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
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in Bolivia
Since the early 1970s, education from ages 6 to 13 has been mandatory in Bolivia. However, nationwide education rates after primary school have decreased drastically, with less than a quarter of young adults attending. The infrastructure of Bolivia’s education system, particularly in rural areas, is very underdeveloped, making girls’ access to education bleaker. However, the country is making strides to improve the quality of its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Bolivia and the implemented laws and programs in place to enhance it.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Bolivia

  1. Urban vs Rural: A big part in determining the quality and endurance of each child’s education depends a lot on their socioeconomic status, region and gender. According to a UNICEF report, a girl living in the Amazon may only receive two years of schooling, while the son of an affluent family in the city could receive up to a 14-year education. Even within the city, there is gender disparity among ethnicity. For example, a city girl of indigenous background is only half as likely to complete her education as an urban boy of non-indigenous background.
  2. Indigenous People: Ethnicity has played a role in the suffering Bolivian education system, particularly in terms of income and class. While there have been slow improvements, the gender and ethnicity gap still remains. Indigenous women are five times less likely to complete secondary school education in comparison to non-indigenous males, mostly due to a limitation of proper resources to succeed in school and a lack of easy access to schools. UNICEF Bolivia initiated a four-year-long program from 2018 that works to improve “gender trends across different socio-economic structures.”
  3. Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez: Bolivia passed the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez law in 2010 with the goal of making education a plurinational system in Bolivia. Alternative and special education are on the rise as a result of the passing of this law. Alternative education offers schooling for those 15 years or older, also known as continuing education outside of the classroom and through a department in the Ministry of Education. Special education focuses on helping people with disabilities learn. A translation of Article 10 reads that the law will “complement and articulate humanistic education with…gender equity.”
  4. Sanitation and Hygiene: Research shows that most rural schools do not have the resources for sanitation products for juvenile girls which affects girls’ education in Bolivia. These young women do not receive the help and equipment they need to transition into this new stage of life. In fact, the report concluded that this lack of support stems from the stigma and misconceptions about menstruation. The government has reported that many girls feel embarrassed or confused due to a lack of skills to manage menstruation and their companions often tease them. This leads to distraction from schoolwork, which can cause them to fail their classes.
  5. Gender-based Approach: UNICEF is stepping in to help bridge the disparity among gender and ethnicity in the education system. In a report, it says it has taken a gender-based approach in order to reach the most impoverished areas of the country and provide girls there with a better education. It plans to do this through a three-part system of “multilingual education, right-age enrollment, and child-centered pedagogy.” With an emphasis on educating and providing girls with resources from adolescent ages, UNICEF hopes to address many roadblocks for children in Bolivia.
  6. Discrimination: Among the small population of girls who pursue secondary and tertiary levels of education, they find themselves facing other hurdles, such as discrimination. According to a report by the World Bank, 20 percent of these women, particularly those who are indigenous or Afro-descendants, face discrimination when they pursue higher education. Much of the discrimination they face is based on their skin color, language, economic circumstances, gender, clothing and age. Programs like UNICEF develop new strategies to help tackle the marginalized indigenous groups of Bolivia and ensure they receive equal educational opportunities throughout their whole life.
  7. Secondary School Statistics: As of 2018, statistics show that the gender gap among secondary school students increases as social class lowers. In high-income families, the gender gap is almost nonexistent with both genders at about 95 percent completion rate. In middle-class families, there is only a marginal difference of about 3 to 4 percent. However, low-income families have the biggest gap, with almost a 10 percent difference.
  8. Future Employment: In 2009, the authoritarian form of government in Bolivia fell and democracy took its place. Bolivia has provided more educational, political and economic opportunities for women to involve themselves in their country due to these changes in the political structure. The workforce has seen a 7 percent increase from women, female representation has increased by 37 percent since 2002 and 46 percent of women feel free to participate in their political system, in comparison to the male statistic of 50 percent.
  9. The Programme: The mass migration of families to urban areas has left a large amount of poverty and single mothers in its wake. In an effort to increase the employment rate of these rural women, an initiative called The Programme helps these impoverished families by teaching them about property ownership and sustainable practices. The Programme does not provide them with traditional education but instead takes on a two-part plan to teach women tools to be able to provide for their families. The first part of this plan is transferring a monetary portion for “seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital.” The second part involves training and services that teach women about civic education and “full use of citizenship.” The Programme has successfully helped over 4,000 women find employment.
  10. Child Labor: Reports have found some of the worst forms of child labor in Bolivia, such as agriculture and sexual exploitation. A practice known as padrinazgo sends rural children to urban areas for better educational opportunities but leads to forced child labor. People have launched many programs over the past decade to end child labor, such as the Safe Terminal Program, which increases awareness and provides training to transportation officials about forced labor. However, despite the quantity of implemented programs, inclusivity of all regions and funding remain two issues that keep them from effectively reducing child labor.

There are definitely ways to go in improving the quality of education for the marginalized population of Bolivia, particularly for its young girls. However, with Bolivia taking on different initiatives and its government prioritizing poverty reduction, there is a promise that Bolivia’s education system will develop a strong infrastructure and be inclusive of all ethnicities and genders.

– Shreya Chari
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Sanitation in Bolivia
A small landlocked country bordering Brazil in South America, The Plurinational State of Bolivia has a population of approximately 11 million people. In the past 10 years, despite the drought in 2017 that left even the country’s elite without water, both the government and international organizations have made great strides towards improving sanitation in the country. Here are eight facts about sanitation in Bolivia.

8 Facts About Sanitation in Bolivia

  1. In the 2009 constitution, the Bolivian government determined that access to water and sanitation in the country is a fundamental human right. This law provides legal and governmental acknowledgment and support for people lacking proper sanitary services. After the implementation of this law, the government tried different solutions to see which would produce the most comprehensive results. There was a “big-system” water allocation using large piping systems in urban areas. In the meantime, rural areas used “small-systems” focused on community-run structures. This was all in a governmental effort to show devotion for better sanitation in Bolivia.
  2. International organizations such as Water for People provide Bolivians with water and sanitation services. Water for People has been implementing sanitation in Bolivia since 1997. The organization promotes the construction of handwashing stations at schools and provides small loans to purchase materials such as toilets. In addition, it provides sinks for better sanitation practices in households. This organization alone has given 78 percent of households access to clean water in Bolivia.
  3. The elimination of public defecation is a huge goal of the United Nations. Public defecation causes disease and water pollution. According to the U.N. Progress report, there has been an approximate 20 percent decrease in public defecation since 2000 in Bolivia. However, in rural areas, the public defecation rate still remains at around 38 percent as of 2017. To address these issues, organizations are building private toilets to keep drinking water and sewage water separate.
  4. Clean water is essential to proper hygiene and sanitation. In 2017, Bolivia achieved almost 100 percent of basic clean water in urban areas. Additionally, the rural regions have 78 percent of drinking water available. The ability to wash hands, take showers, drink safely, brush teeth and clean vegetables are all possibilities with access to clean water.
  5. Schools and households have strengthened sanitation in Bolivia with the creation of community handwashing stations. However, the state has stations readily available for only approximately 25 percent of its people. In efforts to raise these numbers, the government is working with international organizations such as UNICEF. Together, they want to raise awareness of the necessity of these facilities and the need for implementation. In 2010, UNICEF and the Ministry of Environment and Water began a Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program in two regions. They also did this in 10 schools aiming to teach children about hygiene and sanitation in Bolivia. Doing so raises awareness on issues like the harmful effects of open defecation and the importance of clean water sources. The findings showed that schools did not always provide maintenance and extras like locks.
  6. Along with the construction of sanitation sites, there needs to be a plan for long-term management and maintenance of the facilities. According to the World Health Organization, there is a lack of information from the health sector and rural areas still have a shortfall in resource availability. Due to these factors, it is difficult to see a clear picture of progress. In the future, it will be important for Bolivian officials to release all information available so the country can reach further solutions.
  7. There are many innovative sanitation methods in the country. Educating the public about sanitary habits and improving governmental guidelines are vital methods. Another innovative method is starting community-run projects to build and maintain sanitation services. Also, encouraging gender equality to avoid gender-based violence regarding sanitation and water will also help the country. Efforts by UNICEF and other organizations, after using these approaches, have improved sanitation in Bolivia to 32 percent in rural areas and 82 percent in urban areas
  8. Menstrual health is a key component missing from sanitation in Bolivia. A study that UNICEF conducted in 2012 found that girls stay home from school because of menstruation. This is because others might tease them because of odor, stains, lack of proper materials or cramps that accompany girls during puberty. There is a theme of shame and embarrassment that arises because of the lack of menstrual education, and such a natural process often confuses and scares girls. In the 10 schools that the study observed, all 10 began offering menstrual education. In contrast, none had sanitary napkins available. Due to the average of 1.2 toilets and 0.5 handwashing stations per school, it is very rare that sanitary napkins are available to girls in rural areas considering the lack of resources. Because of this, UNICEF continues to spread awareness and funds to bring menstrual education and sanitary napkins to schools.

Despite the progress to provide citizens with basic necessities, there is still substantial inequalities between rural and urban communities regarding management and access to sanitation in Bolivia. The trend in multiple charts and studies has been that urban areas receive higher amounts of resource allocation than rural counterparts. To address these inconsistencies, international organizations like Water for People and UNICEF have focused on rural populations to curb the inequalities in sanitation.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: UNICEF

Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization in Bolivia

Although 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 Water

On 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