malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

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 Bolivia
Bolivia is a country located in South America. It borders Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Argentina, and has no access to the oceans surrounding South America. About half of the land in this country is occupied by the Andes Mountains and consists of dry land. Typically, people overlook Bolivia in comparison to more popular countries in South America like Chile, Peru and Brazil. Bolivia is most recognized for its breathtaking sand flats, however, homelessness in Bolivia is rampant. Few acknowledge that more than 35% of Bolivia’s population lives in poverty and over 6% deal with unemployment.

7 Facts About Homelessness in Bolivia

  1. Child homelessness in Bolivia is concerning. Every year, about 800,000 children in Bolivia are abandoned, neglected and left homeless. These kids turn to crime and child labor opportunities just to earn some money to keep them alive. Even as countries worldwide try to end child labor, it is still legal for children as young as 10 years old to work in Bolivia. An estimated 850,000 Bolivian children work selling food and clothes at outdoor markets, mining silver or harvesting sugar cane. These children are either living in extreme poverty, are homeless or both.
  2. Life expectancy links to homelessness in Bolivia. The life expectancy in Bolivia is about 70 years. This number is remarkably low. The average global life expectancy is about 72.6 years. That means that Bolivians are dying much earlier than the majority of the world. This may link closely to the poverty rate and the amount of homelessness in the country, as many of these people do not have access to clean water, sanitation and nutritious food. They are malnourished and do not have the resources to receive medical attention, which results in their shortened life.
  3. Bolivia’s landslide increased the already large population of homeless people in the country. On Apr. 30, 2019, a massive landslide hit Bolivia’s capital. This landslide destroyed 66 houses and over 85 families were left homeless. The government promised these families that they would provide them shelter, but many still reside in tents. So far, little has been done to help these people, which is extremely troubling given that Bolivia is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards like droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides and volcanoes.
  4. Homeless Bolivians turn to drugs. In most situations, when people live in extreme poverty or live without shelter, they turn to violence, and Bolivia is no exception. These people sleep on the street and steal money to buy food. They lead a lonely life so they look to alcohol and drugs to ease their pain. They get high on cheap drugs such as paco, a cocaine base and glue.
  5. Bolivian women living on the streets endure extreme violence. Bolivian women suffer from violence and assault in general, but being homeless and vulnerable makes it much easier for predators to attack. In 2018, 76 cases of femicide occurred from January to August, and 128 cases occurred in the whole year. This means that 128 innocent women were killed just because they were female. Latin American countries hold the highest rates of femicide in the world, and women on the streets are especially at risk.
  6. Homeless shelters and services attempt to help Bolivians living on the streets. About 58% of Bolivian families live in inadequate living conditions and do not have access to basic sanitation. The government plans to build 25,000 houses every year for the next ten years but so far, there has been no headway on this mission. Homeless shelters that are already in effect, however, offer a home to children and services that they cannot find on the street, such as sanitation and access to water.
  7. Bolivia’s government is making strides and attempts to reduce the number of people living in poverty and without shelter. The AIF, Arco Iris Foundation, is operating under the core goal of fighting poor and homeless children. The main way they try to help these children is by giving them leadership roles in the community. By being in these roles, the children receive social and financial assistance, training and support to lift them and their families out of poverty.

Despite being a beautiful country, homelessness in Bolivia is widespread and contributes to issues such as poor sanitation and water quality. More has to be done in this country and the region it is located in to help save people living in poverty and on the streets. Bolivia has a long way to go before everyone — males, females, children, homeless and people living in poverty — can be truly safe and lead a good life.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Double Burden of Malnutrition
Typically, obesity and being generally overweight are thought of as problems exclusive to higher-income countries, while undernourishment is believed to be only within low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. However, LMI countries disproportionately face both obesity and undernourishment, which is known as the double burden of malnutrition (DBM).

More than one-third of LMI countries are facing the double burden of malnutrition. This rise in the prevalence of DBM is attributed to dramatic changes within our food systems. Globally, our diets have experienced a shift towards greater consumption of ultra-processed and high caloric foods. This includes things such as sugar-sweetened beverages and fast-foods.

The Double Burden and Poverty

LMI countries disproportionately deal with the double burden of malnutrition because they experience this shift in diet on top of pre-existing undernourishment. Poverty creates a tremendous strain on one’s ability to access proper nutrition. Impoverished individuals experiencing food insecurity may resort to purchasing ultra-processed foods because they are cheaper. This means that they are either not getting enough food to begin with causing undernourishment or eating unhealthy foods, which can cause obesity and undernourishment due to micronutrient deficiencies.

Undernourishment and obesity are health risks that interact and lead to one another. For example, mothers that are either underweight or overweight during pregnancy can face health risks themselves, such as anemia or gestational diabetes. They can also put their child at risk; being underweight could lead to a low-birth-weight for the baby, and being overweight could increase the likelihood that the child will be overweight later in life. The DBM directly impacts health and places a strain on the healthcare system, but it affects countries’ economic growth as well.

An Economic Burden

In 2017, the World Food Program (WFP) released a report examining the economic cost of the double burden of malnutrition in Latin America. Undernutrition and obesity undermine individuals’ productivity. Undernourishment hinders physical and brain growth, while being overweight or obesity causes non-communicable diseases like diabetes or heart disease. These health conditions create situations where it may be difficult for adults to work consistently, or children may be too ill to go to school. Losses in productivity can hinder economic growth, which maintains poverty and only worsens the double burden of malnutrition. The report claims that economic losses from productivity are “estimated at 500 million in Chile, 4.3 billion in Ecuador and 28.8 billion in Mexico.”

In Latin America, rates of obesity and undernourishment are increasing significantly. About 25% of adults are obese, and 7.3% of children under five years old are overweight. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué, states that “obesity is growing uncontrollably. Each year we are adding 3.6 million obese people to this region.” Additionally, rates of undernourishment are rising. 39.3 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing hunger. In Venezuela, there are 3.7 million people hungry. There are 4.8 million people hungry in Mexico.

Combatting Malnutrition

The double burden of malnutrition is detrimental in this region and is causing great concern. However, many countries have implemented strategies to combat this:

  • Chile has approved front-of-pack-labeling (FOPL) that warns consumers if the product is high in sodium, saturated fats or sugars. It has also imposed a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Brazil has increased infant breastfeeding by 32.3% and reduced children-under-five stunting by 30%.
  • Mexico is the first Latin American country to impose a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. It has also created a social welfare program called conditional cash transfer (CCT), which aims to make families food secure and use education and supplements to improve nutrition.

The double burden of malnutrition is a complex and multifaceted issue, which will require comprehensive interventions. It is crucial to target early-life nutrition, ensure that hunger programs provide nutrient-rich foods, and begin managing the production and distribution within larger food systems. While this task is daunting, it is essential to correctly address all forms of malnutrition in order to make the most impact.

Paige Wallace
Photo: Unsplash

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ColombiaMacroeconomic trends show there has been equitable growth in Colombia. While as of 2017 Colombia holds the second-highest wealth inequality rate in Latin America, only slightly better than Brazil, it has been on a downward trend since 2000. Additionally, poverty in Colombia dropped by 15% between 2008 and 2017 to a low of 27%. Extreme poverty was cut in half from 2002 to 2014, with more than 6 million people moving out of poverty. This put more Colombians in the middle class than in poverty for the first time. Finally, between 2008 and 2017, the country’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 3.8%. This is more than twice as fast as the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Problems

However, increasing exports drives much of the recent growth and reduction in poverty in Colombia. Commodity prices have risen significantly over the past several years. This growth is unsustainable, as a recent drop in prices has hindered the export industry. Colombia has also been struggling with such issues as a lack of financial inclusion, low productivity, low-skilled workers and a large informal economy.

The informal economy consists of such jobs as farmworkers, taxi drivers and street vendors where “they make no direct tax contributions, have no security of employment and do not receive pensions or other social benefits.” As of May 2014, informal workers made up nearly two-thirds of the Colombian labor force. This means millions do not possess a dependable income. They do not have the opportunity to contribute to or receive a pension fund or other government benefits. For these reasons, the large informal sector is also a big contributor to inequality and poverty in Colombia.

Another major issue holding back Colombia has been its decades-long internal struggle for peace. Nearly a quarter-million Colombians have died from the conflict, with 25,000 disappearing and nearly 6 million being displaced. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2016, tensions are still high in the country between the government and the rebel militia.

Solutions

Nonetheless, steps are being taken to ensure that Colombia is able to continue its recent progress. With nearly 6 million people displaced because of the internal conflict, land restitution is a key step to make. With the help of the World Bank, 1,852 land restitution legal cases were held by the end of 2014. Additionally, the World Bank helped the Colombian government give reparations to those affected by the conflict, with a focus on Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who were disproportionately affected.

Digitalization and use of technology are being used to help formalize businesses by simplifying the registration process and making tax collection more efficient, enabling businesses and individuals to pay taxes and contribute to the pension system and providing them access to many social benefits. Digitalization also provides greater access to financial services. This is done by providing micro-credits, expanding the outreach of banking services, lowering the cost of financial services and simplifying electronic payments.

USAID’s Role in Poverty Reduction in Colombia

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been involved in helping decrease poverty in Colombia by increasing the presence of democratic institutions in the country. Through this, the USAID hopes to “foster a culture of respect for human rights, promote access to justice, increase public investment and provide services to historically underserved and conflictive rural areas.” This organization fights for inclusive growth and encourages investment in rural areas. Additionally, it helps producers expand their market, provides financial services and helps restore the land to its original owners before the conflict.

All of these efforts and many more are being made to reduce poverty in Colombia. The goal is to keep the country on a path toward equitable and inclusive development that leads to a reduction of inequality.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Colombia
Colombia is a fast-growing country with a population of 49 million. In the last 10 years alone, the population has increased by 5 million people. As a result of the added pressure on the country’s infrastructure, many citizens may not have access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. In recent years, Colombia has been working to increase its population’s access to WASH facilities. The country continues to develop initiatives on how to increase this accessibility. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Colombia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Colombia

  1. Access to Clean Water: Exactly 1.4 million citizens do not have access to clean drinking water. This accounts for around 3% of the population. There is a large discrepancy between urban and rural populations and their access to clean water. In fact, 100% of the urban population has access to basic drinking water. In the rural population, however, only 86% have access to basic drinking water.
  2. Increase in Water Access: Colombia has seen an increase in the population that has access to basic drinking water services from 90% in 2000 to 97% in 2015. The Colombian government plans to increase water accessibility to rural regions such as La Guajira by 2024. Additionally, in 2019, over 8,000 indigenous people living in rural Colombia gained access to basic water facilities through the development of reservoirs and ancillary infrastructure.
  3. Rural Water Usage: Around 19% of the rural population use water from rivers, lakes or wetlands for drinking, washing and cooking. Colombia has over 514,800 sites where farmers raise livestock. Unfortunately, the animals easily contaminate water from natural resources such as lakes and rivers. This can lead to illness and disease in these rural areas. 
  4. Rural and Urban Water Management: There is currently a discrepancy between the access to clean water between rural and urban communities. In 2017, 81% of water access in urban areas had a designation of safely managed while 19% had basic water management status. In comparison, rural areas only had 40% of their water with a safely managed label and 46% had basic water management.
  5. Health Implications: Due to poor access to WASH facilities, 2% of the national GDP goes toward health-related costs. In 2016, there were 366 deaths due to the poor sanitation and water conditions in Colombia. In 2012, there were 119 deaths in children under 5-years-old due to inadequate access to water and sanitation. 
  6. Toilet Access: Currently, 4.9 million people do not have access to a toilet in Colombia. In rural areas, three in 10 people do not have access to safe toileting facilities. Tierra Grata is an organization that is helping rural communities by installing waterless eco-toilets. These eco-toilets aim to decrease the pollution of natural water-ways and increase the population’s health and well-being.
  7. Household Hygiene: Out of a population of 49 million, only 28 million people in urban communities and 3.3 million people in rural communities have access to basic hygiene services. Basic hygiene includes access to bathing facilities and the ability to wash hands prior to food preparation and after toileting. Between both rural and urban communities, there are 14 million citizens who are without access to hygiene facilities.
  8. Hygiene at School: UNICEF identified the issues that prevented student hygiene as an inconsistent water supply, poor sanitation systems and lack of hand-washing facilities. Only one in five schools had both soap and toilet paper available for student use. The School Sanitation project was able to improve school hygiene and decrease diarrhea-related absences by 30%.
  9. Sanitation Improvement: In 2000, 12% of urban sanitation was managed safely and 66% had basic management. In 2017, this number had risen to 15% having safe management and 77% having basic management. In rural areas, open defecation decreased from 25% in 2000 to 13% in 2017.
  10. Water Recycling: El Salitre wastewater treatment plant is on the Bogotá River. The river collects wastewater from 10 million people. The plant is currently treating and recycling the river water to provide for safe water access to millions of households. Studies show that water treatment plants increase both public and environmental health. 

Despite the improvements, there is still a large number of Colombia’s population that do not have access to safe or basic WASH services, especially when considering the country’s rural communities. Luckily, with the government and organizations continuing to work to improve sanitation in Colombia, a brighter, cleaner future is on the horizon. 

– Laura Embry 
Photo: Flickr

tech startups in Latin America
According to the Vice President for Finance and World Bank Controller Jorge Familiar, “We should adopt and promote technology and innovation to boost economic growth, poverty reduction and increase opportunities for all, rather than planning barriers.” In recent years, Latin America has followed Familiar’s advice as it has seen a dramatic rise in access to technology and a sense of entrepreneurship. Below are seven facts about tech startups in Latin America.

7 Facts About Tech Startups in Latin America

  1. Latin America is more connected than it has ever been, a necessity for the success of tech startups. More than 70 percent of South Americans had access to the internet as of January 2020, up from 55 percent in 2017. There are about 500 million smartphone subscriptions across the region. Brazil and Mexico rank fourth and fifth in the number of Facebook users with 120 million and 84 million users respectively. Additionally, Latin America has been one of the top growing markets for Spotify and Netflix.
  2. E-commerce sales in the region reached $53.2 billion in 2018, up 18 percent from 2017. This is attracting attention from international e-commerce businesses such as Amazon, which opened its first distribution center in Brazil in 2019.
  3. Venture capital investments in Latin America surpassed $1 billion at the end of 2017. There were 25 new global investors that year. These investors include Softbank, Telstra Ventures and Rethink Education.
  4. Three tech startups surpassed $1 billion valuations at the beginning of 2018. These startups include Nubank, an online banking service, and PagSeguro, an e-commerce service for commercial operations.
  5. Strong institutional support in the region has facilitated the expansion of startups. Startup Chile and Mexico’s Fund of Funds are government-initiated investment firms that act as accelerators to provide capital to small and medium enterprises to get them off the ground. Similar organizations exist in Argentina, Peru and Columbia. Brazil’s development bank has played a critical role in the provision of capital to small businesses as well.
  6. The share of female participation in creating startups is higher in Latin America than in Europe. The failure rate of startups is higher than ever in many Latin American countries. However, this is due to a growing sense of entrepreneurship amongst men and women alike.
  7. The Tech Growth Coalition began in 2018 to facilitate investment in the region’s startups. One of the issues Latin American startups face is the small domestic markets the countries have. However, by working together as a region, countries can overcome this problem. The Tech Growth Coalition, which consists of large investors such as Google and Facebook, emerged to help with this cross-border collaboration. The parent organization, the Latin American Venture Capital Association, which originated in 2002 and consists of more than 190 firms of all types and sizes, has built up $65 billion worth of assets “directed at capitalizing and growing Latin American businesses.”

The growth in the number and size of tech startups in Latin America is key for several reasons. One key reason is the opening of foreign markets and the attraction of foreign investment and businesses. This not only leads to increased “investible resources and capital formation” but “a means of transferring production technology, skills, innovative capacity and organizational and managerial practices between locations, as well as of accessing international marketing networks.”

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America
The informal economy is a fluid area of work that people may drift in and out of. Certain companies may live in both the formal and informal job sector as well. The International Labor Organization (ILO) distinguishes between the informal sector and informal employment, stating that the former is an “enterprise-based concept and is defined by the characteristics of the enterprise in which workers are engaged” while the latter occurs on a case-by-case basis regarding the employee’s relationship to the enterprise. For example, some companies operate within the formal sector but hire certain employees “informally.”  In other words, one can define the informal economy as “firms and workers that stand outside a country’s tax and regulatory systems.

It is important to note that the informal economy is not synonymous with the black market or the underground economy. Additionally, the informal market is not necessarily illegal. However, many countries do not mandate the social benefits and protections included in the formal economy. Informal work can include a variety of jobs including street vendors, subsistence farmers, seasonal workers, industrial workers and others. Given this characterization, below are nine facts about the informal economy in Latin America.

9 Facts About the Informal Economy in Latin America

  1. A total of 140 million people work in occupations involving social vulnerability, limited rights and precarious conditions. According to the ILO, this number translates to roughly 50 percent of total employment in the region. It is a little less than the global average but more than double for the developed region.
  2. The percent of informally employed workers varies greatly across the region. Costa Rica had the lowest rate of informally employed workers as of 2013 at 30.7 percent. In addition, Guatemala had the highest at 73.6 percent.
  3. An International Monetary Fund study found four main contributing factors to the expansive informal economy in Latin America. Some of these factors include the heavy tax burden on corporations and individuals as well as minimum wage constraints. Another factor is the importance of agriculture because informal employment is much higher in the agricultural sector.
  4. Although there are poor and non-poor alike across the informal and formal sectors, empirical research has displayed that those working in the informal economy may be at a higher risk of poverty than those employed in the formal economy. The exact relationship between the informal economy and poverty is difficult to determine. This is due to a variety of circumstances that can affect poor households. For instance, the income an individual brings home may not technically be below the poverty line, however, it may not be sufficient to support five people. Regardless, informal employment is often unstable due to inconsistent wage earnings and a lack of social protection.
  5. The informal economy affects youth in Latin America. According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 56 million Latin Americans in the age range of 15 to 24 in the workforce. A little over 7 million are jobless and 27 million are working informal jobs. Many quit without much of a choice as six out of the 10 jobs available to them are in the informal economy.
  6. In 2013, 44.5 percent of the non-agricultural informal employment in Latin America was male while 49.7 percent was female. However, globally males make up a higher percentage because they make up a larger portion of the workforce. In contrast, when looking across developing countries, 92 percent of all women have informal employment compared to 87 percent of all men.
  7. The informal economy in Latin America represented 34 percent of its average gross domestic product (GDP) from 2010-2017, which is higher than any other region in the world. This is true despite Latin America being in possession of one of the lower percentages of informal work, 40 percent compared to the 85.8 percent of employment in Africa.
  8. The informal economy has been reducing in Latin America and the rest of the world for the past 30 years. This could partly be due to a reduction in the challenges to register a business.
  9. Improving transit infrastructure and access to education can reduce the size of a country’s informal economy. A case study of Mexico City found that high transit costs can lead to an increase in the percentage of workers on the outskirts of cities choosing informal work. Furthermore, by improving access to cheaper and more efficient transit services, informal employment can decrease. Meanwhile, a case study in Peru showed that it is easier to obtain formal employment if one has higher education. This was true even for indigenous groups in the country who often face discrimination when entering the formal sector.

Informal work remains an ambiguous topic requiring more research. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind that the informal economy is not inherently bad. While many struggle because of their informal work, they often cannot afford the costs of transitioning to the formal sector. For instance, one may deem small businesses that have under 10 workers as informal, and therefore, they would not have to pay social benefits, thus saving them money. In other words, in some circumstances, informal workers may require additional support, but would not necessarily benefit from transitioning into the formal sector.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Wikimedia Commons