Family-Planning-Reduces-PovertyLatin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube

Indigenous-People-In-Latin-America

As the world became increasingly globalized and populated, many companies struggled to keep up with the demand for their goods. When they came upon the abundance of resources and land that lay within the Amazon rainforest, those struggles seemed to melt away; however, this marked the beginning of many issues for the people living within this tropical wonderland.

The Amazon rainforest has one of the largest collections of plant and animal species in the entire world. There are countless organisms within its realm that have not even been discovered yet. However, many creatures, insects, flora and more will remain undiscovered and unknown to us because their habitats are being destroyed by large corporations clearing land for factories and plantations.

However, the flora and fauna are not the only ones in danger. Several of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon have lost their homes and sources of income and food. These individuals had learned to live off of the land sustainably and had carried on living this way for thousands of years, but are now left to find alternate methods of work and shelter with little to no time at all.

Since many of the indigenous people have gone most of their lives without a strong education, corporations are hiring them to work in the very factories for which their homes were destroyed. In these factories, workers receive meager wages and are forced to work in tough conditions; many report illnesses from the pesticides and chemicals used in the preparation of the goods that they are producing.

In most countries, the government could begin to take action against big companies coming in and destroying the environment. With the amazing profit that is being generated, however, it is no wonder that many Latin American governments are not taking the steps to prevent this movement. While this—working in factories located on land cleared in the Amazon rainforest—is the case for some, high concentrations of indigenous people can be found in urban areas. These individuals have come here to get work and perhaps to adapt themselves to a different way of life. Many of the indigenous people feel targeted as more and more laws are made to rip them from their land, forcing them into lives of submission. For many, this is not tolerable, and thus many guerrilla, anti-government militant factions gain support. However, some NGOs are ready to turn all of this around.

One NGO called Escuela Nueva is doing wonderful work to shift the focus of the classroom from the teachers to the students. This Colombian-based organization has expanded to include over 14 Latin American countries and strives to promote a new, innovative and interactive classroom style. This gives the children the feeling that they are in control of their own futures and provides them with a chance to rise up. Since 1993, several studies have shown that the techniques used in Escuela Nueva have raised grades and self-esteem, promoted gender equality and increased cooperation. This model has been recognized as one of the top education reforms in the world and has been implemented in several other developing countries.

It is hard to imagine a life without a home and without great promise of a future, but somewhere deep within the Amazon rainforest, hope is growing among a people who are not yet ready to give up.

– Sumita Tellakat

Sources: IR Online, IWGIA
Photo: Mexika Resistance

Taking Steps to Eliminate River Blindness
The Carter Center in Atlanta is working to make the eradication of river blindness a worldwide goal for the World Health Organization (WHO), as the WHO determines which diseases will appear on the world health agendas.

River blindness is caused by a parasite that is spread through the bites of black flies. The flies breed in and near fast flowing rivers, which is where the disease gets its name. The larvae of the parasite causes skin irritation, itching and a range of eye diseases, including blindness in the worst cases.

People in 36 countries are at risk for contracting river blindness. About 99% of the 17.7 million cases of larvae infection are from Africa. Nigeria is the most endemic country in Africa, with reportedly half of the world’s cases.

That is why Nigerian businessman Sir Emeka Offor gave the Carter Center $10 million to aid to eliminate river blindness in his home country. This is on top of the quarter million he donated several years back. This is a huge turning point in dealing with the disease.

The Carter Center has been working with the Nigerian Health Ministry for twenty years. The program uses community-based health education and administers the only drug that can treat river blindness, Mectizan. In fact, the company that makes Mectizan made a commitment to donate the drug until every case of river blindness is solved. The donation from Sir Offor means that the Carter Center can reach more people, especially those in difficult areas to reach. Coverage will increase, meaning that the Carter Center will be closer to reaching their goal of eliminating river blindness by 2020. In 2014, 7 million Nigerians were treated.

The Carter Center has already been successful in Latin America. Colombia was the first country to be declared free of river blindness in 2013, with Ecuador following  in 2014. Both Guatemala and Mexico are currently going through the verification process to be declared river blindness-free by the WHO. The only areas left to treat are hard-to-reach areas of the Amazon in Venezuela and Brazil.

If the Carter Center can prove with this latest donation that their program is successful in the most plagued country, Nigeria, on top of their success in Latin America, then the WHO will be more likely to join the movement and target river blindness as a disease to fight.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: AP News, Carter Center 1, Carter Center 2, Inside Philanthropy
Photo: GHIF

Organic_Farming
Over the past few years organic products have grown in popularity in mainstream America. It is now hip and cool to go organic. In the United States, the organic food industry is valued at about 27 billion dollars.

With the demand to have organic foods, some entrepreneurs have taken organic farming overseas to poverty stricken areas to provide the U.S. with many of our agricultural products. One such area is Latin America. The most common products imported from there are coffee, bananas and other fruits.

The majority of those who live in poverty in Latin America are the indigenous people. They tend to be the ones who own small farms and work the farms that produce the crops. Culturally and historically, these people have a close connection with their land, crops and the surrounding environment. Going organic is a agricultural practice they are willing to embrace because it maintains traditional methods.

By returning to the natural way to grow agriculture products, farms no longer pollute the environment with harsh chemicals and release excess carbon dioxide. Organic farming utilizes renewable sources of energy rather than fossil fuel dependent resources, for example. There is the hope that organic farming can help mitigate climate change effects that could possibly push people into poverty in the long run.

There is some doubt about how successful shifting to organic growing will be in helping raise people out of poverty. There is approximately a three-year window after switching methods  before prosperous results are seen. Many times small farmers have to take substantial loans to help pay. However, joining in on the organic campaign has proven to be very successful for Latin American organic farmers. One example is Mayorga Organics, which works with harvesting coffee beans.

Mayorga Organics works to develop opportunities for their farmers in this market. They give the resources needed to be successful, such as: education on organic markets, how to grow organic, advocacy for the protection of their farmers, as well as creating an environment of fair trade so that the farmers receive the full amount of money owed to them.

These organic corporations focus on the farmers and the their love of the land. They use sustainable and innovative methods that are increasing the yields of organic farming. With the help of these companies the small Latin American farmers can reach the organic markets. They have a source of income, one that they can live on without fear of slipping back into poverty.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: FAO, Mayorga Organics 1, Mayorga Organics 2, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank,
Photo: Audley Travel

young_leaders_of_america
President Obama announces the launch of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI—to foster business, social, technological, and entrepreneurial partnerships between youth in Latin America and the Caribbean and the United States—with the first round of participants beginning in 2016.

In a visit to Jamaica in April, President Obama has unveiled plans to increase opportunities for youth in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region through the YLAI fellowship, which allows young men and women from LAC countries that have vested interests in business, social entrepreneurship and technology development, to join with their counterparts in the United States. These partnerships will build the skills of the Western Hemisphere’s emerging youth population as well as providing them with opportunities that may not be available in their home countries.

ShareAmerica said, “The fellowship will develop the knowledge, skills, and networking capabilities of young leaders across the Western Hemisphere. Through the initiative, we will be able to significantly expand ties between the most promising entrepreneurs and civil society activists in Latin America and the Caribbean with their counterparts in the United States.”

According to The White House, the YLAI was designed particularly for the large youth population in the LAC region. Approximately 58 percent of the region’s population is under 35, and many LAC countries have a youth population of at least 70 percent. Unfortunately, many young people do not get to accomplish their dreams of becoming the next big entrepreneur or tech developer due to the prevalence of unemployment, limited access to jobs and education and poverty. These harsh realities often result in young people turning to illicit activities to produce income, which greatly reduces their chances of ever entering the workforce.

However, YLAI is working to address these issues by allowing a group of 250 ambitious young people to participate in a comprehensive program that will give them specialized training in their chosen field, either entrepreneurial or social/civil development. Similar to The Young Leaders of Africa Initiative launched in 2010, YLAI will also allow participants to connect to young people in the U.S with their same goals, and work to develop a stronger system of transnational ties.

The White House said, “The preponderance of the fellowships will take place at universities, incubators, and non-governmental organizations across the United States, while follow-on exchanges will send Americans to Latin America and the Caribbean to continue the collaboration. YLAI fellows will receive ongoing support through a continuum of networking, mentorship, and investment opportunities.”

YLAI fellows will begin their fellowships with a comprehensive six-week training as well as becoming fully immersed with a social or business organization that will provide mentoring and networking opportunities. The fellowship will conclude with a summit in Washington D.C, where participants will continue to build on the connections that they have made throughout the fellowship.

Seventy million dollars has been committed to the YLAI and a pilot program has already been launched that includes a total of 24 participants who were selected by U.S embassies. Though the status of participants is unknown, such programs as the YLAI demonstrate the growing need to invest in the youth population of the world, so that they may contribute to the emerging world market.

– Candice Hughes

Sources: Devex, Share America 1, Share America 2, White House,
Photo: Share America

 

 

Belo-Horizonte
Belo Horizonte, the third most populous metropolitan city in Brazil, is one of the most progressive actors in poverty reduction. Home to nearly 2.5 million, Belo Horizonte practices the Right to Food that perceives food as a human right rather than a commodity. Poverty rates have dropped dramatically in Belo Horizonte since policy makers enacted this act in 1993.

The Right to Food guarantees healthy and accessible food to all citizens in Belo Horizonte. Policy makers use systematic approach to effectively execute this law by implementing the following techniques:

  • Integrating logistics and supply chains of the food system
  • Tying local producers to consumers to reduce prices and increase food sovereignty
  • Utilizing government purchase to stimulate diversification of agricultural production and job creation
  • Implementing education about food security and good nutrition
  • Regulating markets on produce that guarantees the right to healthy, high-quality food

Certainly no policy goes without a financial cost—the Right to Food law calls for a 10 million dollar yearly budget. While seemingly large at first, this amounts to two percent of the overall budget of Belo Horizonte. Policy makers have established budgetary committees to foresee the maintenance of this budget in accordance with the economy. This novel distribution of funds has proven successful, largely due to the positive returns the Right to Food law has enabled in the job market.

The effects of the Right to Food law in Belo Horizonte are immeasurably positive for the future of poverty reduction. To ensure food distribution, Belo Horizonte implements affordable food stations that act as restaurants around the city. People of all walks of life, ranging from low-wage workers to businessmen, eat at these restaurants. This social integration eliminates the shame behind hunger and promotes a culture where everyone is deserving of food.

Poverty has reduced drastically in Belo Horizonte, Brazil since the Right to Food law passed in 1993. Benefits include:

  • Reduction of the child mortality rate by 60 percent
  • Reduction of child malnourishment under the age of 5 by 75 percent
  • Fruit and veg eatable intake increase by 25 percent

The Right to Food law is an award winning policy and serves as an inspirational example of how food redistribution saves lives. UNESCO named the Right to Food law, Best-Practice in 2003. The Right to Food law also received the Future Policy Award by the World Future Council in 2009.

Scholars regard Belo Horizonte as a progressive city in its utilization of existing resources. UN Special Rapporteur, Oliver de Schutter, reports: “I think we should use the example of Belo Horizonte as a lesson taught to us, food is not a commodity. It is a human right and it should be treated as such…”

Belo Horizonte did something the U.S. has yet to do, tackle poverty from a bottom-to-top approach. By recruiting the help of local farmers, Belo Horizonte helped the impoverished by teaching them ways to help themselves. Policy makers isolated the detrimental effects of competition in the market and eradicated them, thereby emphasizing the freedom in free markets.

The Right to Food serves as an example of the role democracy can play in helping the world’s poor.

– Tanya Kureishi

Sources: YES Magazine, FAO
Photo: Yes Magazine

How_Do_Remittances_Help_Poor_Communities
Immigrants come to work in the U.S. from around the world, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean. A lot of foreign workers send money back to their families in their home countries and these remittances play an important role in alleviating poverty and helping poor communities develop.

The economies of developing countries in the western hemisphere are incredibly dependent on these remittance flows. Remittances to Haiti account for 25 percent of the country’s GDP. Remittances to Honduras account for nearly 20 percent and remittances to El Salvador account for more than 15 percent of GDP. Remittances to Guyana and Nicaragua also account for more than 15 percent of GDP.

These remittance flows serve as the primary source of income for many poor families in the region. They allow them to buy basic necessities such as food and clothing. Many families use the remittances to invest and better their lives. They use them to build a new house or to expand their business or start a new one. In many poor communities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the entire economy depends on these remittance flows. Remittances are used to finance all local investment and construction in many villages.

Around $60 billion worth of remittances are sent back to Latin America every year. More than one-fifth, around $12 billion, goes to Central America. This is four times more than the amount of development aid provided by the World Bank and foreign donors. It’s also three times more than the total amount of foreign direct investment in the region.

Since the economies of so many countries in the region depend so heavily on remittances, they are very intertwined with the U.S. economy. During the recession, the economic downturn spread through Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico as remittance flows decreased. This had a major impact and resulted in several years of slow growth for many countries in Central America. Since the U.S. economy has recovered, remittance flows have increased and economies in the region have started growing again.

This highlights the importance that immigration plays in poverty reduction. These remittance flows create new jobs, infrastructure projects and opportunities for business expansion that are helping poor communities pull themselves out of poverty. This shows that a more open and structured immigration policy in the U.S. could potentially have a huge impact in the fight against global poverty.

– Matt Lesso 

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The World Bank, Americas Quarterly, Lonely Planet Guatemala
Photo: Flickr

Latin_America
According to the U.N., poverty-reduction in Latin America has hit a snag.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, recently put out an annual report, showing that 28 percent of the region’s population was living in poverty in 2014. Of those 167 million people, 12 percent were living in extreme poverty.

Economic growth in Latin America has slowed recently. The region registered 1.1 percent growth in 2014—its smallest growth rate since 2009. Alicia Barcena, head of the ECLAC, blamed ineffective policy for much of the region’s woes.

“It seems the recovery from the international financial crisis was not taken advantage of sufficiently to strengthen social protection policies that reduce vulnerability from economic cycles,” said Barcena.

ECLAC has called on regional governments to put mechanisms in place that would improve the region’s resilience in the face of global economic downturns.

“Now, in a scenario of a possible reduction in available fiscal resources, more efforts are needed to fortify these policies, establishing solid foundations with the aim of fulfilling the commitments of the post-2015 development agenda,” said Barcena.

While the regional poverty rate has stagnated, some countries, such as Paraguay (from 49.6 percent in 2011 to 40.7 percent in 2013) and Chile (10.9 percent to 7.8 percent), have made significant progress in reducing their poverty rates. Peru (25.8 percent to 23.9 percent), Colombia (32.9 percent to 30.7 percent) and El Salvador (45.3 percent to 40.9 percent) also made positive progress.

ECLAC’s latest report also showed that while the income-based poverty rate has languished in recent years, multidimensional poverty has indeed fallen significantly since 2005.

According to the report, the percentage of the Latin American population living in multidimensional poverty dropped from 39 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2012.

Despite the current state of relative economic stagnation, preliminary ECLAC projections for 2015 suggest that there is cause for optimism, forecasting a 2.2 percent regional increase.

The ECLAC’s Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will be held in Costa Rica, January 28-29.

– Parker Carroll

Sources: Andina, El Universal, Mercopress, Reuters, Telesur 1, Telesur 2,
Photo: Huffington Post

Dengue
After decades of searching, scientists may have finally found a vaccine for dengue, one of the developing world’s most feared infectious diseases.

Researchers released a new report confirming the efficacy of the vaccine after the conclusion of a study lasting four years and involving over 20,000 school-aged children in Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Honduras. The study has proven the new drug to be overwhelmingly effective, and both scientists and doctors around the world are celebrating this monumental achievement. The efficacy of the vaccine against severe dengue was 95.5 percent.

Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that affects nearly 400 million people annually. It is a leading cause of serious illness and death among children in many Latin American and Asian countries, and has been spreading violently throughout the developing world since the late 1950s.

The absence of a dependable treatment for the disease has made dengue a particularly terrifying illness in the global south. The debilitating muscle and joint pains associated with cases of severe dengue have earned the disease its nickname, ‘break-bone fever’. Infected individuals can also suffer crippling headaches, nausea, vomiting and a painful rash across the back and chest. Nearly 500,000 people, most of them children, die from the disease each year.

Initial news of the drug’s potential broke in late 2011, when French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur announced plans to release the new antiviral medication by mid-2015. Since that time, research teams have been working tirelessly in many countries spanning both Asia and Latin America, where the disease is most prevalent. Meticulously testing patients, administering vaccinations and recording their findings, scientists have emerged from the study with new certainty in the drug’s effectiveness.

Relaying the good news on Jan. 8, Sanofi Pasteur reported the overall efficacy of the drug to be 60.8 percent for children between the ages of nine and 16 who received three doses of the vaccine over a 12-month period. Furthermore, the study confirmed 80.3 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization for dengue-infected individuals. The crowning achievement of the study, however, was the accomplishment of a 95.5 percent protection rate against the most deadly form of the disease, a discovery that is projected to save countless lives in countries from India to Brazil.

Past efforts to control dengue have relied heavily on preventative practices such as destroying mosquito egg-laying habitats and spraying insecticides intended to kill the disease-carrying mosquito vector. Without an effective antiviral medication available to treat infected individuals, however, the fight against dengue has been violent—and often deadly—for economically disadvantaged communities in tropical areas of the world. Because of the mosquito’s ability to adapt to many diverse environments, and its skill for finding hidden deposits of stagnant water in both rural and urban areas, regions affected by dengue quickly find the disease to reach epidemic proportions amongst their populations.

The introduction of the new dengue vaccine serves as a beacon of hope in the world’s fight against deadly pathogens, and will prove to empower millions of people in the developing world in their own fight against poverty.

– Brady Thomas Mott

Sources: New England Journal of Medicine, WHO
Photo: Top News

Ups_and_downs_of_latin_american_economy
The Latin American economy has experienced a period of great fluctuation since 2010. Whenever there is good news, there seems to be an equal and opposite force of bad news applied. Constant fluctuation has curbed poverty and opened the door to the middle class, only to have that door slam close. There are several key points to consider as to why this is.

In the past decade, nearly 50 percent of those in poverty have risen above the poverty ranking. But many are still struggling to enter the middle class. Around 200 million, or over two-thirds of the population, are at a high risk of falling back into poverty.

To fully understand this, it is necessary to know how economic divisions are classed in Latin America. Twenty-five percent of Latin Americans are earning less than $4 USD per day and this is considered living in poverty.  Some 34 percent  earn between $10 and $50 USD per day and these individuals are judged to be middle class. When someone earns between $4 and $10 USD, they are part of the vulnerable class. This final group accounts for 38 percent of the population.

The UNDP disclosed this information in the 2014 Human Development Report; a report that uses data as recent as August 24 of the same year.

But not all news is bad.

The middle class of the combined Latin America and Caribbean grew from 21 percent to 34 percent equaling 81 million individuals in the time period form 2000-2012. The vulnerable population grew from 35 percent to 38 percent. The UNDP recognized poverty dropping from 42 percent to 25 percent over that same time period as a significant regional achievement.

Now, Jessica Faieta, the UNDP Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, says the good news might be running out unless a change is made.

“It is very clear that using the same policies will not provide the same results,” said Faieta. “More than ever, the region must invest in universal social protection, particularly in the most critical phases of life, as is the case with children, the elderly and youth entering the labor market.”

Other analysts agree with her conclusion. The region lacks critical social protection, a defense that has been pinpointed as crucial to long-term economic growth. Nearly 50 percent of the country lacks access to medical services, a retirement pension or a labor contract. If this is not amended, the region cannot be expected to grow at the same rate indefinitely.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: UNDP, The Economist, BBC