tapestry weavingIn Chile, from 1973 to 1990, systemic human rights violations swept the nation under General Augusto Pinochet, including acts of physical and sexual abuse as well as psychological damage. Consequently, many progressive young students and men “disappeared” at the hands of the regime because of their ideology. While a grim history, hope can be found in the subsequent actions of women. The Arpilleristas were able to overcome such hardships through tapestry weaving.

Chilean Women Unite

Mothers united and responded to the oppression and torture that was inflicted upon their loved ones with methods of protests that defied masculine logic, such as publicly banging pots and pans, singing and dancing to songs with political messages and weaving tapestries. These actions challenged the societal norms in Chile, which were embedded with machismo ideology and male superiority.

Tapestry Weaving as a Form of Resistance

The weaving of tapestries was an especially impactful form of resistance that was founded in 1975. Once unified, the Arpilleristas began to construct patchwork tapestries, or arpilleras, that depicted scenes of hardship and violence that people experienced under Pinochet.

The hand-made arpilleras portrayed shantytown community kitchens, which were often families’ only means of feeding themselves, women’s laundry and bread-baking subsistence-level cooperatives, arrests and soldiers beating protesters. It was through the crafting of the arpilleras that women were granted a voice to tell their individual and collective stories.

Economic Empowerment

However, the crafting of the arpilleras was more than just an act of protest and storytelling, it was also a way to generate income. The women weaving arpilleras was a form of advocacy and also a livelihood. The Arpilleristas transformed conventional visions of secluded motherhood and domesticity, all the while eliminating submissive and passive associations regarding women.

With the return of democracy in the 1990s, the oppression f the Pinochet dictatorship has since been eradicated. All individuals are able to enjoy democracy. The women, “do so now, however, with a different consciousness. Women have not forgotten the empowerment they gained when they learned they could change things by taking to the streets and protesting the dictatorship.

It is this confidence that continues to inspire women as they face problems in Chile, however, they do so in a different manner now.

A Return to Democracy

It was only through the opression of the dictatorship and conservative gender ideology promoted by the dictatorship, Chilean women mobilized as feminists to demand a return to democracy. Though they were not self-identified feminists, the collective act of women uniting in order to defeat oppression has altered and expanded women’s rights in Chile today and recharacterized the very definition of motherhood.

The Arpilleristas’ tapestry weaving has served as an inspiring example of fighting against injustice while empowering women through economic development. By employing an accepted tradition of weaving, the women were able to capitalize and in many cases negate extreme poverty and additional hardships.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Chile
Chile is one of the most economically advanced and prosperous countries in Latin America. However, large wage gaps and wealth distribution continue to be at the forefront of the nation’s problems. As a result, high rates of poverty prevail; approximately 14.4% of the population live below the poverty line with a high prevalence of child poverty in Chile as well.

Children, one of the country’s most vulnerable populations, are especially susceptible to the consequences that poverty causes. Those who come from poorer families are more likely to face spillover effects with regard to their education, as well as their overall health and well-being. Additionally, indigenous and migrant children face an added level of discrimination. Because of these issues, child poverty in Chile is a growing concern.


Although school is mandatory for all children between the ages of 7 and 16, in rural areas, many children receive only limited schooling. There are an estimated 75,000 children who do not attend school. Oftentimes, children may abandon school in order to work and provide for their families.

The inequality with regard to access to education is even more evident in the higher education system, where enrollment costs are among the highest in the world. According to a survey released in 2017, 58% of Chileans believe that a lack of education leads to a lack of opportunities, further exacerbating overall poverty in Chile.

The good news is that UNICEF worked with the government in order to reduce child poverty in Chile by establishing laws and programs that provide additional protection for children’s right to education, like the development of the Inclusive Education Act and the New Public Education Act. UNICEF has also supported the Ministry of Education in developing strategies to train teachers, which emerged through a partnership with UNICEF and Fútbol Más, an organization that works to ensure the well-being of Chilean children.


Correlated to the lack of access to education, 6.6% of children between the ages of 5-17 are participants in child labor. Additionally, there are gender discrepancies within child labor; 9.5% of boys and 3.9% of girls engage in the workforce. Child labor is often a result of high unemployment rates; families expect and depend on their children to accrue revenue. The most common industries of work are commerce, hotel, restaurants, social services, agriculture and construction.

Moreover, the conditions of the workplace can have a negative impact on children’s overall health; approximately 70.6% of working children work at jobs that are dangerous. Those who work in agriculture are especially susceptible to perform unsafe tasks. The lack of public data available, including how much money goes toward inspection and the number of labor inspectors, further worsens how the country manages child labor.

Still, progress has occurred. In 2017, Chile developed a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, updating its list of hazardous occupations prohibited for children, as well as its inspector laws. The government also revised the Anti-Trafficking National Action Plan in 2019 and continues to support programs that address child labor, though commercial sexual exploitation and child labor are ongoing issues.


Not only does violence occur within the workplace, but also within the confines of the home. Children who become victims of physical, sexual and psychological domestic violence will frequently turn to the streets in order to escape their alarming home environments. Many end up in cities, surviving day to day and not knowing what their next source of water or food will be. These “street children” lack proper education, as well as many other resources necessary for a developing child.

About 547 adolescents and children lived on the streets during 2018. Fundación Don Bosco is an organization that gives opportunities to both children and adults who live in the street. The organization offers food, housing, psychological and psychiatric assistance to children and their parents, with the hope of rebuilding familial ties and reintegration. As previously mentioned, family abuse, and thus division, is the main reason why children take to the streets. Because of this, Fundación Don Bosco followed and offered professional support to 191 street children and their families.

Native and Migrant Children

In addition to street children, native and migrant children are two more marginalized groups that are especially susceptible to child poverty in Chile. About 5% of Chile’s population comprises of indigenous people, primarily the Aymara and the Mapuche. These children do not have the same access to education and healthy lifestyles as other children, due to their family’s lower economic status. As a result, they are likely to engage in labor work, from the fields to the factories, in order to help support their families. All the while, they can experience discrimination or people may view them as inferior due to their indigenous status.

Migrant children also face discrimination, especially with regard to their education. As a result, in 2017, the Ministry of Education evaluated migrant children in the education system in order to better assess and understand their role within the system, as well as to help identify barriers related to overall school inclusion. This led to the creation of the program, Chile Recognizes, which assists in regularizing the identity situation and status of migrant children.

Despite the evident fact that there is child poverty in Chile, economic and social progress has occurred. In 2019, the National Prosecutor’s Office signed an agreement to help improve coordination in providing services to children in need, as well as ensure that both Chile’s standards and reality with regard to children’s rights and development align with those of international expectations and treaties.

Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr


Women's Rights in Chile
Although Chile has one of the most prosperous economies in Latin America, it has been criticized for being slow to pass legislation that protects women’s rights. However, while there are still barriers to gender equality, great progress has been made. Here are six facts about women’s rights in Chile.

6 Facts About Women’s Rights in Chile

  1. Women’s rights in Chile have greatly improved over the last few decades. Women’s rights faced a slow start, with women finally gaining the right to vote in all elections in 1949. However, attempts at further progress between 1973 to 1988 were blocked by Chile’s authoritarian military regime. Chile became a democracy again in 1990, and since then, has been able to focus on improving women’s rights.
  2. Divorce, which was nonexistent in Chile, finally became legal in 2004. This event is seen as a win for women’s rights, as Chile has high rates of domestic violence. With divorce finally an option, women have a much better chance of escaping toxic and abusive relationships. Additionally, over the past two decades, the government has passed legislation that benefits single, working mothers. Women in need now have access to subsidized child care and maternity leave, furthering their ability to leave unhealthy relationships.
  3. The number of women in the Chilean Government has increased. Michelle Bachelet became president in 2006, making her the first female president of Chile. Since then, the government created quotas to increase women’s presence in government. Now, 40% of Parliament candidates are required to be female. To support this initiative, a non-profit called La Morada is actively working with women and encouraging political participation. Because of these changes, there has been a sharp increase in women holding government positions.
  4. The Chilean government is continuing to address women’s rights. In 1991, the government created the National Women’s Service (SERNAM) to advance women’s rights in Chile. It assists in creating woman-centered legislation that advocates for greater rights and representation for women. SERNAM has received increased funding in recent years, which has allowed it to continue and widen its work. Furthermore, Chile’s national action plan focuses on combatting domestic and sexual abuse. The government is creating programs to educate and train communities to best handle these sensitive situations, as well as opening centers that serve as safe havens for survivors of abuse.
  5. Women are being empowered to rise out of poverty and pursue education and careers. Women, especially women living in poverty, have historically had lower employment rates in Chile. The government has been striving to provide jobs for 300,000 women to bridge these gaps and encourage female employment. To ensure mothers can return to work, the government has increased access to daycare facilitates. This allows women to raise children while also providing for their families financially.
  6. Women have been active leaders of protests. Chile has recently experienced a period of severe political and social unrest. During this time, there have been frequent protests against the unfair actions of the government. Women activists in Chile have fought against the patriarchal values that have been historically enforced in their country. They repeatedly use the phrase “Nunca más sin nosotras” at many protests, which translates to “Never again without us women.” By participating in and leading these events, women are asserting that they will continue to fight for increased women’s rights in Chile.

These six facts about women’s rights in Chile highlight the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done. Gender equality can only be achieved if this issue remains a priority. With continued efforts by both the government and activists, there is hope for women’s rights to continue to improve in Chile.

Hannah Allbery
Photo: Flickr

Homeless in Chile
Chile is one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America, yet as of 2018, half the country’s median monthly income was less than $600. Comparing the salaries of the top 20% to the poorest, 20% of top earners make 14 times the amount of the severely impoverished. The pandemic has created new obstacles for the homeless in Chile to obtain any type of nutrition. In the middle of a crisis, however, a citizen dressed up as Batman armed with a face mask and bags of food for the homeless.

Inequality In Wealth

Although the income gap is common in most countries, Chile’s gap is 65% higher than the average of all OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. Unlike many homeless populations, 77% of homeless Chileans have jobs but cannot find affordable housing. A standard one-bedroom apartment costs around $660 a month in Santiago meaning that the average salary of $400-$550 USD a month is not enough to afford housing let alone the bills, utilities and food. During the winters, many of the homeless in Chile use the money they saved up by living on the streets in the summer to afford housing to avoid the harsh winter weather.

Food Shortages and Obesity

The majority of the country lives off a scarce monthly salary leaving the bare minimum amount to purchase food for an individual let alone for families of three or more. Within the last 50 years, nutritional change has spread through the country. Twice as many Chileans from low-income families suffer obesity in comparison to those with access to higher education and salary.

As of 2016, obesity is the number one cause of death in Chile and nearly half of children aged 2 to 4 are obese. This is a direct result of the country’s increased consumption of food containing processed sugars, fats and salt.

When COVID-19 spread to Chile, the country went on strict lockdown like the rest of the world. High food prices have been a long-standing issue but the strain on food-supply chains has prompted price increases. Environmental factors and an extreme drought already put Chile’s food supply in crisis mode before the pandemic. Now, Chile’s poorest are struggling to eat for days at a time.

COVID Adds To The Issue

Similar to the rest of the world, COVID-19 has shut down many businesses, factories and other non-essential work. Factories are a massive part of the Chilean job market but demand for products decreased exponentially when COVID-19 hit the Americas in March 2020. Around 80% of companies providing service and industrial companies reported drops in sales. Factories have either closed or laid off employees due to the pandemic. Nearly half of the offices in Chile have had to close resulting in job loss. The homeless in Chile who previously had employment now cannot afford food or save money to rent shelter for the winter months.

Chile’s Food Monopoly

In early May 2020, protestors took to the streets amid growing food shortages and extreme class inequality. Sebastian Pinera, Chile’s president, responded by promising the delivery of over two million food baskets to the country’s poorest. The backlash from protestors pointed to the fact that this would only further serve large chain grocery stores and severely impact the small local shops already struggling.

Fruit exports already power Chile’s food market. These frequently take up farming power where grains and legumes suffer creating a reliance on the import of those highly useful products. Only 5% of local farmers have permission to sell their produce in supermarkets. The few rich individuals that monopolize selling mass amounts of food to supply chains dominate the rest of the market. This keeps class division extreme and makes it impossible for local farmers to lower prices without risking going under completely.

Batman Makes A Difference

The majority of homeless in Chile live in the capital city of Santiago, sleeping on bus stop benches, sidewalks or on the ground in the park. Among them, a caring citizen dresses in DC’s Batman costume donning a medical mask and handing out bags of food to those in need. The anonymous man provides the homeless of Chile hot food regularly, delivering a few dozen meals each day around the capital. The costume choice was to both keep his anonymity and bring happiness while doing his rounds.

Along with food, Chile’s pandemic Batman tries to be a source of positivity and basic human interaction that can help uplift the spirits of people suffering in the streets. Human kindness is a necessity for those who are suffering from a lack of food and housing. The anonymous Batman of Santiago, Chile is doing what he can for his fellow Chileans.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr

hunger in Chile
Chile is a country located in the far southeast of South America. With a population of over 18 million people, Chile is the sixth most populous nation on the continent and the ninth most populous in the Western Hemisphere. The country is largely developed with a high-income classification from the World Bank, but staggering levels of poverty and hunger in Chile remain. This is mainly due to government corruption, income inequality, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Chile’s Hunger Problem

The issue of hunger in Chile is partly a result of the national government’s decades-long neoliberal policies, which have created a high level of income inequality in the country. The Covid-19 pandemic has also contributed to this issue by causing widespread economic devastation.

The large number of Chilean citizens employed in informal work reveals a major connection between income inequality and hunger in Chile. The accumulation of wealth and resources, especially in terms of education and healthcare, in the hands of a very privileged elite has catalyzed the growth of poverty in Chile. A lack of financial and structural development in the country’s rural and peripheral areas has forced large numbers of Chileans, many of whom are unskilled and without formal education, to work outside of nationally recognized businesses. The unregulated nature of this under-the-table work has worsened the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the University of Chile, the salaries of workers have fallen by 60% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Before the recent economic and health crises, the national economy of Chile was greatly improving. Levels of poverty within the country had greatly diminished, from almost 40% to 9% since 1990, the last year of the military dictatorship. Nevertheless, the swift devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic has raised the poverty level in the country to almost 15% since last year.

Covid-19 and Hunger

This decline in income and increased levels of poverty have been matched by increasing food scarcity and hunger in Chile. Many local markets in Chile’s more impoverished and isolated areas have been forced to close due to both government-mandated social distancing restrictions and high levels of debt among the country’s lower class. The dire need to bring home food to their families has forced many Chileans to continue to work despite pandemic conditions, disproportionately increasing their exposure to the virus.

Beyond the rising cost of food and living in Chile, the recent social restrictions and rising unemployment due to the virus have left hundreds of thousands of Chileans in danger of hunger. Families’ lack of income as well as their increased difficulty providing food point to the development of a hunger crisis in the country. The economic impact of the coronavirus has had a particularly great effect on lower-class citizens living near the capital who work in informal and unregistered jobs. Many critics of the Chilean government’s response to the pandemic and economic crisis point out that its proposed stimulus package, which includes millions of food baskets to be distributed to the hardest-hit areas, would be largely insufficient to tackle the ever-increasing problem of hunger.

Anti-Poverty Protests

In 2019, widespread protests erupted in Chile for a variety of reasons, mainly related to the increased cost of living and rising income inequality in the country. These protests marked the first time since the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s that the Chilean Army had entered into Santiago to maintain order. Although protests initially broke out in response to a hike in the metro fare in Chile’s capital city, most people agree that Chile’s past macroeconomic policies have laid the groundwork for the current economic situation.

Income Inequality and Neoliberal Economics in Chile

A major factor that has contributed to the ongoing anti-government protests in Chile is the staggering income inequality present within the country. Although the popular protests against the government of Sebastián Piñera began in 2019, the socioeconomic effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting shutdown have greatly exacerbated the poverty and income inequality in Chile.

The country’s stark income inequality can trace its origin to the Pinochet regime. During the military dictatorship, various neoliberal economists from the United States were invited to Chile to help modernize and revitalize the national economy.

Although the effects of this neoliberal approach have greatly expanded the economy of the country as a whole, most of this new wealth was heavily centralized with the majority of Chileans still facing grave economic and health-related conditions. Although Chile boasts the fourth largest economy in South America with a registered nominal GDP of approximately $300 billion in 2018, the distribution of wealth within the country tells a very different story. According to the CIA World Factbook, Chile has the fifteenth highest level of income inequality in the world, ahead of both China and the United States when measured with the Gini index.

Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Chilean Poverty

Like in many other countries worldwide, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting national lockdown have greatly exacerbated the high levels of poverty and income inequality already present in Chile. Despite Chile’s overall economic success and complex healthcare system, the country has one of the highest infection rates per capita in the Western Hemisphere with 13,000 cases for every 1 million citizens. In comparison to similarly-sized economies in South America, Chile’s rate of infection is 10 times that of Argentina and twice that of Brazil, making it one of the most hard-hit countries on the planet.

The presence and spread of Covid-19 in the country are highly related to the preexisting level of income inequality in Chile. A large majority of new cases can be traced to the highly impoverished areas surrounding the capital of Santiago. Like other low-income areas in 2020, many of its residents are essential workers and unable to quarantine if they are to continue earning enough to pay for food and other necessary resources. This phenomenon of lower-income citizens facing increased exposure to the coronavirus due to their inability to stay home from work is not unique to Chile but is also occurring in many other economies across the globe.

Improving Conditions for Hungry Chileans

One group working to address the problem of hunger in Chile during the Covid-19 pandemic is Desafío Levantemos Chile, an NGO which aims to aid hundreds of Chileans by distributing food, providing microloans and housing projects, and advocating for public education reform. The group’s healthcare work has proven to be indispensable during the pandemic. The organization has worked to distribute testing kits and personal protection equipment to rural areas of the country and has also supported local hospitals and frontline workers through crowdfunding. Since its founding in 2011, Desafío Levantemos Chile has provided primary medical care to over 185,000 Chileans.

Many of the factors related to the high levels of poverty, income inequality, and hunger in Chile are endemic to the country’s socioeconomic and political status quo. The effects of the neoliberal push of the late 1980s have created a stark division of wealth and resources in the country. The austere policies of the Piñera government have incited civil unrest, which the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. As in many other countries around the globe, and especially in South America, the lingering effects of this difficult year will continue to create economic hardships for many ordinary and impoverished people well into the future.

– Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia

B Corporation

B Corporations are businesses that give back to the community by following a set of guidelines for transparency, accountability and that pledge a certain amount of profits for a greater purpose.

Five B Corporations You Should Know

  1. Salt Spring Coffee, Canada
    B Impact Score: 118.4/200
    Salt Spring Coffee is a fair-trade organic coffee company that works with the Nicaraguan farmers to sustainably farm, sell and serve the highest grade of coffee beans on the market. Salt Spring hopes to pave the way for the coffee industry in producing eco-friendly packaging and contributing meaningful donations. The company does this by donating to innovative, eco-conscious projects through their 1% for the Planet fund.  These donations have allowed the company to co-found a Canadian waste-reduction initiative, help install solar panels for isolated Nicaraguan farmers and assist a women-run Ugandan farming co-op.
  2. Hora Salud, Chilé
    B Impact Score: 117.8/200
    Hora Salud is a simple user-friendly app for the rural Chilean populace that allows individuals to schedule and cancel appointments and check-ups online without wasting time. The app uses SMS to schedule and cancel doctors appointments. This allows already-sick individuals to avoid the burden of traveling to a Health Center and waiting in line for hours to book an appointment. Hora Salud may also be used in tandem with other markets to spread relevant information including weather, national emergencies and public policies. Their mission is to “Improve the quality of people’s lives, optimize service delivery and decision making with reliable and quality data.” As one of many B Corporations, Hora Salud promotes healthy business practices and opportunities for rural Chilean people.
  3. BioCarbon Partners, Zambia
    B Impact Score: 177.3/200
    BioCarbon Partners (BCP) operates in and outside of Zambia to offset carbon emissions in the atmosphere by sponsoring payment for eco-friendly business operations. BCP is an African leader in the reforestation carbon offset program. With a mission to “Make conservation of wildlife habitat valuable to people,” BCP is cultivating an ecosystem that protects one of Africa’s largest migration sanctuaries. The company prioritizes community engagement and partnership to incentivize forest protection through long-term habitat protection agreements. BCP calculates the amount of carbon that is not released into the atmosphere due to its project and generates sales of these forest carbon offsets through independent external auditors. BCP then reinvests this revenue into conservation and development projects in local communities that rely on wildlife habitat for income. BCP has created 87 jobs for Zambians and continues to create opportunities for wildlife and humanity alike.
  4. Avante, Brazil
    B Impact Score: 136.1/200
    Avante is the largest benefactor of small businesses in Brazil with more than $200 million invested to serve “micro-companies” that are typically pushed out of the financial industry. Avante functions as a non-conventional financial technology service that uniquely combines credit, insurance and payments. It is currently the largest MFI in Brazil. Avante’s mission is to “humanize financial services,” through a combination of empowerment, ethical business practices and acknowledgment that small businesses are the foundation of a strong economy.
  5. Alma Natura, Spain
    B Impact Score: 153.8/200
    Alma Natura established B Corporation status in 2013 to give back to the Sierra de Huelva community of Spain. The first institution of the business began as a nonprofit. It eventually evolved into a limited partnership as Alma Natura continued to invest in rural businesses, guiding them towards a more sustainable and ethical future. With their increased profits, Alma Natura gave back by funding education, technological development and sanitation, ensuring financial equality and sustainable practices in towns with less government funding. Not only has Alma Natura functioned as a business consultant to guide rural communities towards a more equitable economic future, but their commitment to preserving the planet and providing care and education to disadvantaged agricultural centers places their ranking high among businesses that take responsibility for the betterment of humanity.

Natalie Williams
Photo: Pixabay

Groundswell Aid is mobilizing surfers in the world’s most renowned surfing locations to help address the burden of poverty. It was born from passionate surfers scouring the earth for a perfect wave. Founders Roy Harley and Jeff Ryan created Groundswell Aid as a way to connect the surfing community to disadvantaged people that live only minutes away from the most impressive surf breaks around the world. The organization partners with local leaders’ in locations such as Mauritius, El Salvador, Chile and South Africa, and uses surfing as a way to inspire and mobilize these impoverished communities.

Groundswell Gardens

Jeffreys Bay is the new home to Groundswell Gardens, a homegrown project that provides sustainable ways to address food insecurity in surfing communities in South Africa. In 2017, 20% of South Africans struggled to access food. The Republic of South Africa reported that agricultural development and subsistence farming is an effective way to address the issue.

As a result, Groundswell Aid is taking unused land and transforming it into a community garden filled with fruit, and leafy and root crops. The project has built 36 garden planters so far and hopes to create 270 for the community. After the crops are ready for harvest, the food will be given to the locals and the gardens will be reused for a sustainable farming process.

Indonesian Mercy Huts

The Mentawai Islands Regency, Uluwatu of Bali and the T-Land of Rote Island are world-class surfing locations in Indonesia. However, the side of Indonesia that many surfers do not see is the 80% of people in Mentawai living in poverty in 2017. However, Groundswell Aid partnered with a grassroots project called Mercy Huts to address and provide resources to those suffering from poverty in rural Indonesia.

Mercy Huts creates beachfront surf retreats for tourists that then give back to the islands of Indonesia. The profits of Mercy Huts are invested in community resources that promote education for youth, community development training and creating a stronger tourism industry. The tourism industry, which includes surfing tourism, is vital to the Indonesian economy because it is predicted that tourism will account for $141.3 billion annually for the country by 2027.

COVID-19 Campaign

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, impoverished communities are more susceptible to high mortality rates. It is also predicted that 49 million people in the world will sink into poverty by the end of 2020. Groundswell Aid is mobilizing surfers to help address the impacts of COVID-19 on poor surfing communities through the organization’s Groundswell Aid COVID-19 relief campaign. The campaign has raised more than $10,000, which has been donated to surfing communities in Indonesia, South Africa and El Salvador.

Groundswell Aid has created an impact as strong as a wave crashing against the sand. The organization is mobilizing surfers through a variety of projects that address poverty and the issues that come along with it. The humanitarian work that the organization has completed is helping relieve many people from the burden of poverty, while also providing opportunities for local leaders to become involved with their communities and move one step closer to ending poverty for all.

Josie Collier
Photo: Pixabay

COVID-19 in ChileChile is a small, narrow country in South America blessed with magnificent mountains and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views that attract tourists from all over the world. The World Bank estimates that Chile has a higher life expectancy than the United States and classifies it as a high-income country despite its many impoverished regions. Like many other countries, however, Chile has experienced substantial economic distress in the wake of COVID-19 due to the high infection rates. In fact, Chile has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world with more than 364,000 confirmed cases as of 5 August 2020 in a population of only 18.7 million. Fortunately, in an effort to quickly recover from the crisis, the National Police formulated an unconventional, yet clever plan to combat COVID-19 in Chile.

Poverty & COVID-19 in Chile

Confirmed cases in Chile have steadily risen since May, beginning in high-income neighborhoods and slowly infiltrating low-income communities where the virus has caused the most damage.  The country has remained under a national state of emergency since mid-March and is now experiencing Phase 4 of the outbreak, which includes “uncontrolled and widespread community transmission,” forced quarantine in some areas and even a nationwide curfew. The Chilean government closed the country’s borders on 18 March 2020 to all tourists, cruise ships and other unnecessary traffic, excluding citizens and permanent residents who must be quarantined for 14 days upon re-entrance.

Tourism prevention has been particularly harmful to Chile’s economy since the country shut down in March. The country was named the 2017 Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in the World with more than 5.6 million people visiting each year, a group that has consistently stimulated the economy by nearly 13% annually. Jorge Rodriguez, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism stresses that tourism “is strategic for the growth of Chile,”  but COVID-19 is decelerating the progress tourism has made in the last decade.

The World Bank identifies Chile as one of Latin America’s “most unequal countries” because there are two socioeconomic extremes: incredibly impoverished or wonderfully wealthy. There is no middle class, forcing socioeconomic status to determine whether a person hopelessly struggles under government dependence or flourishes in their own monetary independence. Because people living in poverty must rely on assistance from the government, poor Chileans are suffering now more than ever as COVID-19 devastates the economy.

Retrievers to the Rescue

Luckily, the Chilean government, in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile, has constructed a strategic recovery plan that relies on retrievers. Chile’s National Police has embarked on a journey to teach K-9s to find COVID-19 in crowds. Three highly trained pups, with experience in drug and bomb detection, are learning to sniff out human odors specifically emitted by prospective patients.  COVID-19 itself does not have an odor, but minor metabolic changes can be detected as well as “volatile organic compounds” according to Fernando Mardones, professor and epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Chile. Those distinct markers enable the K-9s to intelligently track and discover people who are either asymptomatic or just entering the earliest stages of infection. Once a target is located, the “bio-detector dogs” do not scratch or use their killer bites. They simply sit by the COVID-19 carrier for discrete identification that prevents panic.

K-9s to Conquer COVID-19

The program currently remains in pilot stages but should be fully implemented by mid-September where the K-9s will be immediately deployed to high population centers. By the end of the training, one K-9 will be able to search more than 250 people in one hour with more than 95% accuracy. After the K-9s successfully memorize how to detect the virus in humans and remove COVID-19 patients from densely populated areas, confirmed case numbers in Chile should steadily decline. The country will then be able to reopen its ports and borders. Reestablishing its rightful place as one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations will allow the economy to heal as travelers renew their plans to enjoy Chile’s beautiful scenery and exhilarating adventure sites.

Economic stability boosted by tourism revitalization will ease the concerns of people in poverty because the government will return to adequately assisting low-income regions as it did before COVID-19. Hopefully, extinguishing the virus in Chile will begin to bridge the gap between the country’s seemingly untouchable upper class and its disadvantaged lower class, giving impoverished people a chance to thrive.

-Natalie Clark
Photo: Unsplash

Chile has made major strides in reducing national poverty, with 62% of the population holding a secure job. Social and educational policies have increased the number of mothers at work, with fewer people to take care of children. The need for childcare and afterschool programs in Chile has become a key focus for decreasing poverty rates in female-headed households. The government and nonprofit programs have stepped in to make crucial childcare reforms in Chile.

Poverty Trap For Female-Headed Households

Of the 49% of Chileans who were unemployed in 2011, a disproportionate amount were women. Female-headed households make up 51% of households below the poverty line. The tremendous obligation of Chilean women to raise their children is a full-time job. Many mothers are unable to seek employment because of a lack of childcare resources and services, increasing the rates of poverty in female-headed households

Chilean Education Reforms

In 2013, the Chilean government passed a law making kindergarten nationally accessible to all children. Previously parents had to pay to enroll their students in school at six years old. The law helped alleviate stress from many mothers and increased employment rates.

In efforts to equitize and optimize access for Chilean children to quality education, the government passed the Inclusion Law in 2015, making any for-profit ambition and action from government-funded schools illegal. The law had positive effects; a study conducted in 2017 showed that 85% of students in Chile were accepted to “one of their preferred schools.”

After the enactment of these two laws, public schools became an accessible form of childcare for struggling mothers. This allowed them time to seek employment. Parents can now send their children to their desired schools affordably and close to home.

Chile Grows With You Program

The youth support and care program Chile Grows With You was enacted in 2009 during the first female presidency of Michelle Bachelet. Chile Grows with You provides intersectional childcare, nutrition, health and hygiene services to help nurture Chilean children’s psychological development. The childcare programs and outlets fit various social and developmental needs of students.

Bachelet’s push for reform of past childcare services and policies is the reason why all Chilean children from ages zero to six are entitled to childcare and healthcare services, regardless of socioeconomic status or disability. Although the program is open to all, it specifically seeks to help families in the lowest socioeconomic bracket of Chile. This gives struggling, low-income families access to childcare, education and healthcare systems.

Chile Grows With You Childcare Reforms

Chile Grows With You guarantees free access to nursery school for children two to six years old and provides additional childcare hours as needed to full-time mothers and caregivers.

For children too young for nursery school (under two years old), the program provides free access to daycare centers for mothers or caregivers lacking the financial means to leave work to care for their infant.

Chilean children with disabilities are also protected under the program. President Bachelet increased access to healthcare and childcare services for children who show signs of mental and physical disabilities in their early youth.

A New Life For Chilean Mothers and Children

Since the implementation of Chile Grows With You, over 60% of families of the lowest socioeconomic status have been able to gain access to free childcare programs and services, directly impacting female-headed households by giving women more time to attain education and employment.

While poverty in Chile remains an issue, particularly in female-headed households, the government and Chile Grows With You are working to make a positive change. Chilean mothers raising young children have been able to take small steps, turning over major strides through Chile Grows With You; pulling themselves and their children out of poverty. Government-provided childcare programs and services are not only helpful for struggling parents — they are an inspiration for impoverished Chilean children.

– Nicolettea Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Chile
Healthcare in Chile primarily comes from the state-funded insurance National Health Fund (Fondo National de Salud – FONASA) or from private companies collectively known as Las Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE). According to a 2019 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 78% of the population participate in FONASA and around 17-18% enroll in ISAPREs, while 3-4% receive coverage from the armed forces insurance program. A number of newly implemented government reforms in Chile have challenged healthcare inequity to ensure universal healthcare for all.

Morbidity and Mortality

In the 1980s, a series of successful reforms decreased infant mortality rates (from 33 per 1,000 live births in 1980 to only eight per 1,000 in 2013) and improved communicable disease rates, nutrition and maternal and child health. While the health status of Chileans consistently fell below average among OECD nations in recent decades, the life expectancy in Chile in 2015 rose to 79.1 years in the last 40 years, nearly on par with its OECD peers. Determinants of health status include life expectancy, avoidable mortality rates, morbidity rates from chronic diseases and percentage of the population in poor health.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart diseases are identified as the burden of disease in Chile, accounting for 85% of all deaths. Key risk factors include high obesity rates, heavy tobacco use and increasing rates of alcohol consumption. The infant mortality rate is improving but remains high, as are mortality rates from cancer compared to cancer incidence.

Some Effective Government Measures

The Chilean government has undertaken effective measures to address the nation’s most urgent issues through a multi-intervention strategy that targets different population groups and settings:

  • Obesity: According to a 2016 WHO report, 39.8% of the Chilean population was overweight, and another 34.4% was obese. Childhood overweight and obesity rate is particularly problematic at 45%, with no reduction in prevalence over the past 15 years. Chile has implemented nationwide policies to tackle behaviors that cause obesity, especially inadequate physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. At the national level, mass media, such as websites, Twitter, TV and radio adverts, educates the public on healthy food choices and emphasizes the consumption of vegetables and fruits. The government has also mandated labels on packed foods that indicate high caloric content in salt, sugar and fat.
  • Tobacco Use: Tobacco consumption rates in Chile in 2016 stood at 37% (41% among men and 32% among women) of the adult population. Adult smoking rates have declined from 45.3% in 2003 and 39.8% in 2009, a percentage below average in comparison to other nations. Since joining the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in 2005, Chile has implemented various tobacco control policies, such as prohibiting smoking in public spaces, requiring health warnings on tobacco products and raising taxes on these products.
  • Cancer Care: The OECD projected that cancer could soon become the leading cause of mortality in Chile. Among men, prostate, stomach, lung, colorectal and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates. In women, breast, colorectal, lung, stomach and pancreas cancer account for high mortality rates. To lessen the burden of cancer, Chile has reinforced its cancer care system and launched nationwide programs focused on cervical and breast cancer and cancer drugs for adults and children. From 2011 to 2015, Chile reduced cancer by 4.1%.

Challenging Inequity

The establishment of the National Health System (NHS) in 1952, subsequent expansions and reforms together enabled Chile’s move towards universal coverage with more than 98% of the population having some kind of health insurance. However, inequality remains one of the main challenges in Chile’s two-tier healthcare system, mainly due to the unequal distribution of resources between the underfunded public facilities and the elitist private clinics. Equity monitoring shows less insurance coverage for less educated people, low-income quintiles, residents from rural areas and those with state insurance.

Significant inequalities due to socioeconomic position and residence area persist. According to a study that PLOS Medicine published, the infant mortality rate among the highest educated women was 2.3 times lower than the least educated, while the ratio was 1.4 between urban and rural residence. Risk factors like obesity, alcohol use disorders and cardiovascular risks also disproportionately affected the least educated segment of the population.

Moving Forward

Despite tremendous challenges, healthcare in Chile has improved thanks to the government’s effort to prioritize health reforms. In 2005, Chile launched Universal Access with Explicit Guarantees (AUGE) program that sought to improve access, timeliness and quality of care in the public sector. The OECD assessed that the system of healthcare in Chile is overall “well-functioning, well-organized and effectively governed,” with a particularly robust public healthcare program that operates efficiently on both the central and regional levels. Although challenges such as rising rates of certain NCDs and inequities between sectors and populations persist, the country’s ambitious reforms demonstrate its preparedness to tackle these issues.

– Alice Nguyen
Photo: Flickr