Poverty in Latin America
Hunger and poverty in Latin America, including Mexico, Central and South America, have decreased since the 1990s and early 2000s. However, hunger and malnourishment continue to be ongoing issues as a result of poverty.

In 2015, 28 percent of Latin Americans suffered from impoverished conditions, as compared to 44 percent in 2002. Although the numbers had improved since 2002, there was a stall in improvements in 2013.

As of 2017, studies show that 130 million people in South America are currently living in a state of poverty across various countries. These countries include Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

One major cause of the poverty and instability suffered among individuals living in these countries is due to the disparity between socio-economic classes. According to the Huffington Post, some things that can be done to decrease the rate of poverty and increase the well-being of persons living in Latin America include “comprehensive poverty reduction programs” specifically directed at increasing labor incomes, improving social programs and configuring ways to “integrate early childhood development into the social development.”

Additionally, while Latin America was once a large producer of commodities, this changed after the recession in 2008. Countries such as Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have faced greater economic losses over the past year. For example, Brazil faced severe economic hardship in 2016 due to failed policy-making strategies and an overall inadequate political environment, which led to higher inflation and lower income for businesses and families.

The economy in Venezuela has also left much to be desired. Last year, the country faced a free fall in oil production, which then led to heightened inflation and negative economic effects on the overall quality of life for Venezuelans.

Argentinian economist Raul Benitiz Manaut told Inter Press News Agency that the real problem surrounding hunger and poverty in Latin America is a “problem of access, not production.” Likewise, he has vocalized the importance of wealthier countries taking the initiative to reach out and help countries whose citizens are suffering from hunger and malnourishment.

In 2013, Harvard University conducted a study and offered some useful solutions that can help reduce poverty in Latin America. One solution offered by the university addressed the issue of low productivity in Latin countries and the need for the public and private sectors to work together to resolve this issue. For example, a project known as “Mundo Vex Tenda” was created in Brazil in 2010 and funded by the United States Inter-American Development Bank. The project focuses on providing individuals running small businesses in Brazil with the opportunity to learn effective business-related skills in areas such as financial literacy, marketing and food safety practices.

Additionally, Harvard researchers stated that “governments must root out violence and invest in specialized infrastructure; create transparent, accountable mechanisms that decentralize decision-making; and direct resources to reinvigorating the private sector, short of protecting it from competition.”

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Brazil Refugees
As the fifth largest country by both area and population, Brazil is the largest country in South America and Latin America and receives more refugees than any other country in the region. Brazil is also the only country in the Americas to have Portuguese as the official language.

The country is both a regional power in Latin America and a middle power in international affairs. Due to its recognition as an emerging global power, Brazil has been identified as a shelter to refugees and migrants. Here are 10 facts about Brazil refugees:

  1. As of 2016, Brazil has about 2,100 refugees living in the country.
  2. Brazil receives more refugees from Syria than any other country in Latin America.
  3. As of 2013, Brazil issued 8,000 humanitarian visas under more simplified conditions to allow survivors of the Syrian war to claim asylum in the country.
  4. Due to these visas, Brazil has had approximately 2,000 refugees settle in the country.
  5. Brazil refugees are able to receive informal, temporary employment in the services and retail industry.
  6. Brazil refugees are considered by some to be an unnecessary cost and security threat due to the country’s deep economic recession.
  7. Refugees claiming asylum in Brazil have higher education than the average Brazilian.
  8. The Brazilian government wants to limit the intake of refugees due to the country’s economic woes.
  9. Brazilian refugees will now be faced with the country’s recalibration of its foreign policy.
  10. Brazil’s refugees have the right to work, access to education and health care.

In recent years, Brazil has been praised for the country’s humanitarian efforts and openness to asylum seekers. As of recently, questions of the country’s ability to aid refugees have plagued the government amid the country distancing itself from developing nations and experiencing the worst recession in its memory.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Nicaragua
Ranked 125th out of 188 nations on the 2015 U.N.’s Human Development Index, Nicaragua is a low-income, food deficit country, with a per capita National Gross Income (NGI) of $980. Hunger in Nicaragua is among reasons to count the country as the second poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hunger in Nicaragua has plagued the country resulting in its poverty rating. A study revealed by the World Food Program (WFP) shows that chronic undernutrition affects over 40 percent of children under five. The problem is most prominent in the departments of Madriz, Nueva Segovia and Jinotega; where between 28 percent and 29.5 percent of children aged under five are malnourished. Data also reveals that stunting among children aged under three in targeted areas is higher than global mean rates.

The World Food Program has been present in Nicaragua since 1971, supporting the Government of Nicaragua’s Zero Hunger Program and helping to build resilience in food-insecure households and strengthening food security nets.

The WFP provides nutritional support to vulnerable communities faced with hunger in Nicaragua. Families are given assistance through activities such as Food for Assets (FFA) and Food for Training (FFT). In addition, the National School Meals Program supports access to nutritional support with school gardens and a daily meal to pre- and primary school children in the most food insecure areas.

The WFP is collaborating with the Purchase for Progress initiative to grant the necessary resources to smallholder farmers. This impetus will create sustainable development by connecting them to and building networks with local markets. With agriculture being the primary economic activity in Nicaragua, the program is inclusive of 70 percent of the nation’s population and contributes to 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

Action Against Hunger has been involved since 1996. They have established programs focused on nutrition and food security to tackle hunger in Nicaragua and enhance social-net security throughout the country.

The Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) aims to assist some 132,000 people through Mother-and-Child care activities. Its goals include providing food assistance to vulnerable families affected by hunger and poverty.

The food-aid organization Kids Against Hunger works with and through local churches and organizations to provide meals to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua among vulnerable children. The Casper Packaging Event is a community effort with a goal of providing 200,000 meals annually.

The NICE Foundation is the partner organization with Kids Against Hunger that is responsible for the distribution of the packages. The organization exists to meet the long-term nutritional needs of Nicaraguans.

Strides are being made by organizations worldwide to battle the issue of hunger in Nicaragua. Although the economy has faced difficulty in the past in ensuring the stability of food security, there is hope that many faced with hardship and hunger will experience relief.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Poverty in Latin America
Within the past decade, 70 million people were able to escape poverty in Latin America due to economic growth and a lessened income gap. However, millions still remain in the cycle of poverty. Presented below is key data about poverty in Latin America.


10 Leading Facts on Poverty in Latin America


  1. One in five Latin Americans lives in chronic poverty conditions. Latin Americans account for 130 million of the nearly 500 million who live in chronic poverty worldwide.
  2. Poverty rates vary from country to country in the Latin American region. With estimated poverty rates floating around 10 percent, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have the lowest chronic poverty rates. Meanwhile, Nicaragua with 37 percent and Guatemala with 50 percent have the highest chronic poverty rates in Latin America, which are well above the regional average of 21 percent.
  3. Poverty rates can also vary within a country. A single country can have both ends of the spectrum with the highest poverty rate that is eight times higher than the lowest. For example, Brazil has a chronic poverty rate of 5 percent in Santa Catarina, but 40 percent in Ceará.
  4. Poverty in Latin America encompasses both urban and rural areas. Most assume that rural areas have higher poverty rates than urban areas, like in Bolivia, where the amount of people living in rural poverty is 20 percentage points higher than those living in urban poverty. However, the number of urban poor is higher than the number of rural poor in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
  5. Poor Latin Americans lack access to basic health care services. Approximately 20 percent of the Latin American and Caribbean population lack access to health care due to their poverty conditions. The region also has high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
  6. Those living in poverty in Latin America lack access to safe water and sanitation. The World Water Council reported that 77 million people lack access to safe water or live without a water source in their homes. Of the 77 million, 51 million live in rural areas and 26 million live in urban areas. An estimated 256 million rely on latrines and septic tanks as an alternative to basic sanitation.
  7. The lack of education in Latin America lowers prospects of rising out of poverty. One in 12 young people ages 15 to 24 have not completed primary school, and therefore lack the skills necessary to find decent jobs. The same age group represents 40 percent of the total number of unemployed in many Latin American countries. When they are employed, six out of 10 jobs are informal, lacking decent wages, contract agreements and social security rights.
  8. Limited economic opportunities keep the poor in poverty. The biggest factor that led to poverty reduction from 2004-2012 was labor income. The Huffington Post reported that in poor households every Latin American country had an average of 20 percent “fewer human resources to generate income” than non-poor households and those households who managed to escape poverty.
  9. Chronic poverty levels are falling. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of Latin Americans living on under $4 a day decreased from 45 percent to 25 percent. The Latin American population living on $2.5 per day fell from 28 percent to 14 percent.
  10. The falling poverty levels in Latin America can be attributed to improved public policy. Latin American governments created conditional cash transfers (CCT), which substituted subsidies for money transfers for the poor who invested in human capital beginning in the late 1990s. As a result, child attendance in schools has risen and families have more food and more diversity in diets.

In 2010, the middle-class population exceeded the low-income population for the first time in the region. However, with one-fifth of the population still in poverty, there is much work to be done.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Social Entrepreneur CorpsFounded by Greg Van Kirk, the Social Entrepreneur Corps (SEC) diagnoses needs and implements innovations that help marginalized, impoverished and vulnerable families build a better life for themselves.

The volunteers and employees of the SEC play an important role in creating impactful social innovation. They can “gain the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to become the high impact leaders and social entrepreneurs of the future.” In addition, the SEC has been “leading innovative and dynamic impact immersion programs for 10 years and over 1,000 participants have joined [their] diverse programs.”

The organization utilizes well-structured programs where participants are mentored by field leaders, who are experienced development professionals.

One of the SEC’s initiatives includes a needs and feasibility analysis, in which participants perform research through observations, surveys and informal conversations in order to analyze needs of impoverished communities.

Another is an innovative-design initiative, in which participants use their research to develop and give consultations to local community members on ways to improve their state of poverty.

As one SEC participant states, “from giving presentations in Spanish to local organizations to going on campaigns in rural regions, every activity gave me the chance and the courage to step out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries as far as I could.”

Communities in Latin America, for example, are reaping the benefits. The Jutiapa region in Guatemala had a successful village campaign which benefited women entrepreneurs in the region. In one day, participants “served over 150 people and helped the women to sell 69 pairs of glasses, 35 eye drops, 30 packets of vegetable seeds, 8 solar lamps/cell phone chargers and one water purification bucket.”

The female entrepreneurs earned nearly $240 in net profits, which is the equivalent of over two months’ wages for the average rural Guatemalan.

The Social Entrepreneur Corps has played an important role in breaking the cycle of poverty in Latin American countries. The organization’s efforts continue to inspire families and communities.

Vanessa Awanyo

Reports of Chikungunya Fever are on the rise in Peru, raising concerns at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC has added Peru to the Level One Watch List for Chikungunya Fever, as the disease moves toward epidemic proportions in the country. The Peruvian Ministry of Health is taking precautions to limit the spread of the disease in the country, which may have spread from neighboring countries.

Minister Velasquez of the Peruvian Ministry of Health and Minister Candace Vance of Health Ministry of Ecuador have signed an agreement to jointly fight the disease. This agreement allowed Peru to identify the first indigenous case of Chikungunya Fever.

The Peruvian Ministry of Health of has put together a national plan to combat the disease including a surveillance agency MOH to monitor infectious disease coming across the border. They have also placed an epidemiological fence in areas where the disease is prevalent and spray shops and homes to eradicate the disease.

In partnership with Ecuador, the are closely monitoring outbreak and implementing vector control in areas where the outbreaks arise in. Ecuador has suffered more than 15,000 cases of Chikungunya Fever this year alone.

Across Latin America, rates of mosquito-borne disease are increasing; the joint action plan between Ecuador and Peru marks a first step in interstate cooperation to combat mosquito-borne diseases.

Chikungunya fever, much like malaria, Yellow fever, Typhoid fever and Dengue is spread by the bite of a mosquito. Chikungunya symptoms begin about 3-7 days after being bitten by the Aedes Egypti mosquito.

The symptoms include fever, joint pain, headache, muscle ache, rash or swelling. These symptoms left untreated can severely disable an individual. Symptoms can last anywhere from a week to a month depending on the severity of the case.

Robert Cross

Sources: CDC, EL Universo, Outbreak News Today, PMOH, Peru This Week
Photo: Información desde América Latina

Five Unique Facts about Extreme Poverty around the World
1. More than 1 billion people around the world live on the price of a vending machine candy bar.

Many people have only a $1.25 per day for food, medicine and shelter. Although there are 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, the number of people living on this amount has drastically decreased over the last three decades.

2. Poverty in India is different than poverty in China–and still different from poverty in other countries, too.

India has 179.6 million people living in poverty. India has a greater share of the world’s poor than it did 30 years ago. In the 1970s and 80s, India had about one-fifth of its people living in poverty. Now, that number has increased to one-third.

When living in poverty in India, families have to deal with many harsh conditions. Due to poor weather conditions, lack of water and misuse of insecticides, many families can’t grow the crops needed to live a sustainable lifestyle. Families suffering from these poor conditions may move to the slums of Mumbai to get away, where they face other harsh conditions like overcrowded communal bathroom facilities and the lack of proper sewage systems, meaning much of the water they consume is contaminated.

Many residents in India living in poorer conditions have put off things like health and education to keep on basic survival necessities. According to the World Bank, more than 70 percent of the 22 million people living in Mumbai live in the slums.

China, however, has 137.6 million people living in impoverished conditions. Poverty in China differs from poverty in India in that, as of August 2015, it had wiped out the majority of its poverty, but there are still people living in poverty in China’s rural regions. Between 50 and 55 percent of its people live in rural areas.

Over the last decade, the number of females has drastically increased as much of the male population has left to urban areas to find work. This has caused a decrease in farming knowledge among the general population. Farmers are also victims of devastating natural disasters that result in unpaved roads, decreased farm sizes and depleted resources.

3. There are people in the United States living in extreme poverty.

In 2012, a legislator in North Carolina stated there was no such thing as extreme poverty in the state. However, North Carolina is home to three of the top 10 poorest areas in the United States. Other areas include Nacogdoches, Texas; Dalton, Georgia and Gallup, New Mexico.

Over the last few years, the number of women living in extreme poverty in the United States increased from 5.9 percent to 6.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, meaning there are 42 million — about one in three — women living in or on the brink of poverty. One of every six of these women is elderly. In 2010 alone, more than 7.2 million women fell into extreme poverty.

4. More than enough food is produced in the world to keep everyone healthy.

Enough food in the world is produced to keep everyone on an adequate diet, but nearly 854 million people, or one in seven people, go hungry. About 2.8 million people still rely on wood, crop waste and other biomass to heat and cook their food, which can also lead to malnutrition. Luckily, there are many organizations, like Stop Hunger Now and World Hunger Organization, fighting hunger.

5. Poverty in Africa is caused by different effects than poverty in Latin America.
One of the major causes of poverty in Africa is unsustainable agriculture. Poverty in Africa takes place primarily in Africa’s rural regions, where citizens rely heavily on agriculture for sustenance and income. When the weather is harsh on crops, poor agricultural techniques are practiced or soil erosion prevents hearty crops, and many families suffer because of it.

In Latin America, one of the major causes is inequality of wealth distribution. While poverty in Africa is mostly in rural areas, poverty in Latin America plagues both rural and urban regions. Other causes of poverty in Latin and South America are internal conflicts and issues with structural adjustments.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: Mic, Gabriel Project Mumbai, The Guardian, Yahoo
Photo: Flickr

You Don't Have to have an MD to Improve Global Health
The term “Global Health” conjures up a number of images: sterilized hospitals, syringes, people with advanced degrees saving lives clad in scrubs and stethoscopes.

Medical professionals are without a doubt integral to the success of global health efforts; they are responsible for the lifesaving techniques and knowledge that have essentially eradicated polio and controlled infectious diseases like cholera and yellow fever.

However, they are not the entire picture but only a very important piece of the complicated puzzle that is global health.

Researchers are increasingly finding that people skilled in other disciplines, such as the social sciences and humanities, are just as important in combating poor health worldwide.

Where medical expertise was once deemed the ultimate key to improving lives around the world, groups such as Global Health Corps (GHC) have identified non-medical links in the public health chain that need overhauling to allow current medical science to unlock its potential.

Thats why only three of the Africa-bound GHC fellows this year are MDs.

“Global health issues are very complex,” said CEO of GHC Barbara Bush. “They’re so rooted in poverty, they’re so rooted in education — or lack of education — issues. There’s a lot of gender issues that play into poor health outcomes. I think that’s why we need very different thinkers and different folks at the table.”

These “different thinkers” include architects to former Restoration Hardware employees. Bush has called these people “systems thinkers” — the kind of people who can improve health outcomes by attacking barriers to health that lurk below the surface.

These GHC fellows, all under the age of 30, have already taken this challenge onto the ground. In Rwanda, architects have worked to prevent the spread of airborne illness by redesigning airflow in hospitals. Former retail employees, skilled in the arena of logistics and organization, have already begun an overhaul of logistical systems that failed to contain the Ebola outbreak.

GHC’s Africa initiative is not the only organization to recognize the need for interdisciplinary thinking in global health. Rafael Rangel-Aldao, scientist, entrepreneur and owner of R&D Health Holdings Ltd., is calling for a “systems-based” approach in Latin America as well.

“Many developing countries in the Americas have yet to benefit from biotechnology not because of inherent problems with either the science or technology, but rather because most nations lack a system for integrating the different participants in the research, development and manufacturing chain,” wrote Aldao in Nature.

“…The relative strength in trained personnel and laboratory facilities present in some countries in no way guarantees a successful capability for biotechnological applications of economic value or impact on development.”

Research has suggested that biotechnology could be used to greatly enhance the agrifood sector in the economies of many nations in Latin America, yet the isolationist natures of research, enterprise and the public seem to have prevented this.

It is problems like these, not simply a lack of new remedies, technologies, and medical techniques that are holding public health back.

Emma Betuel

Sources: Nature, Fast Company, PRWEB, CDC, Grupo de Ciencia Digital,
Photo: Flickr

Changing Migration Patterns in Latin America

Although immigration is a major concern for policy makers in the United States, immigration and emigration have a significant impact on the economy and communities throughout Latin America.

Over the last 25 years in particular, migration patterns in Latin America show that immigrants have moved from unstable economies and governments into bordering states that have greater economic stability and prosperity. This continues to be the case in Chile, with migrants flowing in from neighboring countries.

The Southern Cone of Latin America is famous for its continued movement of people across country borders. This region includes Chile, Peru, Argentina and Uruguay. Chile has seen an influx of immigrants, particularly from Peru, since the 1990s. This was the turning point in the Chilean economy and government, transitioning over from a military regime to a more stable, democratic system.

This change in government led to more overall economic stability in Chile, creating more job opportunities and more money per household. Neighboring countries, such as Peru, have not seen such success.

This influx of immigrants has been accompanied by its own issues, particularly with regards to security concerns. Large groups of immigrants easily travel across state borders, because of geographic proximity, as well as insufficient border policies. For example, Peruvian immigrants that have migrated to Chile have created cultural enclaves within cities and populated areas of the country. These transnational communities as they are described have created a concern for not only governments of receiving nations, but also the citizens of said countries.

Social marginalization is one of the biggest obstacles many immigrants of said transnational communities report facing, forcing such cultural enclaves to emerge. This, in a way, defeats the purpose of many immigrants, in search of new opportunities, as they are almost forced to stay within the confines of communities that are primarily made up of other immigrants.

Though this is the case, many immigrants in Latin America continue to migrate to neighboring countries, because despite social and cultural obstacles, many do find more economic potential and opportunities for jobs that they have the qualifications and skill sets for.

Immigration is a concern that faces not only the United States and its borders, but also persists as an issue throughout intraregional Latin America. Not only that, but the circumstances in which Latin Americans find themselves makes immigration that much more appealing and feasible.

– Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Migration Policy Institute, Money Market, Bloomberg,
Photo: Business Insider


Although the Bolivian government’s new and improved universal healthcare plan has made a considerable dent in child and maternal mortality numbers, the plan still seems to be more suited for improving statistics than the lives of rural Bolivian women.

With one of highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the Latin America, second only to Haiti, Bolivia remains one of the worst places in the world to give birth, especially in rural areas. Mortality rates have historically totaled to 390 mortalities for every 100,000 live births in central cities (like the capital, La Paz), and reach as high as 887 per 100,00 live births in rural areas, according to UNICEF.

Beginning in 1994, Bolivian government officials centered in La Paz developed a series of free healthcare plans—or, more aptly, three free service packages—intended to keep mothers and children alive past the ordeal of childbirth. The most recent addition to these packages is the “Universal Maternal and Child Heath Insurance plan (SUMI).”

Upon its creation, SUMI was lauded as the symbol of iconic change of fate for Bolivian mothers. Targeted at pregnant women and children under the age of five, the program boasted that it would cover 500 common ailments. Additionally, SUMI was the first Bolivian public health program that did not come from a presidential decree, meaning that it would have longevity through congress even as presidential power shifted.

“The system was created to fight child mortality, to fight that economic barrier that prevented the mother from having proper attention from the start,” said Dr. Dante Ergueta, who works with SUMI at the Bolivian Health Ministry, in an interview with the U.K. Guardian. “It is an icon for Bolivia and I might even say for Latin America.”

Initially, SUMI managed to cut the alarming child mortality statistics. After its introduction, Bolivia saw reduction in infant mortality between 37.7% in urban areas. Even in rural areas, the program saw a 29.9% drop in infant mortality, which, although still less than the drop in metropolitan areas, represented a significant change.

However, the effects of SUMI have been blunted, if not entirely counteracted, since this initial drop.

The seeds for this decline can be found written into SUMI itself. According to a study done by Focal, SUMI’s plan to attack statistics was limited to quick fixes. Every service that SUMI provided was a double-edged sword, all of which left the deep roots of maternal health barriers in Bolivia untouched.

Where SUMI expanded the number of ailments covered by insurance, it also drastically tightened the program’s membership requirements, restricting it to women who had given birth within the past six months and children under the age of five. Previously, Bolivian health insurance had covered all women of childbearing age as well as the general population for endemic disease. SUMI cut the general public endemic disease coverage entirely, along with several family planning services for non-pregnant women.

Focal reports that “health indicators worsened after its [SUMI’s] implementation, particularly in rural areas. Inequity in health outcomes also grew because the services of high complexity that the SUMI plan made available in urban areas never reached the segment of the population [rural, indigenous communities] that needed them most.”

This “icon for Bolivia” is perhaps one of the most stark examples of one of the most common failures in public health: the rush to address startling statistics, instead of attacking underlying socioeconomic, or even cultural, gender-based problems.

According to UNICEF, Bolivian women exist in a culturally persistent subordinate role to men. Their rates of illiteracy are significantly higher, ranging as high as 37.91%, compared to 14.42% of men. This gap also drastically decreases the number of women who are capable of participating in the workforce, giving women less access to employment-based private healthcare options.

These socioeconomic and cultural forces show that the answer to improving Bolivian maternal health is more complicated than implementing a system of health-services handouts. It is not about the number of services the state can provide; it is about changing the situations of people receiving those services.

Emma Betuel

Sources: Unicef, The Guardian, ITG, WHO, Focal
Photo: Projects Abroad