Poverty reduction in Peru
Peru, a small country of 32 million located on the western coast of South America, has made significant reductions in poverty in the 21st century. Over the last 20 years, Peru’s GDP quadrupled and its poverty rate decreased by nearly 30% by 2019. Peru’s rapidly growing economy, combined with substantial social welfare programs, resulted in a drastic increase in quality of life for poor and middle-class Peruvians. But notably, these gains largely concentrate in urban areas. While the Peruvian economy was not exempt from a COVID-19 induced recession, expectations have determined that it could rebound in 2021. Here is a review of how things stand in regard to eliminating poverty in Peru.

Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peru experienced 14 consecutive years of poverty reduction. Its economy ranks as one of the 21st century’s fastest-growing economies due to the high demand for its natural resource exports of copper, petroleum and zinc. While Peru’s middle class enjoys substantial growth due to its booming economy, inequality persists, especially in rural areas. A web of social welfare programs has been integral to Peru’s successful war on poverty as well as increased access to education and financial institutions. Previous administrations successfully balanced growth and poverty reduction in Peru, but more work is necessary.

Rural Poverty in Peru

Despite Peru’s strong growth and successful anti-poverty initiatives, much of the rural population still suffer material deprivation. In 2014, Peru’s rural poverty rate was nearly 50% with an estimated 15% of rural children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Past administrations created several initiatives to expand welfare access in rural areas. However, Peru’s diverse geography and mountainous rural terrain make them difficult to implement. Rural Peruvians experience limited access to social programs and high transaction and transportation costs. Additionally, they enjoy far less economic opportunity or connection to growing markets than their urban peers.

Rural poverty concentrates most widely among the indigenous population, who often live in geographically isolated areas. Exacerbating the urban-rural cleavage are conflicts between the government and indigenous rights groups over mining and energy projects in the Andes. This conflict highlights the friction between extractive policies that constitute the base of Peru’s growing economy and the lived experience of rural Andeans who bear the cost of these industrial initiatives.

Peru’s New President

Pedro Castillo of the socialist Free Peru party won the June 2021 election. His election marked a paradigm shift in Peru’s political landscape. The former teacher and son of rural peasants, Castillo won a close election against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peruvian dictator Albert Fujimori who ruled the country from 1990 to 2000. Fujimori claimed that election fraud was responsible for Castillo’s victory, but the Peruvian election authorities ultimately dismissed her claims. Representing his rural constituency, Castillo declared that “Votes from the highest mountain and farthest corner of the country are worth the same as votes from San Isidro and Miraflores” in response to the baseless claims of election fraud.

Castillo promises to aggressively fight poverty and increase the state’s role in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Castillo’s posture as an anti-establishment populist will make his economic revolution difficult in the face of elite opposition. However, Peru’s difficult year increased the appetite for radical reforms to the neoliberal economy. Peru has experienced the highest deaths per capita of any country in the world and has seen its poverty rate increase due to the 2020 recession. Castillo’s five-year term will be a new chapter for a country that has not seen a truly left-wing president in a generation.

Snowballing Success in Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Peru has made impressive gains against poverty in recent decades. However, a multitude of factors has prevented these gains from undergoing equal distribution among urban and rural Peruvians. COVID-19’s impact led to the election of a socialist president who has pledged to take aggressive steps toward poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. While Peru’s poverty rate is less than half of what it was two decades ago, there is still a long road ahead to ameliorate the material deprivation that nearly 7 million Peruvians experience.

– Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Water ScarcityIn Latin America, the health and well-being of rural communities are threatened by water scarcity and poor sanitation. In recent decades, the number of people facing water scarcity has declined. Unfortunately, with 36 million people currently lacking access to clean water in Latin America, water scarcity is an issue that is just too prevalent. EOS International aims to address Latin American water scarcity by providing simple and affordable solutions to increase access to clean water.

Causes of Latin American Water Scarcity

While many factors contribute to the water crisis, the outsized role of climate change cannot be ignored. Recent increases in extreme weather events including flooding, hurricanes and droughts threaten the water supply of many Latin American countries. For example, in Peru, flooding left water treatment plants full of rocks and debris, clogging the water supply. Consequently, authorities made the decision to restrict water usage in the Peruvian cities of Lima and Arequipa.

On the other end of the spectrum, drought threatens Bolivia’s water supply, which is significantly rainfall-reliant. Extreme weather conditions, however, are not the only factors threatening clean water access for Latin Americans. Misguided governmental decision-making exacerbates the problem. Most consequentially, increases in deforestation, mining and the creation of mega dams have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather patterns. In turn, these developments often harm the water supply in many Latin American countries. Of particular concern in Peru, international mining companies polluted waterways and “hijacked” the water supply, harming the livelihoods of farmers in the region.

In other countries, the biggest threat to the water supply is agribusinesses with undue control over water allocation. This synergy of extreme weather conditions, extractive industries, agribusinesses and governmental inaction still threatens rural families in Latin America who lack access to clean water.

Health and Water Scarcity

Water scarcity poses a direct danger to human health. The most harrowing outcome is waterborne illnesses, primarily diarrheal diseases, which are too often fatal. Waterborne illness is responsible for one in nine child deaths around the world. The pollution in the water itself is an environmental hazard. The Pan American Health Organization estimates that in children younger than 5 in the Americas, close to 100,000 die from such pollution annually.

Water Scarcity Hinders Poverty Reduction

Not only does water scarcity threaten the health of rural communities in Latin America but it is also a major obstacle to poverty prevention. Without clean water, it is nearly impossible to stay healthy enough to manage a job, go to school, construct a home or undertake other essential endeavors necessary to pull oneself out of poverty.

When women have to travel long distances to collect water, they waste hours of time and energy that can otherwise go toward more productive endeavors such as education and paid employment. Areas lacking clean water are also more vulnerable to food insecurity as it is more difficult to grow sufficient crops to feed the populous. Food security, education and employment are all key to poverty reduction, however, a lack of access to water presents a barrier to these outcomes.

Efforts to Alleviate Water Scarcity

Organizational efforts play a role in driving the decrease in overall water scarcity. EOS International is one such organization. EOS stands for “Emerging Opportunities for Sustainability.” The organization’s work aims to empower rural families in Central America by facilitating access to clean drinking water through technological advances and education.

As part of this goal, EOS volunteers help rural communities to safeguard clean water. The volunteers regularly test water quality and then treat unsafe and contaminated water, usually with chlorine tablets. The volunteers then monitor the water system over time, providing chlorine tablets to communities when required. Not only does EOS provide base-level support but it also manufactures and installs simple technologies that provide long-term support for the water supply. Since its establishment in 2008, EOS has installed more than 2,000 simple, affordable and “locally serviceable technologies” in Central America.

The organization also supports economic growth and income generation in communities. EOS International has “provided clean water services including training, education and support for 1,169 communities,” positively impacting more than 500,000 people. Furthermore, the organization’s “50 chlorine distribution centers have created income-generating opportunities for local entrepreneurs.”

Looking to the Future

EOS International has made a measurable impact on the health of rural Latin Americans. The organization has installed technologies that provided lasting clean water access to more than half a million people in Honduras and Nicaragua alone.

EOS International’s successes in combating Latin American water scarcity are not possible without the support of donors and volunteers. The implementation of technologies is done in large part by people willing to give their time to support rural families. Nonprofits make a measurable impact in the lives of countless families facing water insecurity. However, their work is not possible without generous contributions of time and monetary support. EOS International’s efforts are an example of the vital work being done by nonprofits to combat global poverty.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in PeruLife in Peru is rich in indigenous culture and beautiful landmarks such as Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon jungle. Livelihoods in Peru take different forms as people from the countryside live in more traditional means, partly because of their Quechua origins and the location in which they reside. In the working world of Peru, children often work beside adults. However, the prevalence of child labor means that child poverty in Peru is also prevalent.

Rural Children in Peru

The significantly mountainous geography of Peru affects how citizens travel and exert energy to accomplish daily tasks. The land in Peru creates a large gap between urban and rural lifestyles. For a person who lives in rural land, it is normal for whole families to provide for each other because it is the most efficient means for survival.

Everyone plays a part, including the children, who have obligations to the rural Peruvian household. Project Peru states that approximately “28.6% of children between the ages of 6-17 already receive wages or are paid in kind.” Fulfilling duties to support the household is not uncommon. Earning an income while trying to balance schooling is a norm for many Peruvian children. Yet, prioritizing income over education only serves to exacerbate child poverty in Peru since education is a proven tool for breaking cycles of poverty.

Children Providing for the Household

Roughly 90% of Peruvian children work in informal job sectors. These jobs are often unregulated, putting children at risk of exploitation and dangerous working conditions. Some of these children work more than 45 hours per week — more than an average adult’s work schedule in the United States. The informal sectors contribute to 73% of the economy’s labor.

In the same instance, child labor usage significantly benefits unregulated, informal businesses, and as such, employers consider children to be assets. Hence, child poverty in Peru is commonly present because informal sectors take advantage of underprivileged rural children, often underpaying, overworking and exploiting these children.

An April 2008 study by Alan Sanchez shows that almost one in every two Peruvians lives in poverty. Meanwhile, 60% of Peruvian children live in poverty. Urban children do not experience the same hardships because they often do not need to provide extensive income for the household through child labor. For children from the countryside, however, life is vastly different.

The prevalence of child labor links to high rates of poverty and minimal opportunities for well-paying, secure employment that can provide enough monetary support for the whole household. In addition, a lack of social support from the government means families struggle to meet their basic needs without the economic assistance of their children.

The United States Intervenes

In response to the high rates of child poverty in Peru, in July 2012, the U.S. donated $13 million to Peru to reduce the usage of child labor. The donation helped make educational resources more available for rural children. The pilot program created by Peru had plans to support rural families to increase their income without relying on the employment of a child in the household. The director of the project, Maro Guerrero, said Peru is not against children working. However, children’s work should not interfere with their education and well-being. The pilot program was expected to yield positive results, however, there is little data available on the official achievements of the program.

“Free of Child Labor” Certification

In 2019, the government of Peru partnered with an NGO “to create a new label to certify family businesses” as “free of child labor.” This effort serves to help eradicate child labor in Peru. In 2019, roughly “1,500 small producers” were “preparing to be evaluated and due to obtain certification by 2020.” María Gloria Barreiro, director of the Development and Self-Management NGO, states that “It’s not about children not helping at home, it’s about drawing that line that divides help at home, training and learning activities and what constitutes a danger.”

The Peruvian government hopes that these child labor-free certified products will sell at a higher price, as with organic goods, improving the income of impoverished Peruvians. Barreiro emphasizes that to truly eradicate child labor, the certification must exist alongside social initiatives “to improve the economic situation of small producers and ensure their children have access to education.”

With efforts from governments and organizations that aim to reduce child poverty in Peru, hope is on the horizon for the impoverished children of Peru.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in PeruCOVID-19 has ravaged populations and economies alike. It has also exacerbated the impacts of previous conditions that threaten the developing world. In particular, the lung-damaging disease known as tuberculosis has seen an alarming resurgence. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified tuberculosis as one of the 10 leading causes of death worldwide as recently as 2019. Furthermore, the Stop TB Partnership asserts that in just one year, the novel coronavirus and its wide-reaching implications have delayed progress on the eradication of tuberculosis by 12 years. The problem is especially grave in Peru where both COVID-19 and a tuberculosis resurgence are impacting healthcare resources. Cases of both viruses have only multiplied the threat of each, calling for swift solutions.

The History of Tuberculosis in Peru

Tuberculosis in Peru was a pressing issue long before the emergence of COVID-19. Peru reports the second-highest rate of tuberculosis in the Americas and WHO has classified Peru as one of the countries with the most cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) worldwide. Peru’s economic landscape makes it the perfect hotbed for highly contagious diseases such as COVID-19 and tuberculosis. Roughly 27% of Peru’s population lives in poverty, with a lack of proper housing confining many to dense slums in urban centers. When combined with restricted access to healthcare, these circumstances worsen the spread of disease.

In recent years, Peru has made strides in combating the spread of tuberculosis. For example, the Peruvian government has revamped its tuberculosis control program by establishing multiple committees to guide tuberculosis containment. It has also increased funding for tuberculosis efforts. However, COVID-19 has become a serious roadblock to this mission.

The Impact of Two Pandemics

Upon the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Peru in early 2020, nearly all the country’s healthcare equipment and resources went toward its treatment and containment. Peru’s healthcare system lacked the capacity to continue fighting tuberculosis as it had, thus, COVID-19 and tuberculosis cases rose simultaneously. Lockdown has also limited the availability of tuberculosis testing, making it harder for doctors to track the disease’s spread. Doctors fear inadequate access to proper medical care and resources will contribute to the development of new strands of MDR-TB.

Continuing to Fight Tuberculosis

The COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly continue to impact how Peru addresses tuberculosis. However, efforts have occurred at every level of society to keep combating the latter’s rise. For example, the government is continuing the TB Móvil program which it established in 2019 to increase access to tuberculosis testing by mobilizing vans across the country. The program will provide wide-reaching tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment options.

Non-governmental organizations are working on the ground in Peru as well. Socios en Salud (Partners in Health), which has been active in Peru since the mid-1990s, created its own programs and tools to increase access to tuberculosis treatments. The tools include Mochila TB, individual backpack machines that are useful for tuberculosis testing. The portable and compact machines “[take] testing directly to patients.” One device can test as many as 80 people per day. Solutions like Mochila TB make healthcare more accessible to the rural population. The devices can therefore greatly reduce the impact of tuberculosis in Peru.

Descriptions have determined that Mochila TB is a combination of “digital radiology, artificial intelligence and molecular biology” and has already made a significant impact. Since early March 2021, Mochila TB has reached 3,491 people in the most remote communities of Peru. The mobile testing capability eases the strain on healthcare systems to accommodate for COVID-19 care.

Paving the Way Forward

Healthcare professionals have identified another key step in mitigating COVID-19’s effect on the spread of tuberculosis in Peru: using the healthcare system to combat both diseases simultaneously. Given the diseases’ many similarities in infection, containment and spread, using the same strategies and principles for COVID-19 and tuberculosis in Peru can help stop the spread of both. Through innovations and strategizing, Peru should be able to successfully combat both pandemics.

Nathan Mo
Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

How the Wawa Laptop Project is Helping Peru's Remote EducationAs the COVID-19 pandemic keeps schools in many countries closed and kids at home, it also highlights the inequality of education worldwide. The quality of education for children in Peru, a nation with one of the highest virus mortality rates, is based largely on the wealth of the family. This disparity in opportunity will only grow larger with remote schooling, where more of the burden is put on the parents and home to provide for the students. For families who cannot afford personal tutors or often-expensive education technology and the internet, they currently have no access to quality education for their children. Many organizations and companies in Latin America have been able to assist in this burden, creating new ways to provide education to poor students. School broadcasts on television and affordable curriculum education have been highly-praised, but some companies have been trying to make the technology itself more attainable for students. The Wawa Laptop Project is one example of this, creating laptops out of recycled materials and forming an initiative to donate laptops to Peruvian students in need.

Unequal Education in Peru

According to a UNICEF study, nearly 463 students across the world are without access to proper education, as well as television, internet or additional services. This leaves students out entirely, with no access to any form of education. This issue is impacting children in Peru, where children are allotted only one hour outside of the home a day.

Throughout Latin America, it is reported that only an average of 67% of the population has access to the internet, with that number closer to 10% in the poorest nations. In Peru, around one in three homes have access to a computer, meaning that a majority of the population is left without easy access to the internet. The harsh reality of this is that, at least for impoverished children in Peru, remote learning is simply impossible as it currently exists.

The government of Peru has become involved, ensuring that class lessons will be available on television broadcast until 2021, but this would still leave out a portion of the population with access to education. This inability to accommodate all students seems to mean that, until the schools can safely reopen, impoverished children will be left behind from their more wealthy classmates.

Wawa Laptops and Eco-friendly Tech Amid COVID-19

Wawa Laptops were created a year ago as an attempt to provide technology to the most vulnerable children in Peru. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative shifted to responding to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in impoverished regions. Solar-powered and running on Linux operating systems, the laptops are also constructed using recycled materials, meaning that they are far more affordable for impoverished families. The laptops are said to last as long as 15 years, and before the outbreak, the Wawa Laptops had been successfully given to hundreds of Peruvian children in need.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Wawa Laptops seem to be an affordable solution to some of the issues many children in Peru are facing. As a response, the company has launched the “Donate a Wawa Laptop, Educate a child” campaign, in which people can donate a laptop to a child in need. This donation will allow children who would otherwise be left out of a year of school to keep up with their fellow students. While not a total solution to the education divide in the country, the Wawa Laptop Project provides impoverished Peruvian children with quality education.

While students in Peru as well as the rest of the developing world are sure to face continued struggles in this year of remote learning, organizations like Wawa Laptop Project are supporting the most vulnerable young people. Access to technology and opportunity will be one of the main determinators for schooling in the COVID-19 age. With the support and ongoing donations, Wawa Laptops will allow children in Peru to stay focused on school amid the unprecedented international crisis.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

Oxygen Shortage in Peru
In light of the pandemic, there is an oxygen shortage in Peru. The South American country is in dire need of tanked or canister oxygen for citizens fighting COVID-19. When the outbreak first began, Peru was one of the first nations in Latin America to institute national restrictions, such as curfews, stay-at-home orders and border closures. However, the immense poverty undermined federal efforts. The poor had no choice but to continue leaving their homes for work in order to put food on the table. Despite the necessity, Peru struggles to provide vital healthcare to its infected citizens.

Why Oxygen?

COVID-19 attacks the body and makes breathing increasingly difficult for infected individuals. They simply cannot intake enough oxygen into their system to support their organs, especially those with compromised immune systems or lungs. This deprivation causes acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARSD) within five days of having the infection. The only treatment for ARSD is to replenish the patient’s lost oxygen. Clinical studies found oxygen respirators to be crucial for patient recovery from COVID-19.

Shortage Crisis

Peru’s national health care system was struggling even before the pandemic. After switching to a universal system, the program initially failed to provide for routine needs due to lack of funding. The current health crisis only amplified this inadequacy. Now, there is a full-blown oxygen shortage in the country. According to the nation’s Health Minister, Víctor Zamora, the country falls short of nearly 180 tons of oxygen every day.

The biggest issue, however, lies not in obtaining the gas. According to Gallardo, an oxygen distribution company, Peru’s oxygen shortage is not necessarily due to a lack of medically filtered oxygen. Instead, the problem occurs in the canisters transporting such oxygen. Recovering patients are hoarding the canisters instead of returning them for a refill because of their increase in value. Desperate family members of sick individuals are relying on the black market to obtain oxygen canisters.

The Response

Charities, as well as the government, are working to fight the unique oxygen shortage in Peru. In a press conference, President Martin Vizcarra revealed that $24.5 million will go toward the Health Ministry. These funds will help purchase a necessary oxygen supply for the country.

A few individuals, specifically in the religious community, have also been making a difference in the lives of the sick. In the city of Iquitos, Father Miguel Fuertes headed a fundraising campaign for poor families who cannot afford the oxygen tanks. Through these efforts, he was able to raise over $500,000 for the cause.

Another priest in northern Peru, Father José Manuel Zamora Romero, led the #ResisteLambayeque campaign. Through this effort, he was able to provide hundreds of biosafety equipment kits to struggling hospitals and medical centers. Despite the rising infection numbers and decreasing supplies, such work has positively affected hundreds and continues to instill hope for Peru.

Despite the oxygen shortage in Peru, measures to improve access to it should prove beneficial. In fact, the efforts of Father Miguel Fuertes and Father José Manuel Zamora Romero, among others, have already helped impoverished areas obtain access to oxygen tanks and medical care.

Amanda J. Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Peru
Peru is home to world-famous cultural sites, exquisite dishes and a vast array of bright-colored fabrics. However, beyond the nation’s appealing attractions and delectable meals, human trafficking in Peru is leading to the exploitation of the most vulnerable individuals in society.

Victims of Human Trafficking in Peru

Around 863,000 Venezuelans fled their country and entered Peru in order to seek refuge. Peruvian traffickers exploit refugees when traveling to Peru or shortly after their arrival. In 2019, 301 Venezuelan adults and children worked as prostitutes or engaged in forced labor.

Traffickers exploit adolescents due to their eagerness to work. When Peruvian schools close down from December to February for the holidays, many students seek employment to obtain extra pocket money. However, traffickers lure these individuals in with false promises of work and high financial compensation. Exploiters take the adolescent males to remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, like the Madre de Dios region, to engage in forced labor in the illegal extraction of gold. Additionally, traffickers obligate female teenagers to offer sex services to the adult miners in the area.

Lastly, exploiters target children due to their willingness to follow directions. However,  some Peruvians living in poverty willingly sell their children to human traffickers to receive financial compensation. The infamous terrorist group called The Shining Path steals children and trains them to become soldiers for its organization. Also, some children work as farmers, housekeepers, produce and transport drugs or engage in terrorism. Traffickers who do not belong to the terrorist group force young individuals to engage in panhandling, sell products in the streets, become housekeepers, produce and sell cocaine or other illegal activities.

Challenges with the Judicial System

Individuals found guilty of human trafficking in Peru spend eight to 15 years in prison for exploiting adults, 12 to 20 years for exploiting adolescents and at least 25 years for exploiting children according to Article 53 of the penal code. However, human traffickers almost never receive adequate punishment for their crimes. More often than not, criminals receive light sentences because judges find it difficult to prosecute more complicated crimes.

Solutions

The Peruvian government offered training and workshops on how to identify human trafficking to almost 1,000 government employees and regular citizens. Over 100 members of law enforcement learned how to better identify victims of human trafficking. Also, officials offered training to 22 regions of the country that receive a high amount of foreign visitors in order to reduce exploitation in the tourist sector. Lastly, the government provided support to initiatives that help raise awareness to students and children. These initiatives provide workshops, hand out flyers and engage in conversation with young individuals at transit stations. For example, since its establishment in 2017, A Theater Against Human Trafficking traveled to schools to promote awareness and advocate for the prevention of human trafficking in Peru.

With the in-kind support of the government, nonprofit organizations provided adequate training to 253 members of the judicial system on human trafficking, 821 lawyers and almost 1,000 shelters on how to deal with trafficking victims. They also taught classes to members of law enforcement on how to approach victims. One of the main organizations receiving help from the government is Capital Humano y Social Alternativo. Since its establishment in 2004, CHS Alternativo protected the rights of human trafficking victims and reached more than 1,400 victims.

The Catholic Relief Services in Peru provide shelter and protection to individuals who escaped their traffickers. CRS came to Peru in 1950 and impacted the lives of 15,224 victims. Social workers who work for these organizations go to areas that human trafficking most affects, like Madre de Dios, to provide counseling services to victims. Also, social workers go to local schools to provide workshops about trafficking to students.

Although human trafficking persists in Peru, the government and nonprofit organizations take serious efforts to raise awareness about the issue and to provide help for victims. With the increased efforts to stop human trafficking in Peru, the country can expect a decrease in the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in PeruPeru is currently the country with the world’s highest per-population confirmed COVID-19 mortality rate, and native communities are amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic. Peru is home to one of Latin America’s largest Indigenous populations, whose ancestors lived in the Andean country before the arrival of Spanish colonists. Peru has a population of 32 million people, with 33% of Peruvians identify as Indigenous. Most Indigenous communities are located in remote regions with extremely limited access to doctors and healthcare services.

In Peru, the number of COVID-19 cases among Indigenous people has exceeded 21,000. Across many measures, Indigenous Peruvians are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Conventional medical services are rare and often ill-equipped. The national census reported that only about one-third of communities have access to clinics. Furthermore, over 90% of medical services that exist in the region lack any medical workers and the majority also do not have electricity and running water. The disparities in medical attention are a catalyst for the extraordinarily high positive rate in the Amazon region, which has reached 15.75%.

Decades of under-investment in public healthcare, combined with the skepticism of modern medicine, mean many are not receiving standard treatments like oxygen therapy to treat severe virus cases. Traditional medicine has become the first line of defense against the pandemic in these communities and has compelled many Indigenous groups to utilize ancestral remedies to fight COVID-19 in Peru.

Traditional Medicine to Fight COVID-19 in Peru

Throughout history, traditional medicine has been a source of medical treatment for a plethora of diseases. In Peru, local people rely primarily on traditional medicine, while Western medicine is ancillary. Consequently, inclusive mobilization of traditional medicine resources is important for more effective control of COVID-19. Western medicine is generally fixated on an individual patient’s illness, while Indigenous healers have a more holistic approach to medicine that focuses on the individual’s personal relationships and the natural world.

Traditional medicine offers a key opportunity to fight against COVID-19 in Peru’s rural communities. The contribution of traditional medicine and healers in the management of COVID-19 in Peru has the scope to enhance health initiatives and medical care services. Local plants, such as buddleja globosa, or locally known as “matico,” are being used by the Shipibo people, who are one of the largest ethnic groups in Peru’s Amazon region, to treat symptoms of COVID-19. This plant is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. A combination of Indigenous medicine and Western medications, such as paracetamol, are acting as substitutes for typical treatments for the virus as Indigenous communities fight to lessen the burden of the pandemic with limited resources.

Providing Solutions

Several organizations are working to combat COVID-19 in Peru. WiRED International has joined forces with Project Amazonas (PA) to train community health workers and create a sustainable health database for the region. Based on World Health Organization standards, they implemented a comprehensive program in Iquitos. The curriculum consists of a myriad of training modules to better equip community health workers to fight and contain infectious diseases. PA and WiRED also collaborated to create an online patient-record database that can be accessed without the internet. The information collected can then be uploaded to the national health database to bring the needs of the Indigenous communities to the government’s and health leader’s attention.

Sinergias, a Colombian nonprofit organization, created an intercultural, multi-pronged approach to fight COVID-19 in the Amazon. The organization is collaborating with local communities and governments to create and implement health guidelines for rural areas that fuse traditional and Western medicine approaches. Additionally, Sinergias has joined the effort to create an Amazonian Health Observatory. This observatory provides reliable information about COVID-19 and has the potential to expand to monitor and document the region’s overall health.

Strengthening local health systems and improving Indigenous populations’ access to resources is pertinent to easing the burden of the COVID-19 in Peru. Some populations are experiencing relief from COVID-19 symptoms with a combination of traditional and Western medicine. Combating COVID-19 in a medically plural society has its challenges, yet implementing effective solutions is possible with diligence and collaboration.

– Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Food InsecurityPeru is a country in South America home to some of the world’s natural wonders, such as the Amazon rainforest and the Andes mountains. Thanks to stable economic growth, social initiatives, and investments in health, education and infrastructure, poverty and hunger have significantly decreased in Peru over the last decade. However, according to World Food Program USA (WFP-USA), one in five Peruvians live in a district with high vulnerability to food insecurity. Rural Indigenous populations, representing 52% of Peruvians in poverty, face particular concerns over hunger. Inequalities in lack of access to water and education lead to chronic hunger and malnourishment in these populations. However, Indigenous populations are learning to adapt to food insecurity in the Andes.

Melting Glaciers and Food Insecurity in the Andes

The Andes hold 70% of the world’s tropical glaciers. However, as climate change progresses, many of Peru’s glaciers are melting. This is disastrous for many of the people living in the foothills. These citizens are losing access to clean water, which is essential for drinking and irrigating staple crops and pastures. As the glaciers melt, water cannot run through the cracks of the mountain downhill into the springs for the people to collect. This causes a decline in crop yields and crop diversification, which can lead to food insecurity in the Andes.

“If the snow disappears, the people will disappear too,” says Rev. Antonio Sánchez-Guardamino, a priest in the country’s southern Ocongate District. He continues, “if the snow disappears, we will be left without water. The pastures and the animals will disappear. Everything is interconnected. The problem of the melting of the glaciers is that the source of life is drying up.”

Food insecurity in the Andes is therefore a persistent and serious problem. Many smallholder farmers produce staple crops at a subsistence level, enough to feed themselves and their families. However, with less water, it has been difficult for them to uphold this, leading to the danger of food insecurity.

Adapting to these Changes

As water in the lower regions of the mountains grows scarce, farmers are adapting to keep up with these geographical changes. One way they have adapted is by moving uphill, where water is more abundant but land is more scarce. Moving crops uphill also prevents diseases such as late blight from killing off entire harvests. This helps farmers maintain a sufficient potato yield for their families.

Another way Peruvian farmers have adapted to water scarcity is by revamping ancient agricultural technologies and practices. The use of amunas, for example, is extremely resourceful. These stone-lined canals turn rainwater into drinking water by channeling the rainwater to springs downslope for use. Today, most of these once-widespread canals lie abandoned, but 11 of them still function. They feed 65 active springs and 14 small ponds.

Terracing is another ancient agricultural practice that makes farming on the highlands fruitful. It involves flattening out the rocky terrain into level terraces for plant roots to better grip. In the Andes, this is an increasingly common agricultural practice. Terracing has shown to create sustainable water-drainage systems and successfully produce high yields of crops.

Taking Further Action

From 2007 to 2011, The New Zealand Aid Programme along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiated the FORSANDINO (Strengthening of High-Andean Indigenous Organizations and Recovery of their Traditional Products) project in Huancavelica, Peru. The project aimed to improve food management and development in Indigenous communities. In doing so, it hoped to alleviate food insecurity in the Andes.

Thanks to this initiative, the production of staple crops significantly increased. Indigenous communities produced 329% more quinoa and 100% more potatoes, oca and mashua. Consumption also dramatically increased by 73% for quinoa, 43% for mashua and 64% for oca. In addition, the net annual income per capita increased by 54% for families participating in the project. As a result, the proportion of families living below the poverty line decreased.

As climate change wreaks havoc on the livelihoods of Peruvians, especially farmers in the Andes, they are cultivating a culture of resistance. People are looking to their roots, resources, communities and innate abilities for answers. This restoration work is renewing old technologies that can still help today. Hopefully, the government will also focus more on on meeting the needs of farmers to support their fight against food insecurity in the Andes.

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr