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
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

Morales Transformed Bolivia The year 2006 marked the beginning of a new era for Bolivia. For decades before, Bolivia had been run by presidents that continuously marginalized the indigenous population and favored wealthy foreign corporations, making Bolivia one of the poorest countries in South America. By 2002, the percentage of Bolivians that were living in extreme poverty spiked to 38% and remained stagnant until 2006. When Evo Morales became president, through programs and initiatives, Morales transformed Bolivia in several ways.

The Reign of Evo Morales in Bolivia

Evo Morales’ election sparked what his government referred to as the “Process of Change”, a presidency that would bring the spotlight to the marginalized workers and away from Bolivia’s elites that have ruled the country for years. The campaign specifically focused on restoring the rights of the indigenous population. And after just one year of the election, Bolivia began to see huge improvements. Since 2006, the Bolivian economy has grown, on average, 5% yearly compared to the 2.8% before. Most notable, Morales was able to cut the extreme poverty rate in half, bringing it down to 17%. He also obliterated the illiteracy rate to zero. So, how was Morales able to push real progress?

Bolivia’s Natural Resources

Morales set a path that focused on putting government investments in social spending. He began this project by regaining national sovereignty over Bolivia’s natural resources: Lithium. For years prior, foreign corporations had been profiting from Bolivia’s natural resources, raking in 85% of the profits generated by its natural gas production. After being sworn into office, Morales was able to regain nearly 80-90% of its shares. Now, the state is in full control of the sales and distribution of its raw resources. Since 2006, Bolivia has amassed $31.5 billion, which Morales allocated toward schools, hospitals and infrastructure, building about 4,500 educational facilities.

Anti-Poverty Initiatives in Bolivia

When it came to combating poverty, Morales had made many positive changes to improve Bolivia’s crisis during his 14 years in office and worked to raise the standard of living for the most desperate people in the country. Under Morales’ rule, the monthly minimum wage rose from 440 Bolivars to nearly 2,000, and unemployment rates dropped to under 4% from their original height of 8.5% back in 2005. There was also a sharp decline in those living in extreme poverty, shifting from 38% to just 16.8%. Overall, poverty dropped to 38.6% from the original 60.6% in 2005. Further, Morales worked to build nearly 127,000 new homes for financially insecure Bolivians without housing.

Focusing on Children and Education

Morales transformed Bolivia further by putting forth specific programs that would benefit and prevent poverty in vulnerable groups: children, mothers and the elderly. To combat low school attendance and restrict child labor, Morales put forth the Juancito Pinto program, which aimed at reaching nearly two million children. This program awards children $28 for every year of schooling they complete, encouraging them to remain engaged in their education. Before Morales taking office, the country had an illiteracy rate of 13%. However, through the use of the Juancito Pinto and the YES I CAN program, 850 thousand children became educated and Bolivia became illiteracy free in 2008.

Addressing Maternal and Infant Health

For Bolivian mothers, Morales put forth the Juana Azurduy program to end maternal and infant mortality and to reduce food shortages for children. Under the program, Bolivian mothers would receive up to $266 to go toward food, care and shelter while they raise their families, an effort that UNICEF has praised. When the program began in 2009, child malnourishment was at nearly 27% and has declined to just 16%. Child mortality has also decreased by nearly half. This program also helped to encourage women to visit medical facilities while they are pregnant and for a period after they give birth by offering cash grants to those who follow the program.

Focusing on the Elderly and Disabled

For senior citizens, Morales introduced the Renta De La Dignidad program, which focused on Bolivian citizens over the age of 60 who were not previously receiving any social assistance. This bill also gave $36 a month to disabled Bolivians as well as pregnant women and assisted them in finding jobs in the government and private sectors. The goal of this bill was ultimately to grow the income of those who were less capable of finding work and it has resulted in many Bolivian citizens who were victims of poverty increasing their yearly income to nearly $342.

The Future of Bolivia

It is evident that Morales transformed Bolivia in several positive ways. While Morales’ successful 14 years have come to end, Bolivia has rebirthed Morales’ principles with the recent election of Luis Arce.  Similar to Morales, Arce promises to bring justice to groups that continue to be marginalized.

Maya Falach
Photo: Flickr

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