country’s Financial Services Law (FSL) as a key in moving toward greater financial inclusion. Whether the FSL, enacted in 2013, will achieve all its goals is yet to be determined, but evidence to date suggests the government’s initiatives have had their intended effect.

The law, among other objectives, mandates credit quotas and interest rate caps to encourage lending to designated productive sectors and social housing. This requires banks and other financial institutions to extend a minimum share of their credit toward these objectives at an affordable rate. A 2015 report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) found that the requirements were spurring progress: total credit reached almost 46 percent of GDP in 2015 from 35 percent in the mid-2000s, and credit directed to the productive sectors and social housing increased 26 percent in the year leading to June 2015.

In combination with elements of the law improving deposit insurance and consumer protection measures, the FSL has laid the groundwork for furthering the expansion of credit access in Bolivia. As the IMF report emphasizes, the Bolivian financial system is fundamentally sound, but the methods employed to increase credit access do not come without risks.

In attempting to lower borrowing costs, interest rate caps can ultimately limit access to credit and hurt bank profitability, while credit quotas can lead to banks’ portfolios becoming over-concentrated and designated borrowers becoming over-indebted, as credit is extended disproportionately to certain sectors. The report stresses that managing these risks will be vital for the country to ensure its expansion of credit is healthy and sustainable.

Overall, from BancoSol’s breakthrough in the 1990s to modern regulatory initiatives, credit access in Bolivia has continued to expand. Given the capability of financial inclusion to economically empower the poor, it is likely to remain an important goal in the country for the foreseeable future.

– Mark Fitzpatrick

Photo: Flickr

Bolivia’s working age is the lowest in the world. At 10 years old, children can legally work for themselves, their families and for others. Better education and a change in cultural attitude is the only way to provide aid for children working in Bolivia.

Bolivia’s Child and Adolescent Code was passed in 2014. It lowered the legal working age to 10 in an effort to prevent the exploitation of many children already working in Bolivia. But with 850,000 child laborers in Bolivia and only 78 inspectors, it is difficult to enforce regulations. Many children work illegally starting at the age of five.

Bolivian lawmakers wanted to set the minimum working age at 14, which led to riots as shoe shiners, bricklayers, street vendors and other child workers clashed with police in 2013.

The law passed with support from Bolivian President Evo Morales, who said that working children develop “social awareness.” President Morales worked with his father at age six, herding llamas.

Aid for children working in Bolivia cannot come from regulations alone, as they are too lax and purport a vicious cycle of poverty. Working from a young age threatens their health, exposes them to violence and reinforces integral cycles of poverty. As it stands, 60 percent of children working in Bolivia drop out of school in order to continue working.

Four years after the law passed, many fear that the law is failing to protect Bolivia’s working children. Children and their families must get approval from the government to work; however, only about 30 percent of applications are dealt with. Many ignore the law and put children to work unsupervised.

Bolivia has 8.3 million citizens and 59 percent of the population lives in poverty. Culture and need both contribute to child labor. It is seen as normal in Andean culture for children to help support the family. Therefore, aid for children working in Bolivia must extend from a change in social values and political priorities.

Child labor deprives children of their right to go to school, but Bolivian children need money to buy books. They also need to feed their younger siblings and help their family pay the bills. Poverty levels have decreased in Bolivia over the last few years, but children still play a key role in keeping many families afloat.

Aid for children working in Bolivia comes only in the form of regulations and unions that aim to prevent the exploitation of workers. The Union of Child and Adolescent Workers of Bolivia is an organization of young workers that have united to defend themselves from exploitation. They supported Bolivia’s Child and Adolescent Code and do not want the cessation of child labor in Bolivia, but the improvement of its regulation. By fighting for better protection for child workers, groups like this can ensure fair treatment of children in the short term while working to change the cultural norms in the long term.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr