Inflammation and stories on South America

Elderly Poverty in BrazilBrazil’s aging population has increased substantially in recent decades. The population of Brazilians older than 60 has jumped from 5% of the population in the 1970s to 15% by 2018 and is expected to reach more than 25% by 2050. Overall, Brazil is projected to have the world’s fourth largest elderly population behind India, China and the United States by 2050. With such demographic trends, elderly poverty in Brazil is a pressing long-term challenge to address. This has implications for the country’s public pension and health care systems that provide socio-economic security for elderly Brazilians running the risk of crippling deficits without necessary reforms to sustain the fight against elderly poverty in Brazil.

Great Strides but Long-Term Problems Persist

Brazil has been largely successful in raising living standards for its elderly population in recent decades. Improved health care from the creation of the Unified Health System (SUS in Portuguese) in 1988 guaranteeing near-universal, cost-free health coverage coupled with the creation of public pension systems in the 1980s improved the socio-economic security of citizens to combat elderly poverty in Brazil.

From these reforms, life expectancies improved dramatically from 60 in the 1970s to 76 as of 2018. Brazilians also rely less on numerous children for financial support due to pension programs as the average child per woman dropped from six in the 1970s to 1.8 as of 2018.

The nation has made much progress in combating elderly poverty in Brazil through pension and health care systems, however, these improvements have created collateral problems that, unless addressed, could reverse the progress of recent decades.

Brazil’s aging population relative to the shrinking labor population poses significant fiscal problems for these programs. Without reforms, by 2050, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that pension and health care spending with current demographic trends will equate to 40% of Brazilian GDP. Such an unsustainable fiscal strain underscores the need to reform these systems to ensure Brazilians can continue to build off the progress made in reducing elderly poverty in Brazil.

Labor Participation Can Boost Revenue for Elder Care Programs

Brazil’s pension programs are inefficiently funded compared to other countries. About 46% of the working population contributes payroll taxes to support pension programs in comparison to 86% in “advanced economies.” This is largely because the retirement age for Brazilians is quite low, 48 for women and 53 for men.

Because of this, the labor force is simply too small to support funding for these pension programs if current demographic shifts continue, posing major issues for combating elderly poverty in Brazil. Increasing the labor participation rate is essential to increase revenue to salvage the pension system and gains made by older Brazilians.

Increased female labor participation can play an important role in this. In the 15-64 age group, the female labor participation rate stands at 62% compared to 80% for males as of 2019. Even halving the gender labor participation gap could save Brazil 2.2% of its GDP on pension funding by 2050 through increased opportunities for women in the workplace. Encouraging early retirees to continue working is also important.

Brazilians aged 55-64 had a labor participation rate of 56% in 2014 compared to 81% for those aged 25-54. Decreasing this gap by 50% could save Brazil 1.3% of its GDP in pension funding by 2050. Raising the retirement age to above 60 could be the most prudent means to increase labor participation and make pension systems more sustainable and efficiently funded, enabling it to continue supporting elderly Brazilians and avert fiscal catastrophe that would threaten progress to reduce elderly poverty. Such reforms could reduce fiscal resources directed toward pension programs by 11% of GDP by 2050.

Cost Effective and Practical Health Care Reforms

Health care plays a critical role in combating elderly poverty in Brazil. Like the pension system, however, Brazil must implement reforms to sustainably support Brazil’s elderly population in the future. Health care spending as a percentage of GDP is projected to more than double from 4.6% in 2015 to 9.5% of GDP by 2050 without reform, placing further fiscal strain on Brazil and threatening the health care system that undergirds the progress made for Brazil’s elderly.

Practical on-the-ground reforms, however, may make the system cost-effective and ensure it continues to benefit Brazil’s elderly. Some of these reforms could include focusing on chronic, non-communicable diseases that people become acutely vulnerable to in old age and “abolishing tax deductibility of private insurance contributions” that undermine SUS funding. Furthermore, Brazil could implement education programs emphasizing healthy lifestyles and renegotiate pharmaceutical drug pricing to ensure Brazil’s health care system can remain solvent and focus on safeguarding living standards for elderly Brazilians. Improved health care has helped to reduce elderly poverty in Brazil and can continue doing so with reforms focusing on fiscal sustainability.

Brazil has made much progress in combating elderly poverty in recent decades. To safeguard these gains, the systems driving those positive changes must prioritize sustainability. Although such reforms could be unpopular politically, Brazil must find the courage must to ensure retirement remains a bridge to socio-economic security and enjoyment for Brazil’s elderly population. Brazil managed to establish a sophisticated apparatus for combating elderly poverty that has produced tremendous gains, because of this it has the capability to reform it once the willingness is there among Brazil’s leaders.

John Zak IV
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact in Bolivia Since September 2020, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has greatly improved. The country’s COVID-19 cases have reduced, possibly due to the fact that 25% of the population is fully vaccinated. Compared to the fact that less than 0.1% of the population was fully vaccinated in March 2021, this is good progress.

Small Town Controversies

In the small town of San Jose de Chiquitos, they immobilize the virus for a period of time via a controversial method. They use a chlorine dioxide solution (CDS), which is produced from the public university of Santa Cruz de la Serra, and administered by professional healthcare workers to treat people with coronavirus strains.

The town came about this alternative treatment due to the fact that it does not have a lot of advanced equipment, such as respirators, to keep up with COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia.

Originally, the government did not exactly approve of the treatment; however, the lower house has approved a special bill that authorizes the production and therapeutic use of the CDS. It is known as MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution).

Tourism Hit and Recommendation

Bolivia was one of the most tourism-dependent countries in South America, and the hit was felt by many since tourism provides 110,000 jobs for the people. Even domestic travel has suffered greatly. Even though the total percentage of unemployment in 2020 was only 5.61%, according to Statista, COVID-19’s impact in Bolivia has affect many. These people are eager to get back to work in any way possible.
Travel to Bolivia is still not recommended, and it is not allowed if it is deemed nonessential. According to the CDC, Bolivia is still at level 3, and it is ranked among the 10th highest for coronavirus cases in South American countries and countries in the Caribbean. Those who are fully vaccinated are permitted to go, but upon returning, they should get tested three to five days afterward. According to Statista, due to the lack of tourism, the tourism economy has taken a big hit in domestic tourism, with a loss of $530 million.

Vaccines for Everyone

On September 7, Bolivia received a shipment of 150,000 doses of the vaccine from Mexico. President Luis Arce’s administration estimated that some 7.5 million out of 11 million inhabitants are a vulnerable population that should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. The country has already seen a dramatic increase in vaccinations in just a short period of time.
The country has also been encouraging and promoting everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, including the indigenous groups in rural areas. The country tends to spread the awareness of the vaccine, and just like many South American countries are now doing, they want to help all of their people.
Rinko Kinoshita, Bolivia’s representative for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), did a 5-question interview with The Pivot. She stated, “Through United Nations interagency collaboration, we also are supporting the government with communication campaigns to promote COVID-19 vaccination, especially in indigenous rural communities on the border with Brazil”.

– Veronica Rosas
Photo: Flickr

Kids in Need of DefenseWhen she was 15 years old and nine months pregnant, Karla fled an abusive home in Honduras and sought shelter in the United States. After being referred to the Houston, Texas office of Kids in Need of Defense, Karla received pro bono legal assistance and was granted asylum. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) helps migrant children like Karla find a new life in safety. Karla’s story is not the norm though. Many migrant children are either turned away at the border or kept for weeks in facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Non-governmental organizations like KIND help by providing children with pro bono legal representation in immigration court, allowing children like Karla to find a safe home. KIND also works within countries of origin, fighting to alleviate the sources of suffering that cause children like Karla to migrate in the first place.

The Immigration Crisis

Conversations about immigration in the United States often focus on statistics and stereotypes rather than the actual people making the journey or the organizations working to help them. Organizations like KIND fight to make the discussions surrounding immigration about aid, safety and policy-oriented solutions rather than focusing on stopping immigration altogether.

Today, immigration is front and center in political debates. The Biden administration is working to right the wrongs of the previous presidential administrations. As detailed in a recent New York Times article, emergency facilities set up by the Biden administration have led to modest improvements in conditions for migrant children.

As Maria M. Odom, the senior vice president for legal programs at Kids in Need of Defense, clarifies, “These facilities were designed and ramped up with the goal of achieving prompt reunification with parents, sponsors and legal guardians.” But, a shortage of case managers for placing migrant children with family members and other sponsors leads to some children spending weeks, even months, in emergency facilities.

Reasons for Migration

While people migrate for a variety of reasons, migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border are primarily fleeing political and social instability, violence, crime, injustice and poverty. According to KIND, in countries like Honduras and Guatemala, more than half the population lives below the poverty line. In the western part of Guatemala, about a third of the population experiences extreme poverty. “Civil war, internal conflicts and natural disasters” have also weakened institutional structures in these nations. These dire circumstances prompt citizens to leave in search of better living conditions.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Founded in 2008, Kids in Need of Defense is a U.S.-based NGO that provides legal aid and counsel to unaccompanied and separated migrant children once they are in the U.S. Through its offices in Mexico and its programs in Central America, KIND works with legal partners to address the root causes of migration. Overall, KIND works to “protect children during migration and connect repatriated children with essential services.”

Kids in Need of Defense also works with “partners in Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland and the United Kingdom.” Its European initiatives provide unaccompanied children in Europe with free legal support. In fact, in 2020, KIND launched KIND Mexico and opened its first offices outside of the U.S. This was prompted by the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the anti-immigration policies of the Trump administration.

KIND’s 2020 Impact

  • Provided services to 1,411 detained children
  • Worked with migrant children in 78 countries across the world
  • Assisted 194 children at the U.S.-Mexico border
  • Achieved a 95% success rate in legal cases

KIND works directly with policymakers to protect the rights of migrant children by advocating for durable policy solutions to child migration. Every decision it makes is grounded in the best interests of the child in order to ensure that no child is ever forced to migrate due to poverty or violence.

– Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Uru People
For many years, Lake Poopo, Bolivia’s second-largest lake, has supported the Uru people, also known as the “people of the lake.” Large in size, the lake has always fluctuated, from a mere 1,000 square kilometers to over 3,500 square kilometers in its peak in the late 80s. With such a sizable resource, the Uru people were able to create a unique culture that enabled them to dominate the lakeshore and surrounding regions. In their culture, when two Uru would decide to marry, traditional customs called for the building of a “family of reeds” on Lake Poopo, surviving off what they could forage along the lakeshore. Fish, eggs and hunted birds supported the local populace, keeping the environment in a rich, harmonic relationship that the Uru people thought would last for their entire lifetimes.

This thought is now little more than a memory to Luis Valero, a local Uru community leader who remembers when his grandfather saw the Lake as sustaining him and his people for all of their lives. The memory is now slowly draining away as Lake Poopo suffers from human-accelerated pollution. It is leaving the waters dried up and the Uru people are floundering and grasping for anything to sustain them.

How Poverty Began

For generations, the Uru people lived off the bounty of the Lake, but after Lake Poopo dried up in 2015, things took a turn for the worse, forcing the Uru people to settle on what remains of a lakeshore. The Uru people survived largely from an independent lifestyle tin which they did not need to generate extraneous products for trade. The men would support their families through hunting and fishing while the women largely worked in small crafts and trades. Now, with Lake Poopo suffering from human-accelerated pollution, many of the local men, unable to sustain their families or entertain the possibility of one, leave and look for work elsewhere. The results of water diversion projects for farming have drained Lake Poopo of its vitality and accelerated the Uru people to poverty as more continue to face a new reality they did not anticipate.

Effects of a Global Pandemic

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have only strained community bonds as the Uru people strive to replenish their cultural identity in the midst of deterioration. One of the consequences of the Lake’s accelerated pollution is the migration of cultural identity in the form of language. Speakers of the Uru-Cholo language have become less plentiful as young men, unable to find work around the lake as it dries up, explore opportunities outside the community in the mines and surrounding towns. This slow migration dissipates the community structure, leaving many women and men fighting to stay out of poverty. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed, though, as the Bolivian government has teamed up with local organizations in an effort to keep the Uru people’s language alive.

The Good News

Bolivia’s industrialization has created more wealth for the country and its workers. However, as more Bolivians have moved to the cities for opportunities working in salt and mineral mines, more pollution emerged. The level of pollution has deeply affected Lake Poopo and the surrounding shoreline communities of the Uru people, so when a severe drought in 2016 deeply depleted Lake Poopo of water, local volunteers banded together with one goal in mind: clean up the surviving lakes.

The humanitarian effort to clean the lakes drew hundreds of diligent volunteers from around the world, even attracting a French social media personality. Many people are hopeful the Lake can be improved, with some like local volunteer Magali Huarachi saying, “I think that if we all do our little bit, by picking up our garbage or coming to help here, then we are going to make this place beautiful in a while.” The Bolivian government is on their side, taking steps along with local organizations to continue preserving the community’s language to the Uru children through local teachers.

Alex Pinamang
Photo: Flickr

Bitcoin as Legal TenderOn Wednesday, June 9, 2021, El Salvador made history by becoming the first country to authorize the use of bitcoin as legal tender. President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to utilize the currency was widely popular in Congress. The votes came to 62 out of 84 in favor of instating a law to adopt bitcoin as the country’s legal tender. The introduction of bitcoin will greatly help the facilitation of remittances sent back home from Salvadorians living abroad. This is important as one in four Salvadorians live abroad. In addition, more than $2 out of every $10 in the country’s economy comes from remittances. Therefore, incorporating bitcoin as legal tender should only improve access to financial resources throughout El Salvador’s marginalized communities. Shortly before the bill was passed, President Bukele tweeted about the economic benefits of having bitcoin as legal tender: “It will bring financial inclusion, investment, tourism, innovation and economic development for our country.”

The Benefits of Bitcoin

The authorization of bitcoin as legal tender may be a developing trend across emerging economies. This is because bank penetration and access to traditional financial institutions are remarkably low. In El Salvador, more than 70% of the population lacks any connection to traditional financial services. It is due to these circumstances that Salvadorians have found themselves so reliant on remittances. In the past year alone, remittances contributed a fifth of El Salvador’s total GDP. With the domestic economy so dependent on remittances, it is clear why Bukele would craft a bill intended to ease the process for sending money back home from abroad.

Through cryptocurrency, Salvadorians will be able to send money to impoverished loved ones at a more affordable and quicker rate. No longer will those working in the global north have to rely on remittance firms. Rather, converting local currencies to and from bitcoin requires only an informal broker.

President Bukele will use significant domestic resources to help train the Salvadorian population to carry out bitcoin transactions. El Salvador’s commitment to cryptocurrency will not only forecast the future relevancy of cryptocurrency but act as a case study for other emerging economies that may be interested in eventually adopting bitcoin as legal tender. “The market will now be focused on adoption through El Salvador and whether other nations follow,” said Richard Galvin of crypto fund Digital Asset Capital Management. “This could be a key catalyst for bitcoin over the next two to three years.”

Moving Forward

In the past, people have criticized bitcoin mining for its harmful environmental footprint. However, El Salvador has made a concerted effort to ensure its bitcoin operation uses complete renewable energy. President Bukele has repeatedly stated that El Salvador’s state-run geothermal energy mechanisms will convert power derived from volcanoes for bitcoin mining. Scorching steam generates the power that can spin turbines and generate electricity. Going forward, bitcoin holds enormous potential in driving renewable energy projects across the world, especially in emerging economies.

– Conor Green
Photo: Flickr

Providing Meal Kits
After Ecuador rounded its first full year in the coronavirus pandemic, citizens found themselves struggling to survive. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, the Ecuadorian government has repeatedly failed to protect and care for its citizens. It has been neglecting the sick and dead, spreading rampant misinformation, severely underreporting coronavirus cases, and most recently, allowing corruption to occur in the vaccine rollout. As a result, reports have determined the existence of more than 320,000 coronavirus cases along with nearly 17,000 deaths. Health care facilities have become overrun with desperate families and patients seeking care. As a response, the organization Kahre Org is providing meal kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) in Ecuador to help alleviate the suffering of its citizens.

COVID-19 in Ecuador

The pandemic and the blunt of the Ecuadorian government’s lack of responsibility has fallen upon its citizens, most notably, those living in rural areas. The pandemic has upended rural society and displaced many citizens. Communities lack basic necessities such as meal kits, PPE and education. The government has failed to provide citizens with information about the virus. Moreover, rural Ecuadorians, who are typically farmers, have faced an economic crash. This is because their typical markets and routes have closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Many rural Ecuadorians have had to face a harsh economic situation as they are no longer able to sustain their livelihood.

Kahre Org is providing Meal Kits and PPE in Ecuador

When the initiatives of Kahre Org, a nonprofit organization located in Ecuador, came to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic, they had to readjust their scope of work to suit the new needs that arose. Before the pandemic, Kahre Org offered community outreach. This included providing communities with access to legal services, shelters, education and provisions. The organization has adapted and refocused its efforts to now provide meal kits and PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization started with those in rural Ecuador and continued its efforts to frontline workers and the medical community. Consequently, the Kahre Org minimized food insecurity while also creating additional jobs for impoverished and unemployed individuals.

How it Works

By partnering with the Ecuadorian armed forces, Kahre Org was able to deliver more than 100,000 meal kits across Ecuador. These meal kits offer stability to vulnerable individuals. It meant they could focus on finding employment, recovering from the pandemic or taking care of their families rather than worrying about where their next meals would come from. Along with these meal kits came important medical supplies. This included sanitization products and PPE to further help Ecuadorians stay fed and healthy. As many of these rural communities are far from hospitals and medical care, such protective equipment is extremely important.

Moreover, the Kahre Org saw an opportunity with the pandemic to expand their preexisting Child Food Programme. This initiative provides more than 100 Ecuadorian children with two meals a day. It was able to travel to small, local communities and offer children food to minimize their food insecurity. This simultaneously creates more job opportunities for Ecuadorians who wish to work with the organization.

To further the hard work of the Kahre Org in Ecuadorian communities, the local organization extended its helping hand past rural communities to the frontline workers. The organization managed to provide hundreds of Red Cross workers, government corps, doctors and other health care providers with meal kits.

Looking Ahead

By amassing donations and formulating a thorough response plan, the Kahre Org mobilized and inspired Ecuadorians to give back to their communities. In the process, the organization was able to educate rural Ecuadorians of the dangers of the virus and how to minimize the spread and stay healthy. Through providing meal kits and PPE, thousands of Ecuadorians are receiving the resources they need to fight the pandemic.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr

South American Clothing Brands
Many young entrepreneurs in South America have employed local craftsmanship and design to create beautiful garments under ethical circumstances. These three sustainable South American clothing brands are not only exclusively elevating the fashion industry in the region, but are also providing jobs to locals.

VOZ – Santiago, Chile

The first of the South American clothing brands is VOZ, which is located in Santiago, Chile. This clothing brand’s main premise of employing Mapuche artisans is to create and design the garments. VOZ respects indigenous traditions and ancestral weaving techniques. As a result, it has become a pioneer brand in the region with ethical and sustainable business practices.

The designs are a product of collaborative and educational workshops for Mapuche women. In addition, VOZ has high-quality standards and sustainable materials. Furthermore, VOZ ethically and locally sources raw materials and fabrics from Temuco, Chile. These materials make sleek and elegant outfits for women. The entire supply chain employs Chilean work through this approach. Thus, local artisans are involved in the manufacturing procedure and the design processes of VOZ collections.

VOZ employed over 100 women artisans in its supply chain as of 2021. Additionally, these women have improved their quality of life as the brand pays them ethical and dignified wages. The CEO and founder of VOZ said, “A lot of brilliant women have not had the access provided to other Chileans, and this especially affects the way in which they can support their families. Offering a training program to these talented and motivated women is game-changing to the people here, and has a positive impact on the local economy.”

NIDO – Buenos Aires, Argentina

This slow fashion brand creates beautiful knitwear crafted from local sustainable wool. Additionally, this wool comes from the provinces of Chubut and Patagonia. Argentine weavers from the provinces of Santa Fe and Córdoba make NIDO’s clothes. The merino wool is hand-dyed and woven in spinning wheels.

NIDO strives to maintain a personal link with the artisans and weavers, as most women working for the brand come from vulnerable poverty situations. Additionally, NIDO grants them a craft to make a living and earn a fair wage for their work. In this way, the brand manifests itself against fast fashion supply chains that create their clothing in sweatshops.

NIDO manages to employ artisans who receive fair salaries by charging an honest price for their sweaters and blankets. Thus, it has become a pioneer brand in Argentina that maintains an ethical supply chain. The company launched the school of textile crafts in Buenos Aires in 2016. It trained more artisans in vulnerable conditions and spreading traditional Argentine weaving techniques to younger generations.

Artemera – Asunción, Paraguay

Artemera is a new sustainable clothing brand that provides feminine clothing for women and girls. It has now expanded its collections for men as well. Artemera has made 100% artisanal garments with colorful Paraguayan motifs and textiles since 2016. Furthermore, local artisans hand-make collections, while founder Luciana Abente creates the designs.

While the brand started by exclusively making t-shirts inspired by national folklore, art and customs, the brand has now broadened its line to include pants, dresses and sandals with excellent quality ideal for the hot tropical climate. Moreover, one can attribute Artemera’s uniqueness in design to its quick success among locals and foreigners alike.

Artemera has donated a significant amount of revenue to social and environmental projects, such as the #ConservemosLoNuestro campaign. This business committed itself to a reforestation campaign in the Morombí national reserve in Eastern Paraguay, which is home to more than 60 endangered species. Furthermore, this collaboration protects forest resources and promotes tourism in the region.

These three sustainable South American clothing brands have significantly improved the lives of women and the economy. These companies have provided jobs for locals who are living in impoverished areas. Furthermore, the companies hope to expand their reach for the future.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Poverty in South America
A long history of imperialism, turmoil and instability has manifested itself into modern issues of poverty in South America. Countless grassroots and nongovernmental movements are providing help to the poor in this region. Many funds often drown in the complexities of bureaucratic and organizational structures, unfortunately. One individual is repurposing the term “influencer culture.” This refers to the social leverage that internet users with clout have. Aaron Murphy is creating mini-docuseries for awareness and sharing his personal payment service usernames. He is raising funds at a global scale that he directly pumps into the community. He is fighting poverty in South America through social media and videos.

Aaron Murphy

Aaron Murphy traveled to South America on a backpacking trip to learn Spanish. He now wanders across states in the region — mainly Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela — to empower families and communities. His entire journey is available for public access on his social media, specifically his YouTube and Tik Tok accounts. His posts and videos often include an effort to promote awareness along with a call to action. Notably, the content available on these platforms provides a candid view into the everyday life of people living in poverty in South America.

The intent is not to romanticize a serious issue. Instead, he aims to connect with his viewers, sharing the very human reality beyond the understanding of people who live with less. He includes mini-documentaries and conducts interviews with residents. Murphy willfully makes an effort to understand the communities he is in. Murphy has also vocalized part of his videos’ purpose is to remind viewers of the privileges and blessings they experience daily.

Vlogs and Awareness

Murphy’s posts calling people to action have gained large traction recently, especially on Tik Tok. The app’s algorithm works to boost trending videos and topics. His audience is growing along with efforts to support his organization. Murphy provides continuous updates on different projects, giving followers a transparent view of where their proceeds go. His videos also focus on documenting dialogue between individuals and families. He also translates what they say into English subtitles.

Murphy films his videos into vlogs. They cater to a younger audience and have a natural look. One series of videos prompted a wave of global action at the beginning of March 2021. Murphy was following a Venezuelan native community without quality access to housing and food. In the first video and caption, he showed the livelihood of the struggling community. He then urged followers to donate through Paypal and Venmo. Followers raised $12,000 after Murphy posted the video. This gave the Murphslife team the ability to provide the community beds for 112 huts.

The Murphslife Foundation

The Murphslife Foundation accepts funds through Patreon, Venmo, Paypal and Cash App to go towards its efforts fighting poverty in South America. It is a largely unique approach to tackling poverty in South America, though an effective one for convenient participation among younger activist communities. The organization has no connection to any tax-exempt status. Perhaps a testament to its efficacy, the organization is a young and rapidly growing one.

Oftentimes, there is little opportunity to provide direct help for international causes. Initiatives to eradicate poverty in South America have become saturated and commodified in ways similar to that of an enterprise. The nonprofit and not-for-profit organizations affect the people negatively. This takes place, though the organizations are important within the larger picture of a long-term solution to poverty.

It has an association with nationalities and governances, forced through sanctions and other diplomatic complications. Potential donors dull the impact of a donation when dissuaded from giving to charities for these political complications. Murphslife shows how short-term results are also incredibly effective solutions to help those in need. Going forward, hopefully, other organizations and influencers will follow Murphy’s model of fighting poverty in South America. This will help them anchor their support in the fight to end poverty as a whole.

– Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

Helping the Homeless
When topics of direct involvement to relieve global poverty come up in casual conversation, young people sometimes find new and innovative ways they can volunteer. Since young adults and teenagers often do not have a lot of disposable income to donate to causes that speak to them, they may choose to involve themselves with an NGO they can give their time and energy to. This is where Un Techo Para mi Pais, or TECHO, comes in as it has an impeccable volunteering model. Techo is a South American nonprofit that emerged in 1997 in Santiago, Chile. Since 2001, the organization began its expansion throughout Latin America, and by 2010, TECHO was one of the most prominent entities providing natural disaster relief to nine South American nations and helping the homeless.

About TECHO

TECHO’s main aim is to decrease homelessness rates on the South American continent, while improving the quality of life of those in comunas and favelas, building sanitary and safe communities and employing the work and energy of volunteers. As of 2021, Techo operates in 19 Latin American countries, with over a million volunteers across the continent helping the homeless and impoverished communities.

TECHO’s initiative consists of not only providing marginalized and impoverished communities with the dignity they deserve but also linking the volunteers with the communities they are aiding. The organization discusses each community’s specific needs as it helps design a unique action plan for each neighborhood and settlement. Joint action occurs as volunteers and settlement dwellers construct paved roads, community centers and emergency homes. The latter is their most popular project: modular prefabricated spaces that are easy and fast to build and provide shelter and insulation from the elements to families in need.

How Young People Can Participate

One does not need formal training in construction or city planning, as teenagers as young as 14 can participate by following a simple guide and plan of action. Young volunteers can do a wide range of jobs, such as asking for pecuniary donations as individuals or with their schools, collecting construction materials and assisting at construction sites to lend a hand. It is through this hands-on model that TECHO has become a very popular “club” to be part of within Latin American cities, as young people dedicate a lot of their time to campaigns fighting extreme poverty while learning about systemic and structural problems their particular societies face at a community level.

Anyone Can Help

Professionals are also necessary at TECHO for the most ambitious plans, and the organization accepts almost all areas of expertise including volunteer firefighters, cooks, construction workers and nurses. Even those with no experience in humanitarian aid or those without a formal profession can help, as according to the organization, “The first step is to get to know the organization’s model very well, and the tools necessary to carry out your role. Then, TECHO seeks to offer various activities that will help you to deepen your knowledge on topics such as poverty and human rights. No previous experience is required to lend a hand.”

The Inter-American Development Bank recently gave TECHO the rank of fourth most visionary organization of Latin America. Moreover, the organization is currently working on more than 500 settlements across Latin America hoping to expand its reach into the most precarious areas of the region, helping the homeless and providing many more families with dignified services and homes.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In Ecuador
Since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has exemplified how important testing is for regulating the number of coronavirus deaths. Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America. It is a country that was already struggling with an uncertain economy. Its greatest generator of wealth is crude oil exportation, which underwent severe damage when oil prices drastically fell at the beginning of the pandemic. Ecuador has continued to produce low numbers in terms of virus cases per capita. However, the huge rise in deaths recently is an alarming sign that the test numbers provided are not capturing the whole picture of COVID-19 in Ecuador.

Numbers vs. Reality

Ecuador has reported a total of 130,000 COVID-19 cases since February 2020. Doctor and public health specialist Esteban Ortiz estimates that the actual number is around 2.1 million. This estimate comes in part from the number of deaths being much higher than it should be for the given numbers of cases. Part of the issue is that the country is lacking the infrastructure necessary to handle the pandemic. Since Ecuador was already struggling financially, the government was not able to properly staff and equip hospitals. This meant that it was not able to provide enough outreach and testing locations.

The lack of testing also meant that Ecuador was not able to keep up with the number of deaths occurring. This resulted from its inability to accurately predict what would happen. Between March and mid-April 2020, the Guayas province, where Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil is located, reported around 14,500 deaths. The average number of monthly deaths in this province stood at 2,000. The health system became overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the rise in deaths coming from an unknown number of cases. The number became so overwhelming that estimates determined that the actual death toll is 15 times higher than the official number of COVID-19 deaths the government reported.

Tracking the Effects of the Virus

One can also track the impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador by looking at unemployment. By June 2020, unemployment reached 13.3%, drastically higher than 3.8% just six months earlier. Statistics also found that around 67% of workers were underemployed during this time. Additionally, extreme poverty in Ecuador nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. These economic pressures brought great stress upon the country. It was clear that the economy and the people faced monetary struggles. Reopening the country also seemed to be a massive risk, however, due to the unknown number of cases.

Another factor is the large population of refugees in Ecuador. Ecuador has one of the highest South American refugee populations at around 70,000 and close to 385,000 asylum seekers. These people have entitlement to government medical assistance but do not always receive aid in practice. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is working to detect COVID-19 in these communities and provide services. The UNHCR has also worked to train and equip six other community organizations around Ecuador to work at a more local level. These groups work through phone hotlines and home visits to identify cases and notify the community in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in these at-risk communities.

Ecuador in Recovery

In recent weeks, Ecuador has begun to regain control as the number of deaths has dropped off. The government is receiving money from private donors and other governments to bolster its medical system by better funding and equipping its hospitals. As Ecuador begins to build back, it is worth noting how the virus can devastate a country with an already unstable economy and an ill-equipped medical system in a short period of time. It seems that the worst is over for COVID-19 in Ecuador, but the nation’s story serves as a warning of the possible dangers of pandemics in developing countries.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr