Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin AmericaA number of countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region are experiencing water crises which present an obstacle in achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal of universal access to clean water access by 2030. Fortunately, there are a number of organizations actively working to help them get there as quickly as possible. Keep reading to learn more about the top six water NGOs in Latin America.

Top 6 Water NGOs in Latin America

  1. Founded in 2007, Water Charity’s first project focused on improving the health of garbage dump workers by providing water filters in Guatemala City. Since then, the NGO has executed numerous water missions throughout 12 Latin American countries, among other projects worldwide. Each of its projects is innovative and tailored toward the specific needs of the communities in which they work. For instance, through the Dajabon Latrine Project in rural northwestern Dominican Republic, 110 families now have access to safe and sanitary latrines. Moreover, the initiative strives to educate families on the importance of health and hygiene given Dajabon’s poor education system.
  2. Living Water International in Mexico has been working to improve water access, hygiene and sanitation throughout the country’s poorest and often most rural communities. With operations spanning from water systems to hygiene education, the organization aims to focus on the marginalized regions of southern Mexico. Living Water’s “Lazos de Agua” program from 2013 to 2016 promoted WASH (“water, sanitation and hygiene) services to 68,000 beneficiaries in Oaxaca and Puebla. The organization’s projects, such as a new initiative to serve beneficiaries in 65 Mexican rural communities, continue to emerge across the nation and beyond.
  3. blueEnergy knows that the most efficient way to create change is through community consultation and working with local actors. Recognizing the context of a changing climate, blueEnergy has delivered water and sanitation to more than 30,000 people in marginalized regions of Nicaragua. Regarding a recently built water filter, Victorio Leon, a resident of Bluefields, Nicaragua only had positive feedback. “This filter has helped me economically and helped me avoid being sick a lot of the time… now we know we can drink this water with confidence.” Indeed, according to the World Bank, lack of water and sanitation results in a loss of 0.9 percent of Nicaragua’s GDP. Promoting health, and ultimately economic opportunity is among blueEnergy’s primary goals.
  4. WaterStep recognizes that making a true difference in developing countries requires planning for the long-term. For this reason, the nonprofit educates vulnerable communities on why and how to use safe water solutions such as bleach making as well as how to use WaterStep’s on-the-ground technologies. One of its ongoing projects includes that in Ecuador, which began following the country’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2016. Thousands of Ecuadorian survivors were misplaced and lacked any source of clean water. WaterStep responded to the situation by implementing water technologies and training people in refugee settlements on how to use this equipment.
  5. Water For People has targeted Honduras’ marginalized and rural regions such as Chinda and San Antonio de Cortés, since 1997. The NGO invests in public and private sectors alike to provide proper water and sanitation solutions. Since the nineties, Honduras has seen success not only in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the percentage of people lacking clean water by 50 percent. Moreover, at least 84 percent of the rural population now have access to improved water. Grassroots efforts such as those by Water For People are making clear steady strides towards achieving SDG goal six: providing clean and safe water to all regions.
  6. Solea Water acknowledges the clear inequalities between rural and urban Panama. While Panama City has seen outstanding economic growth in recent years, in marginalized indigenous areas, extreme poverty affects nine in 10 inhabitants. Consequently, clean water access remains a critical issue in these regions. One of the organization’s many projects includes work in Sinai, Panama, where seven in 10 people lack safe drinking water. In addition to implementing a municipal water system which utilizes sustainable technologies to pump water, the organization has supported WASH education to locals. Solea Water’s goals of better health, education and overall improved standards of living within regions like Sinai are made a reality through the organization’s tireless dedication.

What Happens Now?

While access to water has improved in poor and marginalized regions in-line with the decrease in global poverty, disparities remain. These disparities are clear between regions, where 94 percent of citizens in the United States and Europe have access to safe drinking water compared to 65 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, even larger disparities can be seen within a given region, such as the gap between urban and rural regions within Latin America. While 96 percent of citizens living in the Dominican Republic’s cities can obtain piped water, less than 25 percent of Dominicans in rural areas have this same access.

While the fight to universalize access to clean water and sanitation remains a pressing matter, these top six water NGOs in Latin America present the importance of civil society’s proactive planning, hard work and progress.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

 

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America
The poverty that affects so much of South America comes from a history of colonialism, which has left the region with extractive institutions including weak states, violence and poor public services. In order to combat these issues, it is vital to understand these top 10 facts about poverty in South America.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. Dependence Theory: According to the Council of the Americas, the South American economy is suffering from the U.S.-China trade war, a drop in crude oil prices and generally worsening economic conditions throughout the region. This poor economic performance has been present in the region for a long time. NYU Professor Pablo Querubín noted in a lecture that this is largely due to Dependence Theory. This theory argues that poorer countries and regions will have to specialize in raw materials and agriculture due to the comparative advantage other countries and regions have in producing industrialized products such as computers, advanced technology and services. Therefore, because Latin America has a comparative advantage in producing agricultural products and oil, it will have much greater difficulty moving into the industrial sector.
  2. The Reversal of Fortune Theory: The South American economy has also had such a difficult time growing because of the history of colonialism and extractive institutions. Professor Pablo Querubín also referenced the Reversal of Fortune Theory which explains how the pre-Columbian region of South America was so much more wealthy than pre-Columbian North America, yet those roles have reversed in the modern era. The reason is that South America put extractive institutions into place to send wealth back to Spain rather than “promote hard work or to incentivize investment, human capital, accumulation, etc.” Yet, in areas with low population levels, such as pre-Columbian North America, settlers had to establish inclusive institutions “designed to promote investment, effort, innovation, etc.”
  3. Political Instability: Political consistency has been rare in the history of South America. New leaders would often change the constitution when they entered office to better suit their political wishes. In fact, while the U.S. has only ever had one constitution with 27 amendments over the course of about 200 years, Ecuador had 11 separate constitutions within the first 70 years of its history. In Bolivia, there were 12 within the first 60 years. This instability and very quick political turnover have been detrimental to the steady growth of the economy and confidence in the government. Understanding the effects of this issue and the other top 10 facts about poverty in South America are integral to fighting poverty in the region.
  4. Inequality: Inequality is incredibly high in South America. As a result, the incredibly wealthy can afford to use private goods in place of public ones. For example, the rich use private schools, private health insurance, private hospitals and even private security forces instead of relying on the police. Therefore, there is very little incentive for the wealthy to advocate for higher taxes to improve public goods such as public education, police or public health initiatives. As a result, the public services available to the poor in Latin America are extremely lacking.
  5. Education: Education in South America is full of inequality both in terms of income and gender. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, an institution which evaluates teenagers on their educational performance in key subject areas, most countries in South America perform below average. In one evaluation it determined that the highest-scoring country in South America, Chile, was still 10 percent below average. Furthermore, poor educational performance highly correlates with income inequality.
  6. Indigenous Women and Education: In addition, indigenous women are far less likely than any other group to attend school in South America. According to UNESCO, in Guatemala, 70 percent of indigenous women ages 20 to 24 have no education. The issue of unequal education spreads further to affect women’s livelihoods and presence in the South American workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, about 50 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not work directly in the labor force. However, the International Monetary Fund also noted that “countries in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] have made momentous strides in increasing female LFP [labor force participation], especially in South America.”
  7. Teenage Pregnancy: One major driver of the cycle of poverty in South America is the persistence of teenage pregnancies which lead to impoverished young mothers dropping out of school and passing on a difficult life of poverty to their children. The World Bank reported that Latin America is the second highest region in terms of young women giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Furthermore, a study called Adolescent Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed several South American teen mothers including one who noted that sexual education was not the problem: “We knew everything about contraceptive methods,” she said, “but I was ashamed to go and buy.” Thus, the study advised that in addition to preventative methods for pregnancy such as education and the distribution of contraceptives, there needs to be action to “fight against sexual stereotypes.” Fortunately, there are activist campaigns such as Child Pregnancy is Torture which advocates for raising awareness about the issue of child pregnancy in South America and encourages the government to take steps such as increased sex education, access to contraception and the reduction of the sexualization of girls in the media.
  8. Food Insecurity: Hunger is a growing issue related to poverty in South America. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 39.3 million people in South America are undernourished, which represents an increase by 400,000 people since 2016. Food insecurity in the region as increased from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 9.8 percent in 2017. However, the issue is improving with malnutrition in children decreasing to 1.3 percent. Additionally, there are many NGOs such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Action Against Hunger and Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization (PAHO) that are implementing vital programs throughout the continent to fight hunger.
  9. Migration: The economic instability and rising poverty in South America have caused many people to migrate out of the region. Globally, 38 million people migrated out of their countries last year with 85 percent of that 38 million coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Manuel Orozco from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank stated that “The structural determinant is poor economic performance, while demand for labour in the United States and the presence of family there encourages movement.”
  10. Violence: The high level of violence in South America exacerbates the cycle of poverty in South America. Fourteen of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in South America and although the region only contains eight percent of the world’s population, it is where one-third of all murders take place. Dr. Orozco went on to say that “There’s a strong correlation between migration and homicide. With the potential exception of Costa Rica, states are unwilling or unable to protect citizens.”

Fighting poverty in South America is dependent upon an understanding of the history and realities of the region. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about poverty in South America can shed light upon the cycle of poverty in the region and how to best combat it in the future.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Slums in Latin AmericaCurrently, one in seven people worldwide lives in a slum. By some estimates, this number will rise to one in four people by the year 2030. A slum can be defined as housing with no land permits, inadequate access to basic services (water, toilets and electricity), unsafe components (broken windows, dirt floors and leaks) and an overcrowded population. These 10 facts about slums in Latin America explain how people are affected by these poor living conditions.

10 Facts About Slums in Latin America

  1. Rapid Urbanization: South America has historically been dominated by rural living. However, in more recent years, the cities of South America have seen a rapid rate of urbanization. Urban living now supports 82 percent of the population. When people move from the countryside to the city in large numbers, there are often not enough resources to support everyone. As a result, people resort to constructing illegal housing to survive.
  2. Millions Affected: In Latin America, approximately 117 million people survive in poverty. Most of these people survive in slums just outside major metropolitan areas. These cities include Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and Lima.
  3. Neza-Chalco-Itiza: On the cusp of Mexico City rests Neza-Chalco-Itiza, one of the largest slums in South America and the fourth largest in the world. With a population of 1.1 million people, the slum is filled to the brim. People flooded to the city after World War II in hopes of work, but they found poverty instead. Today, the slum has developed a systematic way of living that mimics life inside the major city.
  4. Favelas: Some of the most infamous slums can be found in Brazil. In Portuguese, slums are called favelas. Most favelas in Brazil can be found in the areas surrounding Rio de Janeiro. More than 11 million people live in this type of housing.
  5. Entrepreneurship: While slums can be a source of hardship and poverty, they can also be the birthplace for many entrepreneurs. With so many people struggling to survive, some take it upon themselves to create businesses out of the little resources that they have. For example, Bistrô Estação R&R is a bar inside a garage in Rio de Janeiro. These small businesses bring people together in their communities and can help boost the economy.
  6. Widespread disease: Slums are often a breeding ground for disease. With a lack of proper sanitation and people living in such close proximity, illness develops fast and spreads even quicker. Tuberculosis is just one example of a disease that has spread in slums. In Peru, 60 percent of tuberculosis cases in 2011 were reported from the slums surrounding Lima. Luckily, organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have hosted several government interventions to advocate for development plans.
  7. Drugs, gangs and violence: With a lack of central authority, slums are more susceptible to drugs, gangs and violence. Many of the world’s most infamous drug lords originate from these areas and threaten the local community. While police intervention sometimes occurs, often these communities are ignored. In 2015, 47 of the 50 most murderous cities were found in Latin America.
  8. Upgrading housing: With the aim of improving housing for communities living in slums, several nonprofits, such as TECHO, have advocated for the improvement of infrastructure. TECHO’s policy is that slums of 10 or more families who lack one or more necessities, such as water or sewage, qualify for aid. In several of TECHOs projects, houses have been reconstructed using pinewood and tin. Families who received this assistance have stated that their quality of life has effectively improved after the refurbishments.
  9. Pride: While slums can be riddled with poverty and crime, they are also filled with pride. In a 2013 study, 85 percent of favela residents said that they like where they are from. This could largely be attributed to the communities formed within these tight housing situations and the entrepreneurship that binds people together.
  10. Slum tourism: Slum tourism is when travelers visit impoverished populations in order to see the areas. The practice began in the 1800s when wealthy Londoners would pay to see a lifestyle that was so drastically different from their own. Slum tourism can have negative effects on a community for multiple reasons. For one, it promotes the wealth gap by separating the wealthy from the poor. In addition, poverty tourism does not necessarily benefit local areas. If tourists pay larger organizations to conduct the visit rather than community members, the money will not reach the slums. On the other hand, poverty tourism that challenges negative stereotypes and is led by slum residents can aid in the growth of the local economy.

By looking at these 10 facts about slums in Latin America, it easy to see how these living conditions can damage a person’s health and wellbeing as well as how the residents of these slums are struggling to survive. However, by upgrading communities and being conscious tourists, these areas can be uplifted and improved, helping the one-seventh of the world that lives in slums.

-Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

Global Snakebite StrategyThe World Health Organization (WHO) members gather annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s diverse topics included snakebites.

The WHO is not always known for speedy results, due to the massive, worldly scale that this organization deals with. But snakebites was a topic that was quick to strike back. Just one year after the World Health Assembly urged resolution to this issue, WHO has launched a new strategy for snakebites and the venoms that cause potentially deadly harm to its victims.

Symptoms of Snakebites

According to the WHO, snakes bite an estimated 5.4 million people around the world each year. Of those estimated, approximately 138,000 people die each year. This new strategy looks to cut 50 percent of snakebite deaths and disability by the year 2030.

Snakebites are a common occurrence in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a commonly neglected public health issue, especially in impoverished areas of all countries listed above. The only known validated treatment for a snakebite is passive immunotherapy with the specific and effective animal-derived antivenom. These antivenoms are not always accessible, nor readily available in developing areas of these countries.

When a venomous snake bites, the victim has less than half an hour to receive the antivenom, without serious consequences. Serious adverse effects include swelling, pain, and bruising around the bite area, numbness, elevated heart rate, constricted airway, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, fainting, tissue necrosis, and death. All of these listed symptoms can be from the bite of a venomous snake.

The Global Snakebite Initiative

The global snakebite strategy, or the Global Snakebite Initiative lead by the World Health Organization sets a multicomponent strategy in place in order to improve the availability of safe and effective antivenoms at a global level. The initiative is based on four key steps needed in order to improve these conditions caused by venomous snakes, according to the WHO.

  1. Preparing validated collections of specific venom pools from the most medically dangerous snakes in high-risk regions of the world.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of national antivenom manufacturing and quality control laboratories, and establishing new facilities in developing countries through technology transfer.
  3. Getting established laboratories to generate antivenoms for various regions of the world.
  4. Getting government and relevant health organizations to give snakebite envenoming recognition within national and international public health policy frameworks.

According to the WHO, there should also be actions to improve health information systems, accessibility of antivenoms, proper training of medical and nursing staff, and community-based education. This multicomponent strategy would involve stakeholders on many different levels and would improve antivenom availability globally.

This global snakebite strategy targets countries and communities that are heavily affected by snakebites. The program will work with the affected communities to ensure that through their health systems, safe and effective treatments will be offered to all community members. Complete cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between all levels of government and health organizations will accomplish this.

A Solid Foundation

A 28-member panel of global experts in relations with WHO regional offices, science and research communities, health foundations, advocacy groups and stakeholders developed this strategy. Viewing this issue at a global level improves community education and first response. This strategy also commits to engaging communities in order to achieve these goals.

WHO will work with specific countries to strengthen health systems geared towards improving health and well-being and reducing inequity for community members. The main objective for this global snakebite strategy is to ensure accessible, affordable, and effective treatments using the antivenoms.  A streamlined method of supplying and distributing of antivenoms will be prioritized. Along with all of these steps, WHO will encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics, and health device technology that can improve the treatment outcomes and make for quicker recovery times.

WHO’s global snakebite strategy has implemented multiple factors in order to achieve the goals set forth. Commitment from around the world including health, government, and scientific organizations alike, will need to work together through various aspects for the Global Snakebite Initiative to be effective immediately. Following the steps laid out by the WHO, paralyzation and deaths caused by snake envenoming can be reduced in high-risk countries, and ensure its community members safe, efficient, and effective treatments.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico
Childhood is a time for growth, development and play; however, in countries like Mexico, countless boys and girls are deprived of what makes them children. Poverty in Mexico has forced many children to abandon play and begin employment. Child labor in Mexico is an issue that the country struggles to overcome, and these 10 facts about child labor in Mexico present the reasons the country has yet to defeat this phenomenon.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico

1. The high rate of child labor in Mexico is due to large amounts of poverty across the country. As of 2016, 43.6 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. This means that nearly half of the population is experiencing significant financial burdens, which often result in a lack of food, adequate living conditions and educational opportunities. With almost half of the population of Mexico experiencing this high rate of poverty, it is no surprise that Mexico has the highest rate of poverty in all of North America.

2. Around 3.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 in Mexico are employed. Of this, nearly 870,000 are under the age of 13.

3. In Latin America 50 percent of all employed children live in Mexico. Latin America is spread across 33 countries and home to 626 million people. While Mexico is not the largest country in population or size in Latin America, it has the highest number of employed children.

4. Mexico’s Federal Labor Law prohibits children who are under the age of 14 to work. Furthermore, children under the age of 16 may not participate in what they call “unhealthy or hazardous work.” This type of work is defined as anything that may be detrimental to the child’s health, including work with various chemicals and industrial night labor. This law is in place in order to ensure the physical and mental health of children, along with safeguarding proper development.

5. In Mexico, the Department of Labor is responsible for protecting workers’ rights, including monitoring child labor; however, the enforcement of child labor laws is minimal and ineffective in smaller companies, agricultural work and construction. Yet, it is in these areas that the majority of child labor in Mexico takes place.

6. Under Mexican law, children under 16 are not allowed to work more than six hours per day. Despite this law, almost 97 percent of children work more than 35 hours per week, which is well above the legal six hours per day.

7. Children often drop out of school in order to help provide financially for their families. If they do not drop out of school, many children must work on top of attending school to help their families survive. The older the child is, the more this phenomenon occurs. For instance, by the age of 17, one-third of Mexicans are working. For families experiencing extreme poverty in Mexico, education is just another financial burden and is second to earning a salary and making a contribution.

8. More children who live in the north and in the countryside are employed, compared with their counterparts in the city and in the south. For example, 12 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 13 are employed in the southern states like Guerrero, whereas merely 1.4 percent of those children are working in the north, in states like Chihuahua.

9. Employed children in Mexico often work in difficult conditions that put their health at risk. Child labor in Mexico often revolves around children working with and carrying heavy materials, such as wood and cement. Further, children are often fieldworkers and servants.

10. Fortunately, the rate of child labor in Mexico has been slowly decreasing due to programs like Oportunidades. This Mexican anti-poverty program is working on decreasing child labor in Mexico by providing families with educational grants. With these grants, more children will be able to stay in school instead of working. The Oportunidades program has helped more than four million families and counting.

Child labor in Mexico continues to be an ongoing problem that the country faces. Still, with each new generation, statistics change and circumstances improve. With the help of anti-poverty programs, newer generations of Mexicans are realizing the importance of education and a fulfilling childhood. Lowering poverty in Mexico will not only lessen the amount of child labor, but also save the childhoods of boys and girls who deserve more than just a salary.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

1Doc3There are less than two doctors for every 1,000 individuals in Latin America, making access to health information and medical guidance difficult to reach. Javier Cardona and Nicolas Duran Lopez created 1Doc3 in 2013 to change this, and the healthcare platform has already been making waves.

Background

1Doc3 (pronounced “uno doc tres”) is an online health platform that allows millions of Spanish-speaking users to ask health-related questions and receive professional medical guidance in real-time using artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, it provides data to health insurers and pharmaceutical companies to let them reach customers more efficiently. Furthermore, 1Doc3 is free and allows users to remain anonymous. It receives around $2 million in funding from investors like Wayra, TheVentureCity, Mountain Partners and Mountain Nazca.

The platform, which can be downloaded on computers and mobile devices, keeps a database of over 400 licensed doctors who are recruited, trained and monitored, ensuring that patients receive answers from the most qualified professionals. These doctors build their reputation online by providing personalized answers to users for free. This type of access is convenient, free and anonymous and allows users to make more informed choices regarding their health and wellbeing.

Helping Its Users

1Doc3 has served over 490 million Spanish-speaking users in 120 countries, 53 percent of whom are below 34 years old. Over 60 percent of the questions asked by these younger users are related to sex. While these types of questions may normally be too embarrassing to ask in person, the anonymity of 1Doc3 allows young patients to receive the right medical guidance and even provides coupons for products like condoms.

The platform uses AI to help these users navigate towards relevant information. For example, if a user were to ask a question related to their back pain, AI would ask where the pain is “above or below,” and if it is a “stabbing pain.” The personalized and innovative service is highly sought after and has even earned itself a partnership with Internet.org, a system that brings connectivity to users in places where internet access is spotty at best.

Helping Insurance Companies and Pharmacies

There is also a commercial aspect to 1Doc3. The platform’s AI serves as a data collecting module. Over 70 million questions are asked each year and this makes the database extremely informative. With this information, health insurers can provide cheaper treatment to patients by eliminating the necessity to physically go to a physician’s office – in fact, users save an average of 11 percent on treatment when they use 1Doc3.

The platform also helps medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies identify patients for rare diseases. For example, 1Doc3 helped a client pharmaceutical company find patients who were suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a relatively rare and difficult to diagnose. 1Doc3 identified back-pain along with the presence of three or four other symptoms to seek out those suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and provide resources for treatment. In this case, it connected patients to pharmaceutical companies who could provide the right medication and professional care.

The Future of the Health Industry

1Doc3 is described by Javier Cardona as a pocket-size doctor who is available to users at any time and provides integrated solutions to health issues. Although the bulk of its users are in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Peru, the administrative team is planning to expand globally and provide these capabilities to users all over the world.

While other healthcare platforms may also provide medical information to users, it is not always personalized. 1Doc3 is a revolutionary free service that changes the face of healthcare by connecting patients to doctors in a timely manner and pointing users in the right direction. It removes barriers like time, cost and inaccessibility and puts the health back in the hands of the user.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Involvement in Latin AmericaFor decades, the U.S. government has been in charge of many anti-poverty and development programs in Latin America. One of the United States’ longest-running international aid programs has been the United States Agency for International Development or USAID. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 created this agency, which reorganized the U.S. government’s foreign aid money and mandated the creation of an independent federal agency tasked with administering economic aid to foreign countries. USAID has been a significant part of U.S. involvement in Latin America.

The U.S. started working in Latin America in 1962 when USAID began operating in the region. USAID has been one of the U.S. government’s primary methods of providing development assistance to the region. The agency currently works to help countries in Latin America develop by supporting small businesses, working to end government corruption, supporting democracy and helping the region protect its natural resources. This article will explain the history of the U.S. involvement in Latin America by focusing on three countries in particular: Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua.

USAID in Brazil

A year after its creation, USAID partnered with Brazil’s government to solve a wide range of issues in public health, education, the rights of children, human trafficking and food insecurity.

  • Throughout the 1960s and 70s, USAID helped Brazil strengthen its institutions and provided financial support for higher education within the country.
  • During this time, USAID helped solve Brazil’s food crisis by funding the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) in 1972. Embrapa transformed Brazil from a struggling food producer to becoming the third largest agricultural producers in the world. Embrapa helped increase Brazil’s beef and pork supply by four times between 1975 and 2009. At the same time, the production of milk increased up to 7.03 billion gallons per year from 2.1 billion gallons per year.
  • In the 1980s, USAID shifted its focus toward public health issues, such as child trafficking, forest conservation and biodiversity research.
  • In 2014, USAID Brazil became the agency’s first strategic partnership mission. USAID recognized that Brazil was not merely a struggling country reliant on U.S. aid money, it was also a major partner in development efforts in the region and around the world. This partnership led to the creation of the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity (PCAB) that same year.

USAID in Mexico

U.S. development efforts in Mexico began 10 years before the creation of USAID with the passing of the Mutual Security Act of 1951. The United States’ efforts during this time primarily focused on housing guarantees, health programs, food security and academic exchanges between the United States and Mexican universities. USAID expanded upon these goals and added new priorities such as economic and technological development to Mexico’s development strategy with support for democratic governance.

  • USAID took a hiatus from supporting development programs in Mexico in 1965, but they resumed in 1977.
  • USAID disaster relief became crucial for rebuilding parts of the country after a devastating earthquake in 1985.
  • The U.S. and Mexico have forged successful bilateral cooperation on many issues as a result of USAID. Because the establishment of the Mexican Conservation Fund was a success, it gathered environmental experts to seek policy solutions to Mexico’s environmental problems.
  • In recent years, USAID has increased efforts to decrease gang and drug-related violent crime throughout the country. USAID’s programs have reduced the tendencies for Mexican youths in jail or on probation to repeat their criminal behavior. The national rate is 60 percent, whereas in Mexico, it is only 1.25 percent.
  • USAID has also made efforts to institutionalize the rule of the law in Mexico by reforming the country’s judicial system. Thanks to USAID-sponsored reforms, four Mexican states saw a 450 percent increase in resolutions to robbery disputes. The Justice for You platform provided information about the legal system to 32,389 people in 32 states.

USAID in Nicaragua

As was the case with Brazil, USAID began assisting Nicaragua in 1962, primarily helping Nicaragua’s government develop its infrastructure, healthcare and education.

  • USAID played a major role in helping disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of a massive earthquake in 1972 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Following the earthquake in 1972, USAID installed 4,560 connections for clean water to houses that lost access.
  • In the aftermath of a brutal civil war lasting from 1978 to 1989, USAID was instrumental in efforts to reinstate democracy in war-torn Nicaragua in 1990 by backing Violeta Chamorro of the National Opposition Union. With the help of USAID, the government of Nicaragua transitioned into democracy by providing training to civil society organizations that encouraged broader participation in government.
  • USAID helped Nicaragua embrace a market economy through its implementation of the Balance of Payment Support Program in 1990. This allowed Nicaragua to import capital goods, raw materials, agricultural inputs and oil. In 2005, USAID also helped bring Nicaragua into compliance with the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). USAID helped train more than 2,000 small to medium-sized Nicaraguan enterprises to be compliant with CAFTA.

The U.S. involvement in Latin America has had an encouraging amount of success. USAID, in particular, has facilitated political, economic and social development in Latin America on a massive scale since 1962. While Latin America still faces challenges with drug crimes, gang violence, political corruption, food security and poverty, USAID has undoubtedly played a role in fostering lasting development in the region.

Andrew Bryant
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Drug Cartels Target Impoverished Children

Drug cartels are a rising problem everywhere, especially for those that are in poverty. Children, specifically children in poverty, are generally the most vulnerable population anywhere in the world. Latin American drug cartels target impoverished children specifically due to their innocence and willingness to obey. Although this situation seems unfixable, people are uniting together against Latin American drug cartels, providing much needed hope.

The Situation

In Latin America, 43 percent of children live in poverty. These children’s come from families with no money for food, clothing or shelter. Cartels know the struggles of these children, so they offer them work. Because many feel they have no choice but to accept work from Latin American drug cartels, 80 percent of children under 25 agree to work for them.

Young children in Mexico and other Latin American countries draw less suspicion than older individuals and are willing to work for little money. As a result, the cartels use them in every way possible. Cartels often send children unaccompanied to push drugs across borders. Subsequently, border security will help unaccompanied children, thus enabling drug traffickers to smuggle drugs across borders.

How Countries Combat Drug Cartels

Luckily for these children, countries are taking steps to eliminate cartels. Recently, Mexico initiated a joint investigative team with the U.S. to fight against drug cartels. The U.S. and Mexico have worked together to combat cartels since the 1970s. For instance, one program, the Merida Initiative, worked to stop the flow of illegal weapons from the U.S. into Mexico and, subsequently, Latin American cartels. Similarly, the U.S. and Mexico offer amnesty to drug dealers in exchange for information.

This new joint investigative team is based in Chicago and directly targets cartel finances. Cartels survive by distributing goods to suppliers and laundering money. Therefore, disrupting their finances and cracking down on money laundering will drastically slow their production. In doing so, the team intends to weaken and ultimately stop Latin American drug cartels.

How Nonprofit Organizations and KIND Help

Nonprofit organizations band together to help the children that drug smugglers employed previously. One organization in particular, KIND, is dedicated to offering such help. KIND protects children’s rights when unaccompanied children are detained by the U.S. and when they are on the move. KIND ensures detained children receive necessary legal aid, especially as these children are burdened with an immigration system they do not understand.

With the U.S. and Mexico targeting drug cartels’ financial assets and nonprofit organizations providing the necessary help, there is hope to eliminate drug cartels and keep vulnerable children safe. The U.S. and Mexico, along with nonprofit organizations, are executing solutions to keep drug cartels away from children and shut them down altogether.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: Pixabay

Technology Gender Gap in Latin AmericaIn Latin America, information and communications technology (ICT) is emerging in many economies, therefore, the demand for trained individuals in the tech industry is rapidly increasing. At the same time, 30 million youths are not working, participating in school, or engaged in training programs. And 76 percent of them are women. The lack of digital skills among young women is troubling because less than 20 percent of women transition from studying to formal jobs. Fortunately, programs such as Laboratoria are taking initiative in bridging the technology gender gap in Latin America.

How Was Laboratoria Created?

Laboratoria, once known as Ayu in 2014, started as a web agency that built its own in-house tech team. Once the hiring process was over, the company realized that its tech team was 100 percent male. The issue did not lie in their hiring practices but rather in the availability of females with digital skills who the company could bring on board.

As a result, the company decided to spearhead an initiative to train women developers and then hire them once they were qualified. The company targeted women who were unable to attend tertiary school due to economic constraints. As the idea grew, the company saw that there was potential to increase female inclusion across as many emerging and existing tech teams in Latin America, not just their own.

How Does Laboratoria Work?

Laboratoria operates in three stages:

  1. Selection process – Any woman can apply to Laboratoria. However, there is an extensive interview process and Laboratoria to identify those who would benefit the most from the program. Those that are selected must take “exams, pre-work, and real class dynamics” as part of the selection process.

  2. Bootcamp training – Those selected are accepted into a six-month boot camp that beings with a “common core and finishes with two specializations” which are Front-End development and UX design. Developers learn JavaScript, HTML, CSS and “highly demanded tools as React framework” while UX Designers graduate with an “innovative profile that combines coding with UX skills.” They also learn team skills that they will be able to apply to group settings. More importantly, it shows them the importance of supporting each other because creating a family of women in their tech careers will help them succeed.

  3. Talent placement – After the six-month boot camp, students are connected with hiring companies through Laboratoria’s own TalentApp and Talent Fest hackathons. These hackathons give real challenges to the students and they must solve them in 36 hours. The companies then choose who they want to hire based on the results of the challenges. Only the students who get hired by the companies have to pay for the program.

How is Laboratoria Bridging the Gap in Tech in Latin America?

Here are the results Laboratoria has produced through its program.

  • In 3 years there have been over 1,000 graduates
  • Laboratoria has connected with over 400 hiring companies in the tech industry
  • The rate for job placement for 2017 was 80 percent
  • The average income increase among employed graduates has tripled

Laboratoria is one of many programs that is bridging the gap in tech in Latin America by providing young and adult women with the opportunity to access, develop and acquire digital skills. These digital skills will help them build confidence and experience, but more importantly, bring gender diversity into the tech industry.

– Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Unsplash

fight against modern-day pirates
For the fishermen and industry workers that transport goods throughout the waters of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, pirates are an everyday encounter. These criminals steal millions of dollars, kidnap crew members and capture the goods being transported. For these workers and many others, it is a constant fight against modern-day pirates.

Transporting goods across ocean waters is one of the easier ways to get the product to the buyer.  An estimated 90 percent of all African exports and imports are moved across high seas, and the shorelines often become a target due to the large amount of good shipped. For example, the number of incidents in the Horn of Africa doubled in 2017 from 2016. Attacks also rose in 2016 with a total of 94 incidents off the west coast of Africa. It is clear that pirates seek out and target these high trafficked shipping areas.

When pirates board ships, they not only steal the goods that are being transported but also kidnap the crew members and hold them for ransom. In 2016, Somali pirates released 26 Asian crew members that were held for five years, releasing them once the ransom was paid. It is estimated that between the years 2005 and 2012, $339 to $413 million dollars were paid to pirates in ransoms off the Somali coasts. The average haul for these pirates comes out to just about $2.7 million, which usually comes out to about $30,000 to $70,000 for each person. Those that operate in the Gulf of Aden usually make $120 million in net profits. Studies also point to outside investors frequently help to ‘fund’ these pirate attacks and who then receive a cut of the payment after.

There are many different ways that governments, organizations and individuals are uniting to combat the damage caused by pirates. Some governments are focusing on unregulated fishing which allows local fisherman to thrive. Doing so provides long term, sustainable careers for locals who may otherwise turn to piracy. Shipping companies have also implemented several anti-boarding devices and armed contractors to deter pirates. Some ships have collapsible electric fences that act as a barrier between the ship and pirates, and tear gas and orange smoke flare canisters are sometimes placed along the side of boats. These preventive measures fight against modern-day pirates, help keep the crew members safe and are now lowering these attacks.

With anti-boarding devices, armed contractors and the creation of employment opportunities, pirate attacks are now lowering in numbers. While there is still work to be done, the fight against modern-day pirates has produced encouraging results.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard