Disability and Poverty in Bolivia
A disability can take many forms such as ones that impair the senses, inhibit daily routines or completely change one’s quality of life. Although many can be born with a disability, people in impoverished countries may face the issue of developing disabilities later in life due to disease and sickness that goes untreated because treatment is unaffordable. Whether the disability is physical or mental, having a disability can often correlate with future poverty due to difficulty in schooling and an inability to gain employment. Here is some information about disability and poverty in Bolivia.

The Correlation Between Disability and Poverty in Bolivia

In 2018, 10.6% of Bolivia’s population lived on $3.20 USD a day or less. With a population of over 11 million, a significant number of Bolivians live in poverty. Meanwhile, an estimated 15% have some type of disability.

The term disability is broad due to its application to either physical or mental problems; the 15% of the population covers both since mental and physical disabilities can affect labor force and schooling participation. Over 75% of those with a disability do not participate in schooling in Bolivia. Employers are hesitant to hire given the extensive training and exceptions necessary; a lack of schooling hurts hiring opportunities further. Those with disabilities face lacking or rejected health care and unforgiving employers, and others often misunderstand them in classrooms. Nonetheless, if they cannot find a job, a life in poverty is almost a guarantee. While impairments are quite a struggle individually, those who aim to care for their loved ones struggle too.

The Progress

The Bolivian education system introduced a project called Fe y Alegría Bolivia in 2012 geared towards helping special needs students by creating a more inclusive environment to influence greater school participation in the disabled community. The main issue with this project is funding. While the issue of funding can apply to almost any project, what is missing in the structure of the program is the socialization and conditioning to function not only in the classroom but in society as well.

For instance, as a social experiment, a program referred to as the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration and Evaluation Project emerged in the U.S. for disabled individuals from 2007 to 2009. It offered Medicare as well as counseling to create a smooth transition for disabled individuals into a working society. During its time, the project had notable successes by granting those with disabilities the ability to pay for necessities, a greater inclination to work and increased preparation to work. This project is an excellent model for countries like Bolivia.

Although the project occurred for only a short amount of time, the Accelerated Benefits Demonstration and Evaluation Project demonstrated positives that could apply to foreign countries like Bolivia. A program like this has the potential to significantly reduce the gap in labor participation and increase school attendance in a similar way. Preparing these individuals for daily work would greatly improve their ability to obtain employment, hopefully reducing the correlation between disability and poverty in Bolivia.

– Angela Munoz
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in Bolivia
Bolivia is a South American country with a population of more than 11 million people. Due in part to the prevalence of “machismo culture” that views women as property, violence against women is commonplace throughout the country. Femicide in Bolivia is a prevalent concern.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), femicide is the “intentional murder of women because they are women.” Men most commonly perpetrate violence against women, especially male relatives and partners, and this treatment typically follows both repeated physical and verbal abuse. Intimate femicide, when the perpetrator is a partner or relative of the victim, is the most common form. Estimates show that it causes over one-third of annual female murders around the world. These five facts about femicide in Bolivia show the extent of gender-based violence and how the government combats the problem.

5 Facts About Femicide in Bolivia

  1. Bolivia has the highest rate of femicide in South America. In 2018, the country had “two femicides for every 100,000 women.” The first six months of 2019 alone saw more than 60 reported murders of women, or one femicide every two days. The prevalence of femicide relates to overall high levels of abuse and domestic violence against women. In 2016, an estimated 70% of women had been victims of violence by their partners.
  2. There is a high degree of impunity for femicide. In 2016, a mere 4.7% of cases of violence against women made it to court and, of those, less than 5% were sentenced or closed. 206 cases of femicide reported over 23 months starting in 2013. However, in only eight did the court sentence the murderer for the crime.
  3. Women have mobilized against femicide by organizing marches in protest. One such march took place in La Paz in August 2019. Hundreds of Bolivians, including president Evo Morales, joined forces to call out the country’s patterns of violence against women.
  4. Bolivia implemented Law 348 to attempt to combat femicide. This 2013 measure is also called the Comprehensive Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free From Violence. It considers femicide a severe form of violence. The law imposes a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison for anyone convicted. Part of Law 348’s plan to eliminate femicide is a mandate for all levels of government to design and enforce policies specifically addressing gender-based violence. The law also demands that the victims and their families deserve justice.
  5. President Morales has made eliminating femicide a priority for the national government. In 2019, he proposed declaring femicide a crime against humanity and partnering with police and prosecutors to ensure the crime is taken seriously. The Morales administration created a cabinet comprised of multiple ministries to focus on crimes against women and children to curb gender-based violence. Additionally, Morales proposed a tax on fuel to help fund changes within the school system that would provide a learning environment with less gender bias and training teachers on recognizing the signs of violence.

While violence against women is common in the country, the government is taking the problem seriously. They are making many attempts to eliminate gendered violence. Many of the laws passed have proven difficult to enforce. However, Bolivia continues to combat femicide and societal norms that lead to such high rates of violence against women.

– Sydney Leiter
Photo: Pixabay

Women's Rights in Bolivia
Bolivia has a rich history and emerged on the idea of respecting its ancient cultural traditions. As the country developed, it has been difficult to stray away from traditional values that place importance on strict gender roles. The patriarchal ideologies that Bolivia originated with have silenced women for centuries. One aspect of these ideologies has created the idea that women take up positions in politics solely to take away the jobs of men. Here is some information about the challenges regarding women’s rights in Bolivia as well as how the country is trying to improve.

Gender Inequality in Bolivia and Latin America

Gender inequality and violence against women have been pervasive issues across Latin America for centuries. In the modern-day, women in politics continually face harassment and assault due to their fight for parity and equality. As a result, Bolivia and many other Latin American countries have experienced diminished economic growth due to increased poverty rates and a lack of female participation in the labor markets. A 2009 study showed that 63% of women worked as apprentices without pay or were family workers and only 9% of Bolivian women had formal employment with access to social security benefits. However, the country of Bolivia, despite its deeply ingrained traditions and cultural history, is now setting the standard for gender parity across Latin America.

The Effects of Gender Disparity

The World Bank has explained that evidence has shown that gender disparities can hinder economic growth, facilitate an increase in poverty rates and undermine well-being outcomes for men and women alike. The educational enrollment gap is an example of the challenges regarding women’s rights in Bolivia. For example, a 2014 survey showed that one in five female students aged 15 to 24 reported having felt discriminated against in academic environments. Because of this and other factors (lack of economic resources, pregnancy, domestic and care work, etc.), the education gap has increased between men and women leaving more women uneducated and limiting them from joining the labor market. Regardless of these economic consequences due to gender disparity, many Bolivian men, including politicians, have continued to insite physical and psychological violence against women in order to prevent them from taking up political positions to improve such issues.

Gender Parity: A Movement

The Bolivian government originally began its mission toward gender parity in 1997. It began with the passing of a law that required 30% of political candidates to be women. Since then, the development and creation of laws have continued in order to increase female political representation and participation.

Beginning in 1997 into the present day, gender disparity within the Bolivian government has changed dramatically. Only a few decades ago, people thought of most women as second-class citizens with only a 4% rate of holding municipal assembly posts. Today, Bolivia now ranks second in the world for the most gender-equal government with a council which is 53% female.

Although these women continuously face backlash for this increase in representation, this has not stopped the mission towards true gender equality. With the increase in the number of laws fighting against the physical and psychological abuse that these women have faced, these changes have aided in creating awareness of the violence these women have experienced and implementing the plan to further address topics relating to women’s sexual health.

Aiding Women in Poverty

Furthermore, programs aimed toward aiding women in poverty have begun emerging. For example, the Joint Programme on Productive Patrimonial Assets Building and Citizenship Programme for Women in Extreme Poverty (the Programme) targets aid to indigenous rural women from the poorest areas of Bolivia. The Programme aims to assist these women in attaining sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families through a two-element strategy. The first element involves a non-reimbursable direct monetary transfer component that provides seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital. Meanwhile, the second element focusses on providing training and advisory services to these women. Furthermore, the Programme aims to strengthen Women’s abilities to fully exercise their citizenship and political rights. The results have led to a decrease in poverty rates by providing financial support and financing to women entrepreneurs. The Programme has aided over 4,000 Bolivian women by giving them access to services such as savings accounts and credit lines, among others.

It is clear that the mission to end gender disparities in the Bolivian government is a movement that will not end abruptly due to long-standing patriarchal ideologies. However, Bolivia’s mission to end gender discrimination and improve women’s rights in Bolivia has set forth a movement across Latin America. Addressing such issues will not only aid in the country in achieving gender equality but also help reduce poverty amongst women and improve female participation in the labor market.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa in Bolivia
Consumers worldwide recently discovered quinoa’s high nutritional value, earning this food its title of a superfood; in fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) dubbed 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. The grain is also an excellent choice for sustainable growth in food-insecure regions, particularly experiencing environmental challenges. There is a relatively positive outlook on the future of quinoa in Bolivia and the Andean region of South America. However, the explosion in demand for quinoa in Bolivia has created several negative consequences.

The Rise of Quinoa in Bolivia

For centuries, quinoa has been a dietary staple for those living in the Andean region of South America. Quinoa is a crop indigenous to this area; people have comfortably relied on the grain for nourishment for nearly 7,000 years. Given its historical link to subsistence, urban Bolivians considered quinoa to be a food reserved only for poor people. In 2000, quinoa was only worth approximately $0.25 per pound. The quick explosion in quinoa’s popularity, however, led to rapid growth in the number of farmers cultivating the crop. By 2014, the price of quinoa increased to as much as $4 per pound a staggering 1,500% increase from its original price. With this boost in price and subsequent strengthening of the national economy, many farmers were able to begin sending their children to university, purchase motorized vehicles, build new homes and invest in technology to improve their crop yields.

Economic and Environmental Costs

Despite its spike in global popularity, the rise in quinoa costs reduced local consumption in Bolivia by nearly one-third. What was originally fundamental to the Bolivian diet became too expensive for many locals, helping cause the price of quinoa to decline nearly as rapidly as it rose. As recently as 2018, the price of quinoa in Bolivia has dropped to $0.60 per pound. This rapid decline in quinoa prices in countries like Bolivia is also attributable to the increase in quinoa production worldwide: with the product’s increasing popularity came increasing competition from growers in other countries, leading to a forced reduction in prices. Although today’s low cost of quinoa attracts many health-minded consumers, this decline jeopardizes the economic well-being of Bolivian farmers.

In an attempt to remain competitive in the global quinoa market, Bolivian farmers expanded their areas of production. Previously unoccupied land transformed into spaces constantly cultivating quinoa, leading to land overuse. Soil consequently began to suffer erosion and nutrient loss, which created an overall reduction in soil quality. Furthermore, farmers who once raised large llama herds removed llamas from their land to open space for quinoa production. With this lack of animals, though, came a lack of manure to help nurture and protect the soil.

Promise for the Future of Quinoa Production

Fortunately, numerous efforts have emerged to help mitigate the effects of quinoa’s price fluctuations and account for long-term sustainability. The World Food Programme implemented a pilot project in Bolivia to connect local smallholder farmers with municipal food programs. In this system, local food programs provide farmers with a secure and stable market to sell their goods, eliminating the pressure of competing on a global scale.

Bolivian quinoa farmers have also taken matters into their own hands by placing a geographical indication on quinoa grown in Bolivia. This is helping to create a market in which Bolivian quinoa will receive the designation of “Quinoa Real,” a tastier and larger grain that can only grow in Bolivia. Such a designation helps to protect Bolivian quinoa farmers from another steep drop in prices and crop profitability.

As quinoa’s popularity continues to skyrocket worldwide, it will become increasingly important for farmers and their local economies to remain efficient and competitive. With involvement from global nonprofit organizations and local cultivators, there is hope that quinoa in Bolivia will become a superfood for consumers and producers alike.

– Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Heart Disease in Bolivia
Bolivia is the second poorest country in South America, performing poorly in education, life expectancy, economic strength and overall development. Most alarmingly, it lacks sufficient medical care due to a limited supply of adequate resources. Bolivia’s unique geography advances its tremendous healthcare challenges, causing children to be 10 times more likely to be born with congenital heart defects. These conditions are nearly impossible to treat without trained cardiologists and updated facilities, two things often inaccessible to most Bolivians. Thus, addressing heart disease in Bolivia is quite challenging as a result of these factors. However, Franz Freudenthal, inventor and cardiologist, is improving medical care with a simple technique that utilizes an indigenous hobby to heal holes in hearts.

What is PDA?

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) is a common congenital heart defect, particularly prevalent in certain parts of Bolivia. The defect is caused by an opening between two major blood vessels traveling away from the heart. The opening is crucial to a baby’s circulatory system before birth, but it should close almost immediately upon exiting the womb. PDA cases, however, present holes in the heart that remain open. Although the exact cause of congenital heart defects like PDA is typically unclear, decreased oxygen levels have a direct impact on fetal heart health. Because La Paz, Bolivia sits at 3,600 meters above sea level, where the atmosphere has lower oxygen levels than most parts of the world. Therefore, Bolivia’s altitude is the likely cause of irregular blood. Also, the mother’s inability to provide appropriate oxygen levels to her child can result in severe complications.

Breathlessness and failure to thrive are the most common symptoms in mild cases, but fatigue and failure to gain weight can also occur because harmed hearts must work three times harder to pump blood than healthy hearts. Children with severe cases of PDA are at a higher risk for pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, infective endocarditis, anticoagulation and congestive heart failure. However, each of these symptoms can be relieved by skilled women in the Andes Mountains’ high plains.

Ingenuity to Fight Heart Disease in Bolivia

Aymara women have been knitting clothes and blankets for centuries, but with help from Franz Freudenthal, they are now knitting heart-closure devices to mend PDA. The Nit Occlud is a hi-tech medical advancement modeled after an occluder, an industrially-produced device intended to block holes in babies’ hearts. Unlike a normal occluder, the Nit Occlud’s design cannot be mass-produced due to its intricate design. Therefore, Freudenthal had to search for an alternative production plan. The perfect method, he soon found, was the wonderful weaving skills of the Aymara women.

The Nit Occlud is composed of a super-elastic metal known as nitinol, a nickel-titanium alloy capable of memorizing its own shape. After a doctor inserts the device through the body’s natural channels, it travels through blood vessels, expands to its original shape, plugs the heart’s hole and permanently restores basic cardiac functionality.

Typical treatments for PDA include surgical procedures, cardiac catheterizations, or heart transplants, but these are not available Bolivia and are not welcomed by the Aymara people. Even though the Aymara people have recently adopted Catholicism, they still believe in the power of the Andes Mountains spirits and their effects on human souls. Keeping in mind that manipulating a heart – performing open-heart surgery or a transplant – is considered desecration according to the spirits, Freudenthal created a minimally invasive innovation to respect patient beliefs and to “make sure that no child is left behind.”

Making Impact

Although congenital heart defects remain the fourth leading cause of premature deaths in Bolivia, the rate has dropped 36% since 2007. Freudenthal’s Nit Occlud has saved more than 2,500 children in nearly 60 countries after experiencing immense success in Bolivia. The country is also succeeding in its fight against poverty. The number of Bolivians living on less than $3.20 a day is projected to decrease by 35% in the next 10 years. Additionally, more children are being vaccinated and more prenatal care opportunities are becoming available to mothers. With these advancements in healthcare and poverty reduction, the economy will soon flourish and rates of heart disease in Bolivia are sure to drop .

Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Bolivia
Bolivia is a country located in South America. It borders Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Argentina, and has no access to the oceans surrounding South America. About half of the land in this country is occupied by the Andes Mountains and consists of dry land. Typically, people overlook Bolivia in comparison to more popular countries in South America like Chile, Peru and Brazil. Bolivia is most recognized for its breathtaking sand flats, however, homelessness in Bolivia is rampant. Few acknowledge that more than 35% of Bolivia’s population lives in poverty and over 6% deal with unemployment.

7 Facts About Homelessness in Bolivia

  1. Child homelessness in Bolivia is concerning. Every year, about 800,000 children in Bolivia are abandoned, neglected and left homeless. These kids turn to crime and child labor opportunities just to earn some money to keep them alive. Even as countries worldwide try to end child labor, it is still legal for children as young as 10 years old to work in Bolivia. An estimated 850,000 Bolivian children work selling food and clothes at outdoor markets, mining silver or harvesting sugar cane. These children are either living in extreme poverty, are homeless or both.
  2. Life expectancy links to homelessness in Bolivia. The life expectancy in Bolivia is about 70 years. This number is remarkably low. The average global life expectancy is about 72.6 years. That means that Bolivians are dying much earlier than the majority of the world. This may link closely to the poverty rate and the amount of homelessness in the country, as many of these people do not have access to clean water, sanitation and nutritious food. They are malnourished and do not have the resources to receive medical attention, which results in their shortened life.
  3. Bolivia’s landslide increased the already large population of homeless people in the country. On Apr. 30, 2019, a massive landslide hit Bolivia’s capital. This landslide destroyed 66 houses and over 85 families were left homeless. The government promised these families that they would provide them shelter, but many still reside in tents. So far, little has been done to help these people, which is extremely troubling given that Bolivia is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards like droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides and volcanoes.
  4. Homeless Bolivians turn to drugs. In most situations, when people live in extreme poverty or live without shelter, they turn to violence, and Bolivia is no exception. These people sleep on the street and steal money to buy food. They lead a lonely life so they look to alcohol and drugs to ease their pain. They get high on cheap drugs such as paco, a cocaine base and glue.
  5. Bolivian women living on the streets endure extreme violence. Bolivian women suffer from violence and assault in general, but being homeless and vulnerable makes it much easier for predators to attack. In 2018, 76 cases of femicide occurred from January to August, and 128 cases occurred in the whole year. This means that 128 innocent women were killed just because they were female. Latin American countries hold the highest rates of femicide in the world, and women on the streets are especially at risk.
  6. Homeless shelters and services attempt to help Bolivians living on the streets. About 58% of Bolivian families live in inadequate living conditions and do not have access to basic sanitation. The government plans to build 25,000 houses every year for the next ten years but so far, there has been no headway on this mission. Homeless shelters that are already in effect, however, offer a home to children and services that they cannot find on the street, such as sanitation and access to water.
  7. Bolivia’s government is making strides and attempts to reduce the number of people living in poverty and without shelter. The AIF, Arco Iris Foundation, is operating under the core goal of fighting poor and homeless children. The main way they try to help these children is by giving them leadership roles in the community. By being in these roles, the children receive social and financial assistance, training and support to lift them and their families out of poverty.

Despite being a beautiful country, homelessness in Bolivia is widespread and contributes to issues such as poor sanitation and water quality. More has to be done in this country and the region it is located in to help save people living in poverty and on the streets. Bolivia has a long way to go before everyone — males, females, children, homeless and people living in poverty — can be truly safe and lead a good life.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Microfinance in Bolivia
With microlending and financial services that empower business owners and promote development becoming more readily available, Bolivia is considered to be a microfinance success story. Microfinance allows vulnerable populations to access capital and financial services that would ordinarily be out of reach. Most commercial banks, unwilling to work with very low-income markets, alienate those living in extreme poverty. As a result, the World Bank reports that 73% of people living below the global poverty line are unbanked. However, in many developing countries, microlending systems allow entrepreneurs to take out small business loans in safer manner. Because the economy relies on a great deal of informal labor, access to microfinance in Bolivia has been crucial for its economic improvement. Today, almost 20 government-regulated microfinance providers service the country’s small business owners and entrepreneurs, serving 12.2% of the population and 16.4% of the labor force.

How do Microloans Work?

Since the 1980s, microloans have been used to empower borrowers in developing companies and give them the needed infrastructure to earn a sustainable income. They range from about $100 to $25,000, accrue interest like conventional loans and are capped at fair interest rates that do not put borrowers at risk of sinking deeper into debt, unlike the same services of many commercial lenders and private ‘loan sharks’. According to the World Bank, more than 500 million people currently benefit from microfinance initiatives.

Banco Sol and Microfinance in Bolivia

With the lowest GDP per capita and the second-lowest Human Development Index in South America, Bolivia faces clear economic challenges. However, pioneering infrastructure has allowed many economically disadvantaged Bolivians to borrow the capital necessary to advance their own businesses. In fact, Bolivia boasts one of the world’s lowest microfinance interest rates, at 13.5%.

Banco Sol is the largest microfinance company in Bolivia, and the world’s first commercial bank entirely dedicated to providing microfinance services; it also has one of the lowest delinquency rates in the world, marking the success of both the company and borrowers. Kurt Koenigsfest, Banco Sol’s CEO, markets the bank’s services as tools of social mobility and poverty management, saying “this is one way that has been proven to provide jobs and investment in the hands of those who, before its creation, had no access to financial services.”

Human Benefits

Bolivia is home to the world’s largest informal economy, with roughly two-thirds of Bolivians employed by the informal sector.  Many of these business owners sell goods like clothing, food and cosmetics in simple market stalls or shops. With an economy structured in this way, Bolivia has unsurprisingly benefited from financial infrastructure that services self-employed entrepreneurs who need capital to initiate growth in their business. The country’s physical remoteness and low population density, however, make it especially difficult for the rural poor to access both the national market and necessary financial resources. Banco Sol utilizes mobile branches, or trucks with banking facilities, to overcome this obstacle, so that even the most rural villages can gain access to banking.

A Path Forward

Exclusion from financial services can be a hurdle for those experiencing extreme poverty. Lenders like Banco Sol have given many small business owners the means to grow their capital while still maintaining ethical lending practices. Following the introduction of microfinance in Bolivia, the country has welcomed a new class of empowered, rising entrepreneurs that have secured higher positions in the nation’s marketplace.

Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in BoliviaBolivia has historically struggled with high levels of poverty and providing quality healthcare to those in need of it. However, in the past decade, healthcare in Bolivia has created promising developments that have facilitated lower levels of extreme poverty, child mortality and rampant diseases.

Bolivia’s Unified Health System

In 2019, Bolivia’s then-president Evo Morales implemented the Unified Health System. The free health care system promised to cover almost 6 million uninsured people, a significant percentage of Bolivia’s 11 million citizens. It provides access to services such as doctor visits and medication and covers the treatment of illnesses like Parkinson’s, child cancer, diabetes and more.

To aid citizens in receiving care, an instructional app was made to provide the necessary information. For example, it helped with locating healthcare centers and identifying what treatments would be covered under the Unified Health System.

The Unified Health System saw immediate success, with more than 35,000 patients receiving healthcare treatment in the first five days of its implementation. This program builds off the success of the 2013 “My Health” program that allowed citizens with the most need to have access to free healthcare.

Developments such as these have accounted for the threefold increase in the Bolivian healthcare budget since the mid-2000s. Fortunately, this increased dedication to public health has paid off. The changes have increased the overall health of the population and decreased child malnutrition rates by 50%.

Increasing Access to Healthcare

Even when citizens have a right to free healthcare, there are additional boundaries that may prevent them from getting the help they need. Bolivia’s rural areas tend to be much more burdened with poverty than urban areas. Additionally, there are usually fewer health clinics that are easily accessible in rural areas.

In response, the government built 2,710 clinics to increase access to healthcare in Bolivia. It was estimated that this provided 25% of the most vulnerable population with access to medical assistance. The government also placed increased effort on preventatively addressing medical issues, many of these focusing on women and children.

Similarly, the government introduced the Bono Madre Niño-Niña Juana Azurduy program to promote safe motherhood. It supplied cash transfers to mothers who frequently received health checkups during pregnancy and the first two years of their child’s life. This endeavor partnered with the Zero Malnutrition Multisectoral Program, which helped fight malnutrition in children under five. Programs such as these helped increase the survival rate of infants and decrease the risk of child malnutrition.

The Challenges of the Unified Health System

The Unified Health System did show promise for making long term improvements for healthcare in Bolivia. However, the government did not allocate enough money to make this goal sustainable and achievable. Doctors expressed the need for a budget of around $1 billion (USD), much greater than the $200 million they received. Because of the lack of funds, there are not enough supplies or facilities available to provide the healthcare that so many Bolivians need.

Continuing to Improve Healthcare in Bolivia

To combat some of the shortcomings, various organizations help to support Bolivian healthcare systems. Here are some examples.

  • Because the need is greatest in rural areas, NGOs such as Global Links have stepped in to provide materials and support to these areas. They have also provided a significant amount of equipment for people with disabilities. These efforts have reached an estimated 200,000 people in areas that were previously underserved.

  • Mano a Mano, a nonprofit focusing on serving Bolivia, ships excess medical supplies from Minnesota to Bolivia. This supports existing healthcare clinics by providing free supplies to serve patients.

  • Another solution is found in new mobile healthcare centers. By relocating these centers to reach patients in need, this solution combats limited funding and medical equipment. The mobile centers have been built to contain fully functional MRIs, and their portability has allowed an increase of more than 50% in patients served.

Healthcare in Bolivia has made impressive strides to improve citizens’ quality of life. Experts have praised the idea of the Unified Health System, calling it a “model for Latin America.” To continue the good work that this program can provide, more money needs to be dedicated to supporting it. In doing so, more clinics can be built, more doctors can be hired and more equipment can be purchased.

– Hannah Allbery
Photo: Flickr

Roads in Latin America
In 2010, the United Nations declared the Decade of Action for Road Safety, calling upon governments to take the actions necessary to reduce the 1.3 million annual traffic deaths that plague modern society. For Latin America in particular, where 60 percent of roads remain unpaved and the rate of deaths from traffic fatalities stands at twice that of high-income regions, this was and is an incredibly pressing issue. That is why, as the Decade of Action for Road Safety comes to a close in 2020, it is important to reflect on what governments have done to build safer roads in Latin America, and how they can continue to carry the torch in securing the future of the region’s most vulnerable.

Taking Action on the Ground Level

Efforts to improve road safety have traditionally fallen into one of a few categories. Awareness campaigns, such as Salvador, Brazil’s Life Not Traffic program, invest heavily in training drivers on proper road etiquette, as well as lobbying for stricter drunk-driving laws. For Salvador and other Latin American cities, in particular, educating the youth through programs like “child drivers of the future” is also a major priority, as traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for Latin Americans ages 15-29.  So far, the results of these efforts are striking. In just eight years since its initial launch, Life Not Traffic has contributed to a 50 percent drop in traffic fatalities in Salvador.

Structural solutions, on the other hand, focus on pinpointing areas of improvement in regard to material conditions on the road, as well as looking at safer and more efficient ways to control the flow of traffic. The construction of roundabouts to replace traditional four-way intersections, for instance, has led to a 50-70 percent drop in traffic fatalities and a 30-50 percent drop in traffic injuries. Meanwhile, increased investment into speed and red-light cameras is also yielding promising results.

Structural solutions can also bring economic benefits, such as in the case of Tocantins, Brazil, where times of rain have historically inhibited the region’s road network, depriving Tocantins’ residents of access to Brazil’s urban population centers. To combat this issue, the World Bank has funded the construction of more than 700 concrete bridges in cooperation with local authorities, which has both increased employment and the average wage of the region’s agricultural workers. Safer, more reliable roads have also meant a rise in the percentage of children attending school in Tocantins, which has had the added effect of opening up more work opportunities for Tocantins’ female population.

Obstacles to Improvement

The World Bank’s work in Tocantins is a particularly salient example in this case, as it highlights the traditional obstacles to improving Latin America’s road infrastructure, as well as the steps necessary to overcome them. For one, there is the problem of geography. Where conditions in European and North American nations are, for the most part, agreeable to road building, tall mountains, thick jungles, expansive deserts and urban centers hamper Latin America. These, in combination with the region’s low population density, have made road-construction very costly.

However, while geographic conditions certainly make the task of building better roads more difficult, the real crux of the issue lies in the lack of funding that Latin American governments are able to devote to infrastructure. Estimates from the Inter-American Developmental Bank indicate that the region faces an annual infrastructure-spending shortfall of around $100-150 billion, due to regional governments’ issues with fiscal deficits and mounting public debts. As a consequence, programs aimed at both improving and expanding the region’s road networks frequently go underfunded, leading to the need for foreign aid and investment.

Foreign Aid Successes

Indeed, recent years in Latin American have seen an increasing number of successes in road improvements due to foreign aid, though economists estimate that still more aid is necessary before Latin America will be able to bring its infrastructure on par with the rest of the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, for instance, has provided $26.8 billion in infrastructure-related loans to Latin America since 2005, including financing a major highway in Bolivia that should bring significant economic benefits to the region after its completion in 2021. The United States, for its part, has also recently launched a new initiative to encourage more private U.S. financial investment into Latin America’s roads and other infrastructure.

In addition to building new roads, many new organizations have also taken root in the region with an eye on other means of improving road safety. The Latin NCAP is one such organization, launched under the umbrella of the U.N.’s Decade of Action for Road Safety, which has published over 100 safety assessments for new vehicles since 2010, helping to keep Latin America’s drivers safe before they even step in the car.

While much work remains when it comes to building safer roads in Latin America, it is undeniable that foreign aid has led to major improvements for the region’s inhabitants.

– James Roark
Photo: Pxfuel

Bolivia's Poverty Reduction
Bolivia is a South American country that continues to reduce its high poverty rate. Poverty lowered substantially from 66 percent in 2000 to 35 percent in 2018. The government of Bolivia took direct action to develop its economy, reduce its poverty and income inequality and increase foreign investment. The Latin American country still has a high poverty rate, yet its progress in the past 20 years shows promise that Bolivia’s poverty reduction and economic development will continue.

Government’s Direct Involvement in Poverty Reduction

The Bolivian government approved the National Economic and Social Development Plan 2016-2020 to bring about change in its country. Former President Evo Morales fought for income equality and higher wages as Bolivia’s president, and the country is still fighting for his goals. The country intends to help its people live a prosperous life without worrying about the effects of poverty, such as hunger and an inability to afford health care. The main objectives of the plan include eliminating extreme poverty, granting basic services to the entire population and diversifying its economy. The plan set forth a continuation of Bolivia’s poverty reduction progress since 2000 while also lowering income inequality.

Poverty almost reduced by half from 2000 to 2018, which economic growth partly drove after Bolivia transitioned into a democratic society during the 1990s. Income inequality lowered as the Gini coefficient demonstrated. If the Gini coefficient is zero, then income inequality is zero. This income inequality indicator showed a reduction from .62 in 2000 to .49 in 2014. For reference, the U.S. Gini coefficient in 2017 was .39. The 2016-2020 plan sought to continue its efforts in reducing income inequality. Although the Gini coefficient lowered, income inequality still remains an issue in Bolivia.

Poverty Reduction Through Economic Growth

Economic growth is another factor that helped with Bolivia’s poverty reduction efforts. Bolivia’s GDP growth hovered around 4 percent since the early 2000s. From 2000 to 2012, Bolivia increased its exports that consisted mainly of minerals and hydrocarbons. Although hydrocarbons grew controversial in Bolivia, hydrocarbons and minerals accounted for 81 percent of all exports in 2014. In 2000, its exports accounted for only 18 percent of GDP, yet exports grew to 47 percent in 2012. Bolivia’s decision to focus on exports helped grow its economy, add jobs and reduce income inequality. In time, Bolivia may transition to cleaner sources of energy for its future.

Economic growth led to wage increases for many Bolivians, which expressed the idea of poverty reduction through economic growth. Bolivia’s GDP grew by a massive 80 percent from 2000 to 2014, and there were various positive side effects of this growth. Salaries increased after the government took direct involvement in income inequality. The real minimum wage increased by 122 percent in the years 2000-2015. The average labor income also increased by 36 percent during 2000-2013.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to the conclusion that labor income was the number one factor that led to reductions in poverty and income inequality from 2007 to 2013. Nonlabor income such as remittances, rents and transfers contributed a small amount to these reductions. Nonlabor income was an important aid for the elderly though.

Bolivia’s Progress in Income Inequality and Economic Development

Bolivia is an excellent model for what is possible through a government’s direct involvement in poverty reduction. Economic growth helped fuel Bolivia’s objectives in reducing poverty and bringing income equality to its people. Although poverty remains high, Bolivia’s progress in the past 20 years shows promise that poverty will continue to lower. Income inequality remains an issue, and as shown from the IMF’s research, wage increases are key to Bolivia’s poverty reduction.

Lucas Schmidt
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