countries that have eliminated trachomaNeglected tropical diseases (NTDs) affect more than 1.4 billion people in 149 countries. These diseases flourish in areas of the world where there is a lack of basic sanitation, which means that the global poor have the highest risk of contracting them. These diseases are preventable and treatable, but due to a lack of resources and aid, millions of people still suffer from these diseases that can cause them to be disfigured, disabled and may even result in death.

However, with the help of several different organizations and national campaigns, many countries have successfully eliminated some NTDs, including trachoma, which is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection that affects the eyes and eyelids, causing the eyelashes to turn inward toward the eye leaving patients blind.

Here are three countries that have eliminated trachoma.

3 Countries That Have Eliminated Trachoma

  • Ghana – In 2018, Ghana became the first country in West Africa to eliminate blinding trachoma. Three groups were instrumental in this effort: FHI 360 – a nonprofit human development organization; END in Africa Project (financed by USAID) and Ghana Health Service’s NTD program. Working together, the three organizations eliminated blinding trachoma over an eight-year period. From 2010 to 2018, the END in Africa Project supported the global distribution of more than 464 million NTD Program treatments for trachoma and other diseases. They also mapped disease distribution, treated at-risk populations and monitored treatment impact while also documenting successes along the road to eliminating this terrible disease. FHI 360 provided technical and financial assistance for trachoma post-treatment surveillance, which will help with further prevention of the disease. The program’s long surveillance and treatment of patients is a testament to its dedication and commitment to ending NTDs.
  • Laos – In 2017, Laos became the fifth endemic country in the world to eliminate blinding trachoma as a public health problem. Blinding trachoma was especially common among young children. The United States government had been supporting Laos since 2012 through several USAID projects, such as END in Asia and ENVISION. These projects assisted the Ministry of Health in collecting reliable data on the status of trachoma, which helped determine the correct approach to eradicate the disease. Laos was able to place ophthalmologists at national, provincial and district levels to detect and operate on cases of patients with the disease. The projects also trained primary health care workers to screen patients for trachoma, and they gave patients with less severe conditions the antibiotic eye treatments they needed. Nongovernmental organizations also helped train health volunteers in villages on ways to prevent trachoma. Education ministries invited volunteers to come to their schools and educate their students on facial cleanliness and showed how the infection spread from person to person. Laos achieved amazing success with its partners, working to not only diagnose and treat the disease but also to educate people on how to prevent trachoma.
  • Mexico – Mexico became the first country in the Americas and the third country in the world to officially eliminate trachoma in April 2017. In 2004, the Secretary of Health of the state of Chiapas formed a group of health professionals called Trachoma Brigades to implement SAFE, the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization to eliminate the disease. In their fight against this disease, Mexico provided surgery for people at imminent risk of blindness, administered antibiotics in affected communities to reduce infection in children as well as to stop transmission, promoted personal hygiene and improved environmental conditions. The SAFE strategy’s 4 interventions have been especially successful in the state of Chiapas. Trachoma was endemic in 246 communities in the state and affected over 146,000 citizens. Trachoma Brigades, alongside national, state and community efforts and international partners, eradicated this disease. Trachoma Brigades visited communities several times a year to conduct surveys, eye examinations, identify cases, administer antibiotics, educate children about proper hygiene and perform surgeries.

These three countries worked for years to eradicate this trachoma and improve their citizens’ quality of life. The combined efforts of multiple organizations and governments brought medication, surgeries and public education to these countries toward achieving this goal. In addition to Ghana, Laos and Mexico, countries such as Cambodia, Togo, The Marshall Islands, Oman and Morocco have also made progress against this disease.

It is a U.S. foreign policy objective to support the treatment, control and elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). The World Health Organization recognizes 17 NTDs which currently afflict 1.4 billion people around the globe. Urge Congress to support the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to advance U.S. foreign policy interests and safeguard national security.

Email Congress to End NTDs

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: WHO

Human Trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, or transfer of humans using any form of threat for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation could mean prostitution, forced labor or practices similar to slavery and servitude. In 2018, it was determined that the government of Mexico was not meeting the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. While Mexico is making strides in the number of prosecutions made and the amount of support given to victims, in 2018 the government obtained fewer convictions than in previous years, identified fewer victims, provided more limited services to victims and maintained a disproportionately low amount of shelters compared to its magnitude of the human trafficking industry. The following 10 facts about human trafficking in Mexico provide further insight into its expansive presence in the country.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mexico

  1. Mexico has the largest number of victims of modern slavery than any other country in the Americas. Mexico, along with the Philippines and the United States, was ranked one of the world’s worst places in terms of human trafficking in 2018. Mexico is also thought to be the largest source country for trafficking across international borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are approximately 341,000 victims of modern slavery in Mexico.
  2. Those most at risk are women, children, indigenous people, people with mental or physical disabilities, migrants and LGBTQ individuals. The United States estimated about 70 percent of human trafficking victims in the US come from Mexico, with 50 percent of those individuals being minors. Women and children are often used for prostitution and sex trafficking, while many Mexican men are coerced into forced labor, often for use by drug cartels. Additionally, individuals traveling or migrating alone are at a higher risk for trafficking.
  3. One major reason for the presence of human trafficking in Mexico is the social and economic disparity. Many victims are also victims of poverty, and they become trapped in trafficking after being lured from poorer regions with a promise of employment and income. In 2016, 43.6 percent of Mexican citizens were living below the poverty line. UNICEF reports that traffickers specifically seek out individuals who are financially vulnerable, as they are more likely to accept illegitimate job offers due to desperate circumstances. Solo migrants traveling without family or any other individuals are often the most vulnerable victims due to their isolation.
  4. Out of 150,000 children living on the streets in Mexico, it is estimated that 50 percent are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. Many traffickers use Mexico as a route to smuggle children into the United States and Canada. Often, these children stay and become victims in Mexico, and the numbers of exploited children in Mexico continue to rise.
  5. In June of 2019, the Mexican government announced an end to funding for human trafficking non-government organizations (NGO’s). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador justified the cut with reasons of corruption, believing that the funding for these NGO’s would end up in the wrong hands. Instead, the new plan is to open government-funded and government-run shelters for victims of human trafficking. Many people question the ability of the government to run shelters and provide victims with the care and support needed. George Mason University professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who has studied the connection between organized crime and trafficking, explains: “Any mention of the topic is really very general… it doesn’t seem to be a priority.”
  6. Victims of human trafficking are at very high risk for repeated trafficking due to Mexico’s policies of prioritizing arrests of illegal immigrants and individuals engaging in prostitution. As a result, victims often have very little chance of social services or legal aid, and instead, are put at a higher risk for re-victimization and repeated trafficking. Opportunities for help and support were mostly offered by NGO’s in Mexico, and without proper funding for these organizations, the Mexican government assigns a low priority to services for victims.
  7. Mexican trafficking victims are even more vulnerable to sex trafficking due to issues of forced migration. An overwhelmingly high number of victims come from unstable countries in Latin America. In 2017, 14,596 people applied for asylum in Mexico. Due to government instability, violence due to the presence of drug cartels, and conflict within the country, migrant victims are at higher risk for vulnerability in a new country, and therefore, at a higher risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking in Mexico.
  8. In March of 2019, the Mexican government released statements announcing their goal to probe into the current “failing” anti-human trafficking policies in place. The technical secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Commission Against Human Trafficking, Felix Santana, publicly recognized the shortcomings of previous policies. With more emphasis and government dedication to supporting victims and survivors, solutions are becoming more promising for ending human trafficking in Mexico.
  9. Another step in the direction of ending human trafficking is the raising of awareness and visibility of the issue, specifically for Mexican youths. For example, the Pan American Development Foundation facilitated a partnership between MTV Americas and the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to create a mass media campaign, including a documentary focusing on real examples of trafficked youth.
  10. In the meantime, there are many organizations in Mexico dedicated to ending human trafficking and assisting and supporting victims. For example, El Pozo de Vida provides a safe-house for victims and offers food, water, shelter, education, clothing and counseling. The creation of more organizations to assist in the rehabilitation of victims is crucial in alleviating the extreme damage done by human trafficking in Mexico.

It is believed that the number of victims of human trafficking in Mexico would decrease with strengthened law enforcement, acknowledgment of the expansivity of the problem and additional training for victim identification.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Sanitation in Mexico
Although Mexico is still recovering from the Latin American Recession in 2008, the Mexican government is rebuilding infrastructure and has made strides to improve the country’s sanitation. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Mexico and how the country is successfully mitigating its sanitation issues.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mexico

  1. Sanitation in Mexico has improved drastically in the last three decades. Piped water supply to urban areas has increased from 88 percent to 93 percent, rural areas from 50 percent to 74 percent and overall access to sanitation from 64 percent to 85 percent. While these statistics are encouraging, Mexico still struggles to provide its citizens with safe drinking water, which causes both water scarcity and decreased access to safe utilities.
  2. The Mexico Water Utilities Efficiency Improvement Project, which implemented in 2015, installed 500 household meters, performed maintenance on existing pumps and trained 670 utility staff members to increase the efficiency of the water systems in Mexico. Over 20,000 individuals living in urban now have access to consistent water supplies and better sanitation.
  3. The Bill Ford Better World Challenge awarded a grant of $60,000 to projects to improve sanitation in Mexico. This grant went towards a community center in Guayacan that provides clean and running water to residents. It also went towards the installation of 750 filtration systems in private homes. This will increase private and public access to filtered water in Guayacan.
  4. Since 2001, Mexico has decreased its mortality rate from 122.7 per 100,000 people per year to 7.3 per 100,000 people per year. Investment in infrastructure since 2013 alone has increased to $471 million. This investment into sewer coverage, wastewater treatment plants and piped water sources are responsible for the significant decline in the mortality rate. Since 2001, malnutrition has decreased from 4.4 percent to 3.6 percent, anemia has decreased from 30.4 percent to 28.20 percent and agricultural practices have improved significantly.
  5. Community participation in sanitation efforts in Mexico is waning. While the Mexican government has been increasingly active in its efforts to combat sanitation issues, citizens have a moderate to low rate of participation and usage of sanitization. This is likely due to a lack of sanitation information distributed to rural populations.
  6. The United States and Mexico Border Water Infrastructure Program has increased collaboration between the United States and Mexico to increase water quality. While this program began in 1983, it has grown exponentially in recent years. In 2011 alone, the program has successfully brought clean water to 55,000 homes and provided wastewater services to 500,000 homes in Mexico. This has helped preserve rivers in border communities and increase access to clean water.
  7. Solid waste facilities in Mexico are working with private partners to help close the sanitation gap that state authorities left. While the facilities safely collect and store only 84 percent of solid waste, states are working with the private market to implement safe and effective waste strategies. The National Infrastructure Project aims to increase wastewater treatment by 15.5 percent in four years.
  8. Innovators and nonprofits are partnering to end the water crisis. By refining NASA’s Water Recovery System and the Oxygen Generation System, Concern for Kids has successfully donated devices to Mexico that provide cities and individuals alike with water purification systems that allow them to reuse water. This innovation, which implemented in 2012, has already provided drinking water to 800 villages in Mexico.
  9. The Morelos State Project is providing wells to increase the quantity of clean water available. In 2015, Rotary partnered with the government of Xochitepec to provide clean water to 6,000 individuals who did not previously have clean water access. Due to the success of the project, WASRAG is expanding its efforts to six other districts in Mexico.
  10. The focus on cleaning the New River in Mexico has decreased the quantity of bacteria, pesticides, trash and industrial run-off present in the river and in groundwater. The New River Improvement Project, which started in 2009, has successfully decreased bacteria tenfold, along with nitrate and phosphorus (dangerous organic compounds) which have dropped below detection rates. These efforts have decreased sanitation-related diseases, as well as increased water and air quality.

Despite the limited quality and quantity of clean water, Mexico is significantly increasing access to safe water supplies and making strides to resolve dangerous sanitation issues. Non-governmental organizations, foreign direct investments and the Mexican government are improving sanitation and decreasing diseases related to a lack of access to clean water. These 10 facts about sanitation in Mexico show both the progress in sanitation and the solutions others are proposing to existing problems.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

The Green Revolution
Up until the early 20th century, agricultural practices in developing nations changed very little over thousands of years. Growing populations meant that these countries needed to figure out a way to feed their people. New techniques were necessary to ensure that there was an increase in crop production in places that struggled to produce proper amounts of food. These innovations were able to come to fruition by implementing what people now know as the Green Revolution.

The Green Revolution is a set of changes that occurred in developing nations that saw an increase in crop production. These changes included introducing new irrigation techniques that people could use to cultivate the land, planting genetically modified seeds that raise crops and applying chemical pesticides and fertilizers. These techniques allowed nations to produce more crops than they ever had in the past.

One of the most significant contributors to the success of the Green Revolution was an American scientist named Norman Borlaug. In 1954, Borlaug, with funding from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, developed a genetically modified high yielding variety (HYV) of wheat seeds. These seeds went to the Philippines, India and Mexico, where they were able to increase their harvest from previous years significantly. This type of seed development would lead to other HYV of seeds, including bean, rice and corn that could grow in other parts of the world. Borlaug is responsible for saving over a billion people from starvation in developing nations.

The Green Revolution and Mexico

Initially, the Green Revolution began in the 1940s in Mexico. The Mexican government received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to eventually discover ways to use dry land for massive crop production. Along with irrigation changes, the Mexican government created the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center that helped with research to discover stronger HYV of crops that can survive the arid land of northwest Mexico and produce more products. Wheat became one of the most successful crops in Mexico, and by 1960 it was able to change from importing wheat to exporting it. Mexico is now a major wheat exporter, and as of August 2019, it has exported 1 million metric tons of wheat thanks to the success of the green revolution.

The Green Revolution and India

In 1950, after the notorious famine India suffered from the decade before, the country was still struggling to feed its growing population of over 375 million. India had a problem with the number of crops it was producing; it simply was not enough. Because of the success of the HYV of crops in Mexico, the Indian government, along with funding from the Ford Foundation, was able to bring those crops to the northern Indian region of Punjab. The region of Punjab received those seeds because of its past agricultural success and access to water. The introduction of the new HYV seeds helped to avoid widespread famine and significantly increased wheat production in India. In 1960 India produced 10 million tons of wheat; by 2006 it was producing 69 million tons. Today, India’s population is at 1.3 billion and growing, so it needs to continue its success. With 44 percent of India’s current working population in the agriculture industry, there are calls by some for a second Green Revolution in order to feed the constantly rising population. In 2019, India has already set a new all-time high for wheat production at over 100 million tons, but exports are lower than previous years.

The Green Revolution and the Philippines

The Government of the Philippines created the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in 1960 with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation. The institute emerged to discover new strains of rice that would be able to feed the growing population of Asia. In 1966 the IRRI produced a new form of rice called IR8, or miracle rice, that was a cross between two types of rice, Peta and Dee-Geo-woo-gen. In the 20 years following the discovery of IR8, the Philippines’ annual production of rice went from 3.7 million tons to 7.7 million. IR8 was an HYV crop so successful it saw the Philippines become a rice exporter for the first time in the 20th century. Recently it was able to export 35 tons of rice after seeing the success of its crops. The country is now the eighth largest producer of rice in the world, having produced 2.7 percent of the world’s rice.

None of the successes of the Green Revolution would have been possible if it were not for the grants from charitable organizations as well as the dedication from leaders like Norman Borlaug. Through innovation and scientific research, the world saw discoveries that helped billions in developing countries. Mexico, India and the Philippines were able to overcome obstacles such as their environment and population growth to help feed the world.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico
According to a 2016/2017 study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Mexico is one of the five countries in the world where the number of women starting their own businesses is equal to or greater than men. This is fantastic news because if men and women participate equally in the economy, Mexico’s GDP could increase by 43 percent or $810 billion. From 2000 to 2010 alone, women’s participation in the workforce decreased extreme poverty by 30 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. With that increase in female entrepreneurship in Mexico, women are able to become more independent, but many women still face powerful barriers in starting their own business.

Many women, especially in subsistence settings, lack access to training, financing and markets, and face physical, sexual and economic violence. The average female-headed household earns $507 a month in urban areas and $273 a month in rural areas while male-led households earn $780 a month in urban areas and $351 a month in rural areas. The burden of domestic tasks also falls mostly on women. A 2009 survey found that men spend an average of 53 hours a week on economic activities and 12 hours on domestic tasks while women spend an average of 40 to 45 hours a week earning money and 20 hours maintaining the family and household.

The Marketplace Literacy Project

Elena Olascoaga, a gender and development consultant and former project manager for the Marketplace Literacy Project in Mexico, is very familiar with the challenge successful female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces. Olascoaga describes the Marketplace Literacy Project as an initiative to help people in subsistence settings become entrepreneurs by acknowledging the skills they already have in the marketplace and giving them the tools to build on and market pre-existing skills.

According to Olascoaga, the founder of this methodology and workshop program, Professor Madhu Viswanathan, tried to bring this program to Mexico for a long time before finding a U.S. State Department grant intended for breaking cycles of violence against women due to economic dependency. He initially designed the program to be gender-neutral so Olascoaga came in because her background in gender consultancy allowed her to effectively factor the unique challenges female entrepreneurship in Mexico faces to the workshops. She added a new program to the methodology that she called autonomy literacy, because, although the program teaches participants to create their own income, it is often difficult for people in abusive situations to start a business, even if they have the know-how.

The Need for Female Entrepreneurship in Mexico

While Mexico has made great strides to improve gender equality, there is often still a cultural emphasis for women to become mothers and housewives, to a point where Olascoaga describes economic dependence as romanticized. Many consider women lucky if they do not have to work because their husband provides food and shelter. However, this kind of love can be a trap. If the husband is the only provider, then the wife is not building her own savings or gaining experience in the workforce. “If something goes wrong in the relationship, then they have nowhere else to go,” she said.

In an interview by Forbes Magazine, hotel owner Gina Lozada said that “…Most parents don’t educate their girls to succeed in business. On the contrary, it is normal that women are raised to believe that their goal should be to marry and take care of the family.” Often, because female entrepreneurship in Mexico does not receive emphasis, women feel that they do not have many options and lack the confidence to start their own company.

Olascoaga observes that, because women in subsistence settings feel that they cannot strike out of their own, they often stay with their abuser. “A common phrase is no se hacer nada which is I don’t know how to do anything,” she says. Autonomy training, when combined with marketplace literacy training, teaches women that they do know how to do something. For example, they might be good cooks or skilled embroiderers. The methodology of the Marketplace Literacy Project is to build on preexisting knowledge and teach women to recognize their skills and to think strategically about their resources.

Autonomy Literacy

“We want women to be aware that they can create their income,” said Olascoaga. In the workshops, the Marketplace Literacy Project works with women in two age groups, women older than 18 and girls 14 to 18 years old. In her experience, almost all the women older than 18 had been in violent relationships where they stayed with their aggressors because they did not have economic independence. Some among the younger group were already mothers and in violent relationships where they had the potential to work and build skills, but their partners would not let them.

As the younger group went through the program, though, many of them began to realize that their mothers, aunts and other relatives were living in similar situations. One struggle that she noted when working with women is that they will not recognize that they are living in an abusive situation, especially to a group of strangers, so they instead speak in hypotheticals. The participants may know someone in this situation, and if they did, they would express how they could help.

The Marketplace Literacy Project, though, has helped give more than 4,500 women tools for economic independence since its start in 2016. Olascoaga said that those who participate have two major takeaways. The first is that autonomy becomes a very important concept and the second is that they do not need money to start a business. Olascoaga was happy to report that women will often come up to her and say that, after the workshop, they started businesses by selling cookies or embroidering. “It might seem small to us,” Olascoaga said, “but for them, it’s a really big deal.”

With female entrepreneurship in Mexico on the rise, more and more women are not only finding empowerment in their lives but changing the world around them by challenging a culture that often devalues their work.

Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

 

Labor Unions in MexicoIn May 2019, workers won the right to form labor unions in Mexico. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), seven out of 10 Mexicans live in poverty or vulnerability. Meanwhile, the country’s minimum wage is $5.40 a day. Below are 10 facts about labor unions in Mexico and the promise of their implementation to alleviate Mexican poverty.

10 Facts About Labor Unions in Mexico

  1. Before the start of labor reform, thousands of Mexican workers went on strike for better pay, safer working conditions and union representation. The strikes shut down dozens of factories, resulting in 48 assembly plants agreeing to the workers’ demands.
  2. By granting workers the right to form labor unions, they can now engage in collective bargaining. This means that workers in Mexico, organized in a union, can negotiate their own pay, benefits and workplace conditions. Furthermore, they can provide a safeguard against workplace harassment and unlawful business practices.
  3. Many Mexican workers are already members of a union. Due to the fact that these unions completely exclude workers from their processes, however, others have dubbed them ghost unions. Employers establish these unions and they largely exist only on paper. Upon hiring, companies make workers join their union, which prevents workers from forming their own union and negotiating terms themselves. In fact, companies in Mexico force nine out of 10 union contracts without the consent, and sometimes knowledge, of their workers.
  4. Mexican President López Obrador implemented the new labor laws. He did this along with both branches of the Mexican congress in order to raise living standards, reduce crime and discourage migration to the United States. The left-wing president promises to carry out a “radical transformation” in Mexico, focusing on the needs of the poor and rooting out corruption.
  5. Wages in Mexico have fallen far behind the rate of inflation. The average hourly wage for a factory worker in Mexico, traditionally a unionized job, is approximately $2. Collective bargaining gives workers the right to negotiate wages, ensuring that workers have the efficacy to reduce the gap between inflation and pay.
  6. Depending on the collective bargaining contract, many unions provide protections against workplace harassment and unjust employee termination. Human Rights Watch (HRW) identifies forced pregnancy tests and mistreatment of migrant workers as areas of particular concern in Mexico. Employee complaints led to no change in business practices, but union contracts give workers the opportunity to push the issue in order to protect the most vulnerable among them.
  7. HRW and Mexican workers cite unsafe workplace conditions. These indicate employees need more robust labor protections. President Obrador campaigned on a promise to improve workers’ conditions through union representation. The need for better conditions is clear; HRW described some workplaces in Mexico as “life-threatening.”
  8. According to the OECD, 71 percent of the value created by corporations in Mexico goes to shareholders. On the other hand, workers receive only 28 percent. Employees in the United States, on the other hand, have a 69 percent share, and shareholders receive 21 percent of the value created. The disproportionate share exists as evidence of a lack of workers’ representation and labor unions in Mexico can help reverse the trend.
  9. The North American Free Trade Agreement included provisions in order to protect workers’ rights. According to HRW, people often ignored those provisions, especially in Mexico. The recent labor reform comes on the heels of a renegotiated trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA seeks to, among other things, reduce the gap between workers’ protections in all three signatories.
  10. While labor unions will not completely alleviate Mexican poverty, the country can expect to make some gains. As the share of the value created by corporations becomes more evenly distributed among workers, the Mexican economy will benefit as a whole. Put simply, a larger share of the money will remain in Mexico due to union representation.

Stronger worker protections in Mexico promise to strengthen its middle-class and help the poor. By reducing the degree of poverty, Mexico can also expect to enjoy greater stability. Labor unions in Mexico present an opportunity for economic expansion, foreign investment and an entirely new market for consumer goods.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Google Images

Soda Tax in Mexico

Type 2 diabetes recently became one of the leading causes of death in Mexico. The number of diabetes-related deaths will continue to rise. Furthermore, scientists have predicted that at least half of Mexico’s population will have diabetes by 2050. Conditions such as being overweight and obesity have strong links to the development of Type 2 diabetes. In response to the growing health concerns associated with obesity and diabetes, the soda tax in Mexico has been implemented to reduce liquid sugar consumption and promote healthier lifestyle choices.

Tax on Soda

Mexico has historically been a top consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2012, the average person consumed 176 liters per year. Mexico made the world’s top consumer of soda per capita.

The popularity of sugary drinks has come with negative consequences. As soda consumption rose, the number of people suffering from obesity and diabetes in Mexico also increased. While sugar-sweetened beverages were not the only drivers of the weight-related problems plaguing the country, they did receive the most attention from health officials.

In 2014, Mexico began taxing all sugar-sweetened drinks. The tax roughly increased the price of the sugary drinks by one peso per liter. The purpose behind the soda tax was twofold:

  1. Reduce the consumption of liquid sugar that contributed to high obesity and diabetes rates.
  2. Increase funding for public health-based programs to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Mexico’s Struggle with Diabetes

The soda tax in Mexico was an important step in the country’s fight against diabetes. In 2018, a report found that nearly one-third of the Mexican population was living with diabetes. The most common form diagnosed was Type 2 diabetes, which causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal. The exact cause remains unclear, but obesity was strongly linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Link Between Obesity and Diabetes

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a healthy diet includes the consumption of about 2,000 calories per day. The average Mexican adult consumes over 3,000 calories per day. Mexico has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. The number of Mexican adults suffering from obesity rose from 20.5 million in 2012 to 24.3 million in 2016.

Food insecurity and undernourishment were the leading causes of obesity, especially among the poor. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that unreliable access to food contributed to multiple health conditions. In addition, much of the food produced in Mexico was high in carbs and fats. Mexican farmers favored crops that were cheap and easy to grow (like corn) instead of focusing on their nutritional value. Consequently, the average Mexican diet has higher carbs and fats than recommended.

The poor have been the most vulnerable to obesity. A study found that poor communities had obesity rates 145 percent greater than wealthy communities. The stress of food insecurity and undernourishment impair the poor from making the best food choices for their health.“When household resources for food become scarce, people choose less expensive foods that are often high in calories and low in nutrients,” explained the FAO.

Did the Soda Tax Work?

Diabetes has no cure. While medication is a big part of treatment, most doctors recommend a lifestyle change for diabetics looking to keep their blood glucose levels under control. The “Soda Tax” sought to help with the lifestyle change by saving people who avoided sugary drinks money.

Since 2014, the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages have dropped throughout Mexico. Sales dropped by 5.5 percent the first year. By the second year, sales were down by 9.7 percent. The sales of untaxed beverages increased by about 2 percent. However, the calorie intake of the average person has remained unchanged.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

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

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mexico

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

9 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking in Mexico has recently risen to have the country become one of the most popular trafficking destinations in the world. This is largely due to its high level of corruption and powerful drug-cartels that support the illicit practice. This has been coupled with the nation’s growing national awareness toward the issue. The recent government attempts to combat it through policy change reflect this. Additionally, there is an emergence of organizations designed to reintegrate victims of human trafficking in Mexico into society.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is the third most lucrative industry in the world. It is characterized as a form of exploitation through the act of obtaining someone for (often sexual) services and subjecting them to a form of involuntary servitude. Its somewhat confusing and wide-ranged definition creates a vast multitude of unique cases, allowing many criminals to slip through the cracks. Many countries all of the world struggle with passing sufficient anti-human-trafficking policy. This partially explains its prevalence and therefore profitability worldwide.

9 Facts about Human Trafficking in Mexico

  1. Poor Data and Broad Targets
    Much of the criticism surrounding past Mexican administrations failure to fix the problem focuses on two pillars: poor data and broad targets. The leading government commission appointed to human trafficking (the Inter-Ministerial Commission Against Human Trafficking) reports positive results. However, its technical secretary has spoken out, saying the data is unreliable. Additionally, while high ambitions seem good in principle, goals will be stunted if they are not broken into manageable parts. This was certainly the case for past administrations, according to Monica Salazar, head of non-profit Dignificando el Trabajo. Salazar blames past administrations with a lack of clarity, which made priorities vague and indeterminate.
  2. Its Prominence in Mexico
    While human trafficking ranks third internationally for most lucrative markets, it is second in Mexico. The country has also assumed the number one rank for female sex-trafficking and makers of child pornography in the Americas. Much of that comes from the government’s corruption and inability to control the drug-cartels that wreak havoc across the country. These groups are largely responsible for the kidnapping of women and children into the sex and slave trade.
  3. States Lacking Compliance
    Many states are in tune with Salazar’s comments on Mexico’s grandiose plans to combat the issue of human trafficking in Mexico. Out of the 21 states, 12 have still not updated their legislation to be in accordance with the most recent national law on human trafficking. Their failure to adhere to this mandate is telling as to why the country has made little progress on the issue.
  4. International Roots
    A large misconception regarding trafficking is that it does not just involve citizens of the country it takes place in. In Mexico, many victims are solicited from surrounding countries, and from Eastern Europe over the internet. On the opposite end, many culprits of the trafficking travel to Mexico because of its loosely-regulated trafficking reputation.
  5. Tenancingo: An Epicenter for Trafficking
    Despite its small size and a population of only 13,000, Tenancingo wields an international human trafficking presence. Susan Coppedge, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, says young girls from small rural communities across the country are unfamiliar with its reputation. They are therefore are not suspicious of men from there.
  6. Recent Decriminalization of Sex Work
    Next in these facts about human trafficking in Mexico is that Mexico City recently started momentum towards anti-sex trafficking legislation. It did this by unanimously passing a bill that indirectly decriminalized sex work. The bill removed a law which stated that prostitutes and their clients could be fined if neighbors complained. Although the latter part already made the law unreliable, it still marks a start of anti-sex-trafficking legislation under President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
  7. Local Combat Organizations Are Best
    Since human trafficking maintains many different forms, it can largely go unnoticed and disappear in the shadows. However, the optimal way to tackle this issue is to let local organizations that are well-versed in their particular areas take charge. With adequate funding from the government, these groups accomplish a lot to help the current situation in Mexico.
  8. These Organizations Exist
    But they do not have enough government support. These nonprofits work behind the scenes with a policy such as the decriminalization of sex work. However, they do not receive the funding they deserve. For the government to live up to its goals of making real progress on eliminating human trafficking in Mexico, they must dedicate the finances to their objectives.
  9. There is a Need for Proper Training
    A large portion of government money allocated to ending human trafficking should be dedicated to the training of people working at groups to end it. The broad nature of human trafficking packages each case differently. Therefore, training and hiring people in and from many different backgrounds will best help alleviate the issue.

How to Help

A final word about human trafficking in Mexico is that groups such as Polaris provide direct funding to disrupt the human trafficking trade in Mexico. By advocating for them, as well as The Borgen Project, they grow in influence and stand a better chance of grabbing the government’s attention.

– Liam Manion
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Poverty in Mexico's indigenous communitiesMexico’s indigenous communities experience poverty at nearly double the rate of the population at large, with a whopping 80.6 percent of indigenous people living on less than two dollars a day. Extreme poverty goes in hand with issues like food insecurity and a lack of access to education, healthcare and clean water. Only half of Mexico’s indigenous people have a primary school education, and poor indigenous communities have a lower life expectancy than the rest of Mexico’s population because they haven’t been provided with the same infrastructure to develop their communities as non-indigenous populations have. However, there are efforts being made to address poverty in Mexico’s indigenous communities by developing these communities sustainably and integrating them into Mexico’s economy, without erasing their cultures and traditions.

Cultural Diversity Among Mexico’s Indigenous Communities

Mayans and other indigenous people in Mexico are isolated from other communities and continually hurt by public policies that fail to fully integrate the diverse populations living in a state or region. Mexico is one of the most diverse countries in Latin America, with around 68 different indigenous communities making up around one-fifth of the country’s population. Combating poverty in Mexico’s indigenous communities, without leaving one group at a disadvantage, is difficult when there are so many different cultures present. These communities are all still living with the legacy of Spanish colonialism, which robbed native peoples of their resources and stifled their cultural practices and traditions. Assimilating indigenous communities might seem like a way to foster unity, but this practice has resulted in native communities with very limited autonomy and renders development programs that don’t account for cultural diversity ineffective and inaccessible to indigenous communities.

In response to this issue, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy has advocated for a “full inclusion approach,” in which all Mexicans have equal access to development through education, healthcare and job stimulation that account for cultural diversity among indigenous communities. With public policy that intentionally prioritizes full inclusion, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy hopes that indigenous communities will be able to compete in the labor market, gain access to social security and rise out of poverty without sacrificing their languages and traditions. This may be the best way to address poverty in Mexico’s indigenous communities.

Anti-Poverty and Development Efforts

The Mayan community of Quintana Roo has experienced efforts to combat poverty that have both ignored and accounted for cultural difference. The Mayan community is heavily reliant on ejido lands, or communal land that has been farmed and forested by the community for centuries. Largely with the intention to combat poverty among Quintana Roo’s Mayan population, but also in response to a surge in the tourism industry, wealthy developers began privatizing ejidos. Mayans were included in these private development projects, but their traditional farming, forestry and beekeeping practices were not. Therefore, when external funding ran out, the locals were unable to continue the work or reap any rewards for their communities.

However, when development projects have worked within existing ejidos, such as the World Bank’s Dedicated Grant Mechanism (DGM), all decisions are left up to the indigenous communities. The DGM in Quintana Roo provided ejidos with the funding to design and implement sustainable farm and forestry businesses. Juan Ortegon of Ejido Miguel Colorado wrote that Mayans had “never been consulted in the past,” and that these bottom-up development projects finally allowed Mayans to address the needs of their communities.

The Future of Addressing Poverty in Mexico’s Indigenous Communities

Positive steps are being made to combat poverty in Mexico’s indigenous communities, but development programs stand the greatest chance of success when they not only account for cultural diversity but embrace it, allowing indigenous people to make decisions for themselves.

– Macklyn Hutchison
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