Disability and Poverty in PeruPeople with disabilities in Peru face their own personal challenges every day, but the country has received praise for its efforts to alleviate the challenges resulting from disability and poverty in Peru. Nancy Gamarra, the Vice Minister for Women’s Affairs and Vulnerable Peoples, declared a commitment toward enabling Peruvians with disabilities to ‘fully flourish,’ through legislation and regulated mechanisms. This is evidence of movement in the right direction. 

3 Key Facts To Know About Disability and Poverty in Peru

Persons with disabilities are classified as anyone who is in a state of vulnerability. With this classification, amongst the indigenous population and migrant population, there is a lack of data that identifies the portion of people with disabilities within these groups. Thus, as the country pushed for improvements in the rights of everyone with a disability, it faced a challenge when ensuring the operations took a fair and intersectional approach to the issue. 

There is a close link between disability and poverty in Peru and the older population. According to a recent study, while the older population in extreme poverty is more likely to have a disability, they have limited access to health care services. The study defined disability as ADL disability where the individual’s activities of daily living would be impacted. Results of the study established that more than 60% of people with ADL disability had never been evaluated for preventative measures. Additionally, older Peruvians with an ADL disability had significantly less chance of having insurance compared to individuals without a disability. 

Interestingly, half of Peruvians with disabilities are of working age, representing an estimated 1 million people. Unfortunately, their unemployment rate is 12.1%, in stark contrast to the overall population’s unemployment rate of 3.7%.

Movement in the Right Direction

In 2009, the National Institute for Radio and Television established the ‘No Barriers’ program with the mission to promote the visibility of Peruvians with disabilities and ensure disability was no longer considered a hindrance. As part of this program, broadcast television introduced sign language interpretation to make information accessible to individuals with disabilities. This initiative contributed to shaping public policy on appropriate language around disability.

A decade later, in 2019, Peru implemented the National Gender Equality Policy, aligned with its human rights obligations outlined in the National Agreement. The policy aims to address discrimination against women and its root causes. Its goals include reducing violence against women, increasing women’s participation in decision-making and eradicating sociocultural patterns of discrimination in the country’s population. The policy aims to achieve these objectives by 2030, with indicators such as a 40% increase in women’s representation in Congress. Notably, emergency centers for women now cover 100% of the nation, reflecting the progress so far under this policy.

The focus of this policy is on women’s rights, but it has also shed light on broader issues of structural discrimination and lack of diversity, including disability and poverty in Peru. A significant recent achievement in addressing disability and poverty is the launch of the Multisectoral Public Policy on Disability for Development in 2021.

The Multisectoral Public Policy on Disability for Development

This policy will be implemented in 2030, marking the first national public policy focused on disability. Since its implementation, a progress report has recognized the success of the policy. For example, 127 penalties were received by businesses that had an insufficient number of persons with disabilities employed. In addition to this, Peru introduced a protocol to ensure public services can provide appropriate accommodation to persons with disabilities. 

Peru’s government mission is to set a new standard for the inclusion and understanding of persons with disabilities within the next seven years.

Positive change is also evident in the work of the Adecco Foundation and its contact with Peruvian companies. The Adecco Group, as part of its work, campaigns for inclusivity in employment globally and one of its partners is the International Labour Organization’s Global Business and Disability Network. With this, the President of the Adecco Group, in consultation with 30 Peruvian companies, shared human resources management practices with a particular acknowledgment of the circumstances of people with disabilities. Findings from this network recognize how improving diversity in employment also benefits businesses. A specialist in ILO’s Bureau for Employers’ Activities, Villamil, explains ‘the inclusion of these people improves the work climate, teamwork, elimination of stereotypes, increased innovation and improved corporate reputation.

It is clear that the country has made promising progress in addressing the relationship between disability and poverty in Peru. With government intervention and companies following suit, Peru’s journey to a more inclusive country spurs reasons for hope.

– Poppy Harris
Photo: Unsplash

Access To Clean Water in PeruPeru is a populous South American nation, and both its cities and mountainous regions face a shortage of clean drinking water. Water.org, a non-profit organization that partners with financial institutions to expand access to clean water in Peru, has recently started addressing this issue.

To accomplish its goals, Water.org partners with seven financial institutions, a microfinance association and a federation that represents 11 national banks in Peru. Water.org’s profile of Peru states that 48% of the country’s population lacks access to a safely managed and reliable water source, and the organization aims to remedy that.

The Urban-Rural Divide in Access To Clean Water in Peru

Lima is the capital and urban epicenter of Peru. The mountainous southern region of Peru, popularly known sd “Deep Peru,” is culturally marginalized by Lima, and the quality of life is demonstrably worse in Deep Peru than in Lima. According to a 2021 news article by Americas Quarterly, life expectancy in the rural region of Huancavelica is seven years shorter than in Lima and infant mortality is nearly three times higher in rural Puno than in Lima.

Poverty and Lack of Access To Clean Water in Peru

Rural populations suffer disproportionately from a lack of access to clean water in Peru. A 2021 research study by Vasquéz et al. provides evidence that safe drinking water in Peru is concentrated in the wealthiest households.

At the time of a 2020 report by the Global Living Wage Coalition, the poverty rate in rural Peru was 46%, compared to about 15% in urban areas. A 2021 report by the Peru Support Group adds that extreme poverty affects 12.1% of the rural population while only 2.1% of the urban population suffers a similar fate.

Like poverty, lack of access to clean water in Peru is worse in its rural areas than in its cities. A 2021 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that 4.7% of Peru’s urban population lacks access to public water supply networks, compared to 25.3% of the rural population.

The lack of access to clean water in Peru is not an issue that affects only rural areas, however. According to water.org’s profile of Peru, a sharply rising urban population has led to the development of urban slums where piped water is not accessible.

Misuse of Resources

The lack of clean water in Peru has less to do with scarcity and more to do with misuse. A 2012 Global Majority E-journal article states that despite being one of the world’s top 17 countries with the most freshwater available per capita, Peru is also one of the world’s top 30 countries suffering most from water stress and scarcity.

The Solution: Water.org’s Water Loans

Recent efforts by Water.org and its partners have focused on expanding access to clean water in Peru. Using a program called WaterCredit, partners of Water.org have “disbursed 1.1 million water and sanitation loans over the past few years, providing access to clean water and sanitation to 4.2 million people.”

According to Water.org, WaterCredit brings small loans to those who need access to affordable financing in areas demonstrating a need for safe water and a readiness for solutions involving microfinance.

Water.org partners with more than 150 financial institutions worldwide, and these institutions establish water loans in their repertoire of services. Once a loan is repaid, it can be lent to another family lacking access to clean water.


Clean water is a necessity for living that specific populations of urban and rural areas of Peru struggle to attain. Efforts by organizations such as Water.org recognize where the issue exists and whom it affects. And with continued efforts, there is hope for a future where water is more accessible.

– Noel Teter
Photo: Flickr

Peruvian Coca FarmingPeruvian anti-drug police seized 58 kilograms of cocaine, destined for Belgium, at the port of Paita, Peru in May 2023. The cocaine packages had the Nazi flag and the blocks had the imprint of the name “Hitler.” In March 2023, Peruvian authorities discovered 2.3 tonnes of cocaine that were to undergo transport to Turkey.

Cocaine from Peru goes to South American countries for domestic consumption or to further destinations such as Asia, Europe and the United States (U.S.) that have a high demand for the drug. Peru is the second largest producer of cocaine and cultivator of the coca leaf, the primary ingredient in cocaine, in the world, according to The Guardian. In 2021, Peru produced 785 metric tons of cocaine and cultivated 84,400 hectares.

Peruvian coca farming majorly contributes to increased deforestation rates of the Peruvian Amazon, the prevalence of child labor and poverty in rural areas. Several U.S. government programs are continuously collaborating with the Peruvian government to implement strategies to eradicate illicit coca, create alternative development projects, ban illegal narcotics and minimize domestic drug abuse.

Deforestation and Indigenous Communities

Illegal coca production has spread across the Peruvian Amazon during the pandemic due to minimal state presence. The center of the illegal drug trade in Peru is the Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM). The VRAEM and several other parts of the forest are being “felled and burned” to make space for coca fields, contributing to deforestation. Not only is the number of illicit coca farms expanding, but the proliferation of laboratories converting coca leaves into cocaine and the construction of clandestine airstrips for drug trafficking are posing significant environmental threats. As a result, these activities contribute to the degradation of the natural habitat and ecosystems in the Amazon region. In addition, deforestation of the Amazon exacerbates climate change by releasing an increased amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, leading to a rise in the temperature of the Earth’s surface.

Peruvian coca farming is negatively impacting the hundreds of indigenous communities who live in the Amazon. The expansion of coca farming leads to the encroachment of ancestral indigenous lands which can result in the displacement of entire communities. The expansion of coca production also places community members at heightened vulnerability, increasing the risk of being forcibly recruited into the production process and becoming addicted to cocaine. Indigenous leaders and environmental activists have become targets of violence for openly opposing drug trafficking. Almost 20 local leaders have been killed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Insight Crime.

How Coca Farming Targets Children

Many families who cultivate coca in Peru use child labor because children are too young for prosecution for illicit activity. In areas where coca production rises, there is a corresponding increase in the use of labor in those areas. According to Maria Sviatschi, when children are part of illegal labor markets, they acquire industry-specific skills at an early age. This often puts the children on “a criminal life path” in the cocaine industry. When these children grow up, they are 30% more likely to face imprisonment for violent and drug-related crimes. They are also 30% more likely to have lower earnings, consequently increasing poverty rates in Peru.

Illicit Coca Eradication and Poverty Reduction Efforts

During the pandemic, the national poverty rate increased to 30.1%. The U.S. The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is collaborating with the Peruvian government and anti-drug police to eradicate illicit coca activities. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crim (UNODC) has worked with the Peruvian government and farmers for decades to provide alternative development opportunities to decrease poverty rates and boost economic growth through legal avenues. The project targets “endemic coca-producing” areas where there are high poverty rates.

Looking Ahead

Collaborative efforts between the Peruvian government, the U.S. and international organizations are making strides toward eradicating illicit coca activities and reducing poverty. Programs focused on alternative development and poverty reduction are providing opportunities for communities previously involved in Peruvian coca farming to pursue legal avenues of economic growth. By addressing the root causes of illicit coca production, these initiatives aim to contribute to the preservation of the environment and the well-being of indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon.

– Surya Patil
Photo: Flickr