Homelessness in ParaguayParaguay has undoubtedly experienced economic growth in the 21st century, resulting in an average GDP increase of 4% in recent years. Living conditions have generally improved in the past two decades, with a rising middle class and enhanced means of access to safe drinking water, especially within historically marginalized rural areas. Nevertheless, poverty and income inequality have remained serious obstacles to welfare in Paraguay, as made evident by a consistently high GINI coefficient above 45 and a deep rural-urban economic gap. Although the country has seen undeniable economic growth, homelessness in Paraguay remains a problem.

While it is estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in a GDP decline of 1.2% in 2020, Paraguay is expected to shortly return to its pattern of economic growth. This is particularly given to the country’s low case and death rates compared to fellow Latin American countries. Even so, the national poverty rate is expected to worsen due to the country’s vulnerability to the global economy and to the COVID-19 induced recession. A poverty rate exceeding 24% will exacerbate housing insecurity and homelessness in Paraguay.

Homelessness in Paraguay

A concrete estimate of Paraguay’s homeless population does not exist due to factors ranging from the individuals’ mobility to simply the lack of research efforts conducted to establish this figure. However, the Inter-American Development Bank approximates that 43% of Paraguayan families live in inadequate housing. While many of these families may own a physical home, these spaces often lack proper sanitary conditions, access to technology and space.

Flooding has been a major issue over the past decade resulting in the displacement of tens of thousands, particularly affecting impoverished citizens living by the Paraguay River near the national capital, Asunción. In 2015 alone, 50,000 Paraguayans were dislocated from their homes as a result of a disastrous flood. The inadequate assistance from the government has resulted in large protests stemming from affected populations. Housing insecurity, as a consequence of floods and various land ownership issues, has resulted in protestors occupating Asunción’s main square to demand that the government address Paraguay’s housing crisis.

The government’s corruption has indeed resulted in the removal of vulnerable families from their homes. Moreover, according to Habitat For Humanity, 1.1 million houses are needed in Paraguay to harbor those who flood into cities from rural regions— an estimate which only continues to rise. Low-income Paraguayans are desperate for improved housing security.

Civil Society Projects Addressing Paraguay’s Housing Insecurity

Due to the lack of action by state actors, various NGOs and grassroots organizations have taken it upon themselves to address homelessness in Paraguay and the country’s root causes of poverty. Here are just a few of the efforts being done to confront the crisis.

Habitat for Humanity has constructed and repaired homes for low-income families at low and affordable rates. Offering this assistance has helped address the issue of a lack of and/or unsafe housing in urban areas. Such initiative has provided homes for over 4,500 families over the past 22 years.

Fundación Paraguay is an enterprise partnered with the Homeless World Cup that incentivizes schooling as well as provides assistance to schools with predominantly low-income student populations. The organization’s entrepreneurial education program has helped over 100,000 marginalized children and women, providing them with a knowledge base critical for their own socio-economic growth and housing security.

Conclusion

Unsafe housing and homelessness remain a major problem in Paraguay as a result of natural disasters, increasing urbanization, corruption and exacerbated poverty due to COVID-19. Non-state actors have played a major role in providing technical support and housing aid to marginalized populations. However, building improved government response to floodings and overpopulation is imperative for improved living conditions.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ColombiaColombia, a country in the north-central region of South America, sits in an ideal position to expand both its economy and the wellbeing of its citizens. As one of South America’s premier exporters of a wide array of goods, including energy and cut flowers, the country has a relatively favorable economic outlook. However, this country, of just under 50 million people, faces serious economic hurdles as well. Rampant poverty hampers the lower classes, limiting Colombia’s ability to develop and industrialize.

Poverty in Colombia

About 34% of Colombians live in “poor conditions.” This number is especially stark because Colombia is home to massive wealth inequality. Many of the richest members of Colombian society own disproportionate amounts of wealth.

Internal conflict has worsened conditions for people in Colombia. For more than 50 years, Colombia has experienced relatively severe internal conflicts, most of which originated from drug trafficking that swept the nation in the 1970s and 80s. This led to many people migrating into urban slums, where homelessness was rampant. More than 5.7 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing violence present in the country. As a result of this conflict and the frequent migration of communities, living conditions in settled areas have been notoriously bad. Homelessness in Colombia has affected 662,146 families, and more than 3.8 million families do not have “adequate” housing.

Organizations Are Working to Help

Organizations like Habitat for Humanity have tried to make a dent in these high rates of homelessness in Colombia, pledging support to hundreds of thousands of families in need. While helping to build up neighborhoods, Habitat for Humanity has also worked with Colombians to instill technical skills for construction and to build better community infrastructure. In addition, the organization is helping to provide financial education and making targeted investments in communities.

Another organization, called the Homeless World Cup Foundation, is combating homelessness in Colombia through athletics. The foundation’s mission is to provide access to soccer in some of the poorest communities in the country — not only bringing social cohesion and opportunity to disadvantaged communities but also creating new avenues for players to pursue careers in sports and other fields. The organization has touched the lives of more than 20,000 children and their families.

Tackling Homelessness in an Emerging Economy

Colombia is recognized as one of the world’s “emerging economies.” While homelessness in Colombia is a dire problem, the economic outlook for Colombia is relatively positive — with a consistent 3% expected economic growth for the first half of the 20th century. Through proper planning and prudent public policy, Colombian leaders can use this economic growth to tackle homelessness in Colombia and improve the lives of citizens in need.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in CambodiaCambodia is a developing country in Southeast Asia. With a population of more than 16 million, more than one-fourth of the country lives in poverty. Many live just above the poverty line of $1.25 per day and at least 10 million Cambodians are in need of decent housing. Here are four facts about housing and homelessness in Cambodia.

4 Facts About Housing and Homelessness in Cambodia

  1. As aforementioned, 10 million Cambodians lack adequate housing. Additionally, about two million houses need necessary improvement to meet the minimum quality standards.
  2. Cambodia has a large urban population. Around 21.2% of Cambodians live in cities. In the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, one in five people live in the slums and lack access to basic services, according to Habitat for Humanity.
  3. About 80% of Cambodia’s population lives in rural housing. Traditional Khmer rural homes are wooden and built on large stilts raised above the ground. This way, the water from the monsoons that frequent the country does not reach and damage the main part of the houses.
  4. A survey by the Cambodian National Institute of Statistics, Columbia University in New York and Friends International cited in a 2017 VOA News story found that in Cambodia’s seven biggest urban centers about 2,700 young people were homeless with the numbers climbing as a result of “higher unemployment and migration to the cities from rural [areas].”

Habitat for Humanity

Since 2003, Habitat for Humanity has been working in Cambodia to “break the cycle of poverty through safe, durable, affordable housing solutions.” To date, Habitat Cambodia has helped provide more than 22,000 families with shelter. The organization works with both international and local NGOs, local and national authorities and other groups to tackle the homelessness situation in Cambodia.

The organization’s innovative approach includes market development, advocacy for secure land tenure and collaborating with other NGOs and community-based organizations in order to create housing solutions for the poor in Cambodia. Habitat for Humanity has also been working in three of Cambodia’s biggest cities — Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang — to provide housing solutions and help secure land for the homeless and other in-need groups including those living with disabilities, orphans and those affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2018, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reported that these efforts reached 73,000 children and adults.

In 2014, Cambodia adopted a National Housing Policy to improve access to housing. However, according to Habitat for Humanity, this policy has not yet reached low-income and middle-income families. To combat this, Habitat Cambodia is advocating for “effective implementation of the National Housing Policy” in order to provide access to housing for the growing number of Cambodians in urban areas.

 Though housing shortages and homelessness in Cambodia are still serious and ongoing issues, organizations like Habitat for Humanity are helping combat the issue — one habitat at a time.

– Emma Benson
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in El Salvador
El Salvador is the smallest country located in the Southern part of Central America. With a population of almost 6.5 million people, the country has the largest population density for its size in the region. The country is famous for its exports, primarily coffee and sugar, which are ideal crops for a tropical climate. The gorgeous weather also makes it an alluring vacation spot and draws tourists seeking sweeping palm trees, breathtaking views and glistening beaches from across the globe. However, just outside the paradise of the resorts is a much different world. Here are five facts about poverty in El Salvador.

5 Facts About Poverty in El Salvador

  1. The poverty rate was improving. From 2007 to 2017, El Salvador experienced some economic progress, with their poverty rate dropping from 39% to 29%. However, it will be a challenge for the country to maintain those numbers with the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic having an impact on the economy and the exports it relies on.
  2. The impoverished often live in overcrowded areas. Poorer neighborhoods, referred to as slums, tend to be located in undesirable areas that have a landscape more susceptible to danger. Many families live in small, overcrowded quarters, which can pose a major public health risk. Houses are usually built very close to each other and are sometimes adjoined in order to share materials. For many, the only choice for housing is makeshift structures that do not protect from the elements and cannot withstand the force of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or even heavy rainfall. These communities often lack basic services such as electricity, plumbing and sanitation sewer plants. This makes for unsanitary conditions and very limited access to clean water.
  3.  Schools often have a lot of empty desks. The country struggles to maintain a sufficient education system, which can largely be attributed to a high rate of dropout. Of all the children nationwide, around 34% do not attend the elementary grade levels. Furthermore, more than 60% of children do not finish high school. As a result, around 20% of the population above the age of ten are illiterate. The education deficit perpetuates the cycle of unskilled laborers joining the workforce as minors, which hinders the economy’s growth.
  4. Good job opportunities are not widely available. Much of the country’s poor population work in the manufacturing, agriculture and tourism industries. These jobs traditionally do not pay a living wage, have unsafe conditions and require long hours due to flimsy work laws and standards that are relatively unregulated by the government. Child labor is prevalent within in poorer communities, with a staggering 1.8 million children currently employed. The lack of a welfare program and the government’s failure to enforce child labor laws enable this practice. For many families living below the poverty line, this is the only way they can afford to get by.
  5.  Communities are plagued with violence and crime. El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates worldwide, directly endangering many of its citizens. Most of the crime committed is gang-related and, with the involvement of an estimated 60,000 members, gangs run rampant in practically every community. Feeling they have no other option than to flee, those vulnerable to gang activity migrate to other countries in order to find refuge and employment in a safer area. One of the gangs’ main targets is business owners, as they look to get a cut of their revenue. The loss of income severely impacts job creation and business survival.

These five facts about poverty in El Salvador are grim, but also solvable. Fortunately, Habitat for Humanity, an organization that strives to improve living conditions for the impoverished, has committed to helping. The organization has built homes for around 25,000 Salvadorans. To support the community, the volunteers also build public structures such as new schools, health centers, business suites and much more. In addition, the volunteers teach citizens job skills, money management and disaster preparation in order to give them the tools needed thrive. With continued relief efforts by humanitarian organizations, a better future can be created for current generations and generations to come.

 Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in BrazilThough major improvements have stimulated Brazil’s economy over the past few decades, the country still faces a major poverty deficit. While the country does have one of the top 10 economies in the world, poverty in Brazil is still a major issue. The percentage of the population that lives beneath the poverty line struggles to make it from one day to the next. Four components that influence poverty in Brazil are the pertinent numbers, the unemployment situation, the influence on housing and the current global lockdown’s impact.

The Numbers

With over 200 million citizens, Brazil has the fifth largest population in the world. While the poverty rate is now impressively less than 10%, 16 million Brazilians still live unsustainable lives.

Many of the families living in poverty do not have access to education, clothing, clean water, food or fuel. Kim Lango, a humanitarian who has spent a number of years helping to relieve poverty in Brazil, told The Borgen Project in an interview that “We once drove a Pre-Med student home one evening only to discover his home only had three walls….” On their way to the house, Lango passed by dead and wounded people on the streets who were waiting for an ambulance that would only come if the family had sufficient funds.

According to a Getulio Vargas Foundation study, an alarming gap exists between the wealthy and poor, and it is increasing. Marcelo Silva de Sousa and Víctor Caivano state that Brazil ranks with the “most unequal nations in a broader region where the gap between rich and poor is notorious.” During the seven years of the study, the richest Brazilians increased their income by over 8%. However, the income of the poorest population decreased an entire 14%.

The gap shows Brazil’s drastic inequality. In fact, only 10% of Brazil’s citizens earn half of the income in the country.

Lango gave her perspective on some of the reasons for this gap. She first stated that “lack of access to adequate education[…] creates a vicious cycle.” Those living in unsafe and inadequate places often find themselves stuck there due to the rigor and expense of the education system. Lango also said that discrimination plays a significant role in this gap and that many consider poor people unsafe and ones they should not connect with.

While the poverty rates are startling, Lango offers hope: “the most beautiful acts of overcoming will always be from Brazilians helping their own people.”

The government has a welfare program devoted to alleviating poverty. The Family Grant, known as the Bolsa Família, offers a monthly allowance to families in poverty.

Unemployment

Another of the components that influence poverty in Brazil is unemployment. When a major recession hit between 2014 and 2016, the unemployment rate hit 13% and emerged as a major issue contributing to poverty in Brazil. While the unemployment rate had improved somewhat since then, it had yet to recover enough to significantly impact the poverty in Brazil.

Unfortunately, in 2019, Brazil’s unemployment increased to a 12.4% unemployment rate, leaving millions of Brazilians out of work and desperately searching for the means to make money. Still, the available jobs often have an informal and inconsistent nature.

According to Mark S. Langevin, Director of Brazil Works, Brazil has reached a “historic and dismal record” of citizens not contributing to the workforce. Langevin stated that the number is over 65 million.

Housing

Because of extreme poverty, many Brazilians do not have access to proper shelter, or even shelter at all. In fact, according to Habitat for Humanity, over 50 million people in Brazil do not have adequate housing. The country requires 6 to 8 million new houses to sufficiently shelter its people.

Habitat for Humanity is working to develop proper housing for those living in the slums. Due to the successful implementation of their programs, Habitat for Humanity is currently working on over 1,500 houses in Pernambuco, one of Brazil’s states.

A report determined that the 2010 census revealed that over 5% of Brazilians live in makeshift settlements called favelas. Brazilians often build favelas using materials that they scavenged. Moreover, these homes often do not have appropriate water access.

The government has been working since 1993 to improve these conditions. During that year, 20% of Brazil’s population lived in favelas, so the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro developed a program to help improve the housing and road access for those who lacked sufficiency in those areas. The program, the Favela-Bairro project, also funded social programs for children.

While some are making efforts to improve the conditions, the poor housing situation remains prevalent.

The Current Lockdown’s Impact

The last of the components that influence poverty in Brazil includes COVID-19’s impact on the country. With the current global lockdown due to Covid-19, poverty in Brazil could increase drastically. There are over 30 million informal workers who have unprotected jobs that the lockdown now threatens.

The lockdown has come at an unfortunate moment due to social program cuts that came as a result of the recession in 2014. During that time, many workers became sporadically self-employed, which severely weakened the economy.

Humanitarian groups have had to scramble to increase food programs. One of these groups, a Catholic relief group called Caritas, has oriented its focus entirely to providing food.

While those already in poverty or unpredictable work situations are facing an uncertain future, the government has begun to respond to the issue. It adapted the emergency aid fund rules to improve worker’s lives during the shutdowns. The banks have more restrictions and there has been a loan suspension for school funds.

Though the poverty here is vicious, wonderful programs, both governmental and humanitarian, are stepping up to fight the deficit. Hopefully, continued aid and government efforts will eradicate poverty in Brazil in the future.

– Abigail Lawrence
Photo: Flickr