Inflammation and stories on South America

water shortage in Peru
While Peruvian infrastructure continues to improve, unequal access to safe drinking water remains a prominent issue affecting up to 5 million citizens — or a staggering 15% of the country’s population. The government recognizes that to properly tackle the pressing issue of water security, the crisis of water shortage in Peru must be addressed. This matter is particularly important in the capital, Lima, one of the world’s largest desert cities where 1.5 million citizens lack running water. Moreover, the city only receives nine millimeters of rain a year.

Peru’s Water Crisis

The government has made the goal to reach and offer all marginalized urban hotspots in need of water, such as Lima, public drinking services by 2021. Significant strides have been made since 2016 under both the Kuczynski and Vizcarra administrations. However, with 9% of its foreign investment now allocated to water and sanitation, the government also recognizes that public-private partnerships are key toward making significant strides to increase water supply. International sustainability NGO, The Nature Conservancy, has played a major role in combating the water shortage in Peru through its innovative water projects.

The Nature Conservancy

Amunas, water systems utilized in pre-Incan times, maximized the total amount of rainfall that could be used as drinking water. Given the increasingly challenging circumstances concerning Lima’s water supply, ranging from urbanization to climate change — in 2019, The Nature Conservancy decided to bring back this means of hydric regulation. The end-goal with this initiative is to alleviate the city’s distressing, water situation. Alongside the Caterpillar Foundation, NGO members are essentially building canals that funnel rain (during floods) into mountains — rather than have the rain undergo the natural processes of evaporation. Water will gradually surface in springs —an imperative for water distribution during Lima’s dry seasons. This effectively addresses the water shortage in Peru.

The amunas recovery project is taking place in the upper Rimac River Watershed, arguably Lima’s most important water supply. Given an increased amount of water within the soil, it has already resulted in the recuperation of 25 hectares of natural grasslands. Farmers located throughout the greater Lima area have therefore benefited greatly from this endeavor.

NGO and Government Partnership

As part of a new water utility effort in Lima called “Aquafondo,” The Nature Conservancy is working in conjunction with the Peruvian government to plan and develop an efficient tariff structure, funding infrastructure projects. The conservancy projects that, by 2025, $25 million will be directed toward critical hydrological services — addressing key issues such as the region’s adaptation to climate change. In addition to Aquafondo, the conservancy is organizing water funds in the Peruvian cities Piura and Cusco, both of which are also located in desert-like areas.

A Pivotal Role Going Forward

While the water shortage in Peru remains a security crisis that can impact the economic and personal development of millions of citizens — environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy play a pivotal role. These organizations ensure water access for marginalized populations who have a great need for it. The Nature Conservancy’s international efforts, ranging from improved infrastructure throughout Latin America to restoring wetlands in India, symbolize a greater effort toward water justice among powerful non-state parties.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Suriname
The Republic of Suriname is an upper-middle-income country located on the northeastern coast of South America. Around 90% of the country’s population lives in urban or rural coastal areas. Healthcare in Suriname is accessible for both the public and private sectors. Here are eight facts about healthcare in Suriname.

8 Facts About Healthcare in Suriname

  1. Infant and Maternal Mortality: Suriname’s infant mortality rate in 2013 was around 16 deaths per 1,000 live births. The most prevalent reasons for mortality reported in children under 1 year of age were respiratory problems, fetal growth retardation, congenital diseases, neonatal septicemia and external causes. The maternal death ratio averaged 125 deaths per 100,000 live births from the years 2000 to 2013. For mothers, the most prominent causes included gestational hypertension and hemorrhage. In 2010, prenatal checkup coverage was around 95%, and more than 65% of pregnant women had had four prenatal checkups. In addition, almost 93% of births happened in a health center, and trained health workers carried out around 95% of births.
  2. Life Expectancy: In 2016, the average life expectancy of a male was 69, while the average life expectancy of a female was 75. These estimates are slightly below the average male and female life expectancies in the rest of South America.
  3. Mosquito-borne Illnesses: In late 2015, the preliminary issue of Zika virus was found in Suriname. The disease spread quickly throughout the country’s 10 districts, but there are no current outbreaks. Conversely, Suriname has eradicated malaria from all but one district of Suriname. However, the rate of new imported cases (principally among gold miners from French Guiana) increased by more than 70% in 2015.
  4. HIV and Tuberculosis: By 2014, Suriname’s human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) rate among the 15-49 age group was 0.9%. HIV/AIDS caused 22.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, decreasing to 16.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013. From 2012 to 2014, the estimated tuberculosis diagnosis rate increased from 58% to 71%. To combat the disease, the country started the direct implementation of observed treatment, resulting in higher treatment success from 61% in 2010 to 75% in 2013.
  5. Government Contribution and Coverage: Suriname experienced vast economic growth from 2010 to 2014. During this period, healthcare in Suriname received increased funding for various services and facilities. It expanded and decentralized private laboratory diagnostic services, private primary care, dental care and paramedic practices. In 2015, vaccination coverage was almost 90% for DPT3 and above 90% for the trivalent vaccine (MMR1). In 2014, the total estimated health expenditure as a percentage of GDP was 6%. For health insurance, employees’  premium rate is 50%, and employers pay the other half. For low- or no-income citizens, the government subsidizes health coverage.
  6. Hospitals: Of Suriname’s five hospitals, two are private and three are public. The Academic Hospital in Paramaribo has recently renovated and expanded its facilities and invested in equipment and staff for specialty care like gastroenterology, oncology, intensive care, renal dialysis and more. In 2013, government and external funds also helped other hospitals invest in new facilities and healthcare worker training programs.
  7. Sanitation: Suriname’s lack of an integrated waste management policy has created illegal dumps and caused refuse to accumulate on roadsides and in open waters. This infrastructure problem results in health risks and environmental hazards. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Suriname does not have facilities for storing or eliminating hazardous waste, nor does it regulate the safe use or storage of pesticides.
  8. Accessibility: In 2014, Suriname passed its national basic health insurance law. It provides access to a basic package of primary, secondary and tertiary care services for all Surinamese citizens. In 2013, all people under the age of 16, as well as people aged 60 and over, had the right to free health care that the government paid for. Universal access to healthcare for pregnant women and newborns remains a challenge for healthcare in Suriname.

Persistent voids in access to healthcare in Suriname are related to drawbacks in funding. The healthcare system has seen an expansion in the past decade, but there are still plenty of health challenges to confront and improve.

Anuja Kumari
Photo: Flickr

development in Guyana
Guyana is a nation that is full of rich history. It received its name from its early indigenous populations who named it “Guaina” or “land of water.” Guyana was its own land for many centuries before the Age of Exploration. However, in 1498, Christopher Columbus was the first European to see the country and he claimed it for Spain. It was not until numerous decades and many European leaders later that the nation declared its independence in 1970.

Since declaring its independence, the nation of Guyana has faced many struggles including widespread poverty and hunger, however, throughout the past three decades, there have been significant improvements in both of these areas. The Guyanese government’s development projects as well as numerous nonprofits have made lasting changes throughout the country. Here are two examples of projects that have helped advance development in Guyana.

Guyanese President Desmond Hoyte’s Economic Recovery Program

Due to long-lasting droughts, high rates of emigration, political uncertainty and many other factors, the nation of Guyana has experienced many economic stalls throughout its time in independence. In addition, competing parallel markets and decreases in agricultural production have played roles in Guyana’s economic struggles. In the 1980s, the country faced a complete economic collapse, while also having almost 50% of its population living in extreme poverty.

In an effort to address these issues and approach development in Guyana from an economic standpoint, Guyanese President Desmond Hoyte announced his Economic Recovery Program in 1988. The goal of this project was to restore economic growth, absorb parallel markets, eliminate payment imbalances and to normalize international financial relations. In order to meet these goals, the government liberalized harsh regulations on foreign exchange relations, removed price controls on key goods and devalued the Guyanese dollar to match market rates. These were only some of the decisions and changes that Hoyte and his government made while implementing his program, however, each of them was very impactful in its own ways.

Almost no positive change occurred within the first two years of the project and there were even some negative effects. However, by 1991, Guyana’s debt had lowered to a point at which the nation could receive international loans and foreign investment had surged. This program was the foundation for the nation’s sustained economic stability and opened the door for further development and growth.

The Guyanese Government and Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Long-term Investment in Early Childhood Education

The Guyanese education system has lacked sufficiency for decades. There is a significant disparity between the education that students living in the more urban and populated parts of Guyana receive and the education that students in the more remote regions receive. For example, it is very common for students living in remote areas to lack the necessary resources to facilitate adequate education as well as to have teachers with less training.

In an attempt to address these issues and disparities and to approach development in Guyana from a human capital standpoint, the Guyanese government and the GPE decided to make a long-term investment in the nation’s education system. This program focused on strengthening teacher forces through training, constant monitoring and evaluation. It also provided students with learning materials in the form of resource kits and teacher use manuals. The project also held training sessions for the primary caregivers of students across the nation in order for them to be able to support their children’s education at home. This project took a very well-rounded approach to mitigate education disparities and issues in Guyana and continues to have a lasting effect today.

According to the Guyanese Ministry of Education, this program helped improve literacy rates within students living in the hinterland and riverine regions by 139% and improved numeracy rates by 133%. There were also significant improvements within coastal and urban populations. Although this project ended in 2018, the Guyanese government made sure that it could provide identical services going forward in perpetuity.

A Bright Future Lies Ahead

Guyana has proven to be a model for development and growth. The projects and programs that have emerged throughout the nation have turned the country around and set it on a positive path towards continuous success. These projects and many others have accelerated development in Guyana and have made clear that the possibilities are endless for this small South American country.

– MacKenzie Boatman
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in ChileChile is a small, narrow country in South America blessed with magnificent mountains and gorgeous Pacific Ocean views that attract tourists from all over the world. The World Bank estimates that Chile has a higher life expectancy than the United States and classifies it as a high-income country despite its many impoverished regions. Like many other countries, however, Chile has experienced substantial economic distress in the wake of COVID-19 due to the high infection rates. In fact, Chile has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world with more than 364,000 confirmed cases as of 5 August 2020 in a population of only 18.7 million. Fortunately, in an effort to quickly recover from the crisis, the National Police formulated an unconventional, yet clever plan to combat COVID-19 in Chile.

Poverty & COVID-19 in Chile

Confirmed cases in Chile have steadily risen since May, beginning in high-income neighborhoods and slowly infiltrating low-income communities where the virus has caused the most damage.  The country has remained under a national state of emergency since mid-March and is now experiencing Phase 4 of the outbreak, which includes “uncontrolled and widespread community transmission,” forced quarantine in some areas and even a nationwide curfew. The Chilean government closed the country’s borders on 18 March 2020 to all tourists, cruise ships and other unnecessary traffic, excluding citizens and permanent residents who must be quarantined for 14 days upon re-entrance.

Tourism prevention has been particularly harmful to Chile’s economy since the country shut down in March. The country was named the 2017 Best Destination for Adventure Tourism in the World with more than 5.6 million people visiting each year, a group that has consistently stimulated the economy by nearly 13% annually. Jorge Rodriguez, Chile’s Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism stresses that tourism “is strategic for the growth of Chile,”  but COVID-19 is decelerating the progress tourism has made in the last decade.

The World Bank identifies Chile as one of Latin America’s “most unequal countries” because there are two socioeconomic extremes: incredibly impoverished or wonderfully wealthy. There is no middle class, forcing socioeconomic status to determine whether a person hopelessly struggles under government dependence or flourishes in their own monetary independence. Because people living in poverty must rely on assistance from the government, poor Chileans are suffering now more than ever as COVID-19 devastates the economy.

Retrievers to the Rescue

Luckily, the Chilean government, in partnership with the Catholic University of Chile, has constructed a strategic recovery plan that relies on retrievers. Chile’s National Police has embarked on a journey to teach K-9s to find COVID-19 in crowds. Three highly trained pups, with experience in drug and bomb detection, are learning to sniff out human odors specifically emitted by prospective patients.  COVID-19 itself does not have an odor, but minor metabolic changes can be detected as well as “volatile organic compounds” according to Fernando Mardones, professor and epidemiologist at the Catholic University of Chile. Those distinct markers enable the K-9s to intelligently track and discover people who are either asymptomatic or just entering the earliest stages of infection. Once a target is located, the “bio-detector dogs” do not scratch or use their killer bites. They simply sit by the COVID-19 carrier for discrete identification that prevents panic.

K-9s to Conquer COVID-19

The program currently remains in pilot stages but should be fully implemented by mid-September where the K-9s will be immediately deployed to high population centers. By the end of the training, one K-9 will be able to search more than 250 people in one hour with more than 95% accuracy. After the K-9s successfully memorize how to detect the virus in humans and remove COVID-19 patients from densely populated areas, confirmed case numbers in Chile should steadily decline. The country will then be able to reopen its ports and borders. Reestablishing its rightful place as one of the world’s most sought after tourism destinations will allow the economy to heal as travelers renew their plans to enjoy Chile’s beautiful scenery and exhilarating adventure sites.

Economic stability boosted by tourism revitalization will ease the concerns of people in poverty because the government will return to adequately assisting low-income regions as it did before COVID-19. Hopefully, extinguishing the virus in Chile will begin to bridge the gap between the country’s seemingly untouchable upper class and its disadvantaged lower class, giving impoverished people a chance to thrive.

-Natalie Clark
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Paraguai
Healthcare in Paraguay has improved tremendously over the past decades. The life expectancy of both males and females has increased by about 10 years since 1990. In the same period of time, the mortality rate of children under 5 years old decreased from 34.6 deaths to 14 deaths per 1,000 live births. Still, many communities remain underserved and face the repercussions of limited access to healthcare.

The Rural-Urban Divide

The improvements in Paraguay’s healthcare system have occurred mostly in urban areas. This makes sense considering that more than 60% of Paraguay’s population lives in the urban perimeters of Asunción and Ciudad del Este. In fact, about 70% of healthcare workers operate within the Greater Asunción area.

In contrast, rural populations do not receive the same access to healthcare. While the more rural regions located to the West of Asunción represent 61% of the national territory, only about 31% of the national paved road network reaches these regions. As a result, transportation from isolated rural communities to urban areas with better access to healthcare is not an easy feat.

The Family Health Units and Coverage

In 2008, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare created family health teams to carry out healthcare in a coordinated, comprehensive and continuous manner. Each team is organized in Family Health Units (USF in the Spanish acronym) and serves the populations to which they are assigned. These teams must provide consultation, home care and ongoing medical evaluation to their communities.

While USFs have successfully improved the health of urban populations, they have largely left behind those who live outside of urban centers. For example, only about 50% of the Alto Paraguay residents have USF coverage.

The following reasons help explain this disparity in USF coverage between city and country areas:

  • Rural areas generally have low population density and exist between small towns. Therefore, providing USF coverage to many rural communities can be inefficient and challenging.
  • Many healthcare workers who are originally from rural areas often decide to either move to urban areas or leave Paraguay completely due to the poor working conditions and precarious employment contracts.
  • There are few incentives for healthcare workers to practice in rural areas.

As a result, rural areas, where poverty rates are the highest, are also most susceptible to experiencing USF shortages.

The maternal mortality rates (MMRs) by region reflects the disparity in USF coverage. In 2015, the rural areas of Boquerón, Amambay and Canindeyú recorded MMRs of 347, 190 and 167 per 100,000 live births, respectively. This data stands in stark contrast to the average MMR of the entire nation which is 132 per 100,000 live births. Clearly a significant imbalance in healthcare access exists between geographic locations in Paraguay.

Addressing MMR in Rural Communities

Several initiatives emerged to address this problem, although some deemed some of them unsuccessful. The Maternal Health and Child Development Project, which operated from 1996 to 2004, aimed to improve the health of mothers and their children in underserved areas. As the World Bank notes, the outcomes of this project were unsatisfactory.

A joint project between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently in effect with the goal of strengthening the care of mothers and children and improving responses to obstetric emergencies. PAHO and the WHO implemented this project in 19 municipalities across Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay, reaching approximately 400,000 people. It is too early to discern the impact of this project as it only emerged in 2017. Nevertheless, since it only serves a few municipalities in Paraguay, many rural, underserved Paraguayan communities have not received the assistance necessary to improve their MMR.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

In spite of the challenges Paraguay faces in terms of its healthcare system, the country has kept COVID-19 under control in rural and urban communities alike. As of July 19, 2020, there have been confirmations of 3,721 cases and 31 deaths in a country with over 7 million people. One can attribute this successful containment of the virus to the government’s quick and effective response. The first COVID-19 case in Paraguay received confirmation on March 7, 2020, and the country went into full lockdown on March 20, 2020. While the country is not in the clear yet, Paraguay is among the most healthy South American countries with regards to COVID-19.

Bringing Healthcare to Rural Areas

The situation for rural regions, however, is not hopeless. Since urban areas observed significant successes in healthcare through the implementation of the USFs, one could reasonably apply similar tactics to rural areas. Having said that, the biggest hurdle in bringing healthcare access to rural areas will be providing incentives for healthcare workers to settle in areas with low population density.

Luckily, in 2010 the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare launched a rural internship program that incentivizes doctors to work in rural areas. As a result, the concentration of healthcare workers in rural areas should increase as more doctors graduate from medical school.

Nevertheless, the Ministry must continue to pay special attention to rural areas, especially those where impoverished and indigenous people reside. The healthcare system has historically underserved these communities while urban, wealthier communities continue to experience improvements in healthcare. In order to provide healthcare for all residents of Paraguay in an equitable manner, the government must ensure that all Paraguayans can receive the same basic healthcare regardless of geographic location.

There are certain challenges that should receive special attention as Paraguay continues to improve its healthcare system for residents. Many regions still struggle with maternal mortality, especially in rural areas. In addition, viruses that mosquitoes transmit, such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue, cause intermittent regional epidemics. Lastly, about 18,000 people in Paraguay live with HIV or AIDS. However, given the government’s swift and effective response to COVID-19 as well as the success of USFs across the country, these challenges certainly are not insurmountable. If USFs expand significantly into underserved areas, Paraguay should be better able to effectively handle these health challenges.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

Mass Incarcerations in ColombiaThere is currently a problem of mass incarceration in Colombia. This South American country has a population of nearly 50 million people as of 2018. Currently, Colombian prisons have a capacity of 80,928 people. However, as of May 2020 the incarcerated population reached 112,864, or 139.5% of capacity. The Colombian prison system is known to be very overcrowded. Overcrowded prisons infer and amplify broader social issues. These prison environments amplify the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and, most recently, COVID-19.

Effects of Mass Incarceration in Colombia on Health

  1. Capacity Rates: There are 132 prisons in Colombia with a total maximum capacity of just over 80,000 people. Despite this capacity, Colombian prisons have reached 139.5% of occupancy, or just over 112,000 people. Women make up about 6.9% of this number—about 7,700 women. Currently, there are no incarcerated in Colombia. Congress has actively fought against the release of prisoners, instead choosing to keep the prisons full.
  2. Effects of COVID-19: Prison riots are becoming increasingly common in Latin America with the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Mass incarceration in Colombia has created panic amongst prisoners, who have demanded more attention to their conditions. The Colombian Minister of Justice, Margarita Cabello, has not outwardly acknowledged the prison riots as demands for better care against COVID-19. Rather, Minister Cabello stated that the riots were an attempt to thwart security and escape from prison. Furthermore, due to the scarcity of doctors, prisoners continue to contract and/or die from complications of COVID-19.
  3. Infectious Diseases: Besides COVID-19, mass incarceration in Colombia has allowed the spread of diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis. Many Colombian prisons have a designated cell block for those who contract HIV, as it is common for prisoners to engage in sexual relationships with guards. Healthcare facilities are not readily available in prisons and condoms are in scarce supply. Active cases of tuberculosis also correlate with mass incarceration in Colombia. Approximately 1,000 per 100,000 prisoners have been diagnosed with tuberculosis. Unfortunately, mass incarceration has further limited prisoners’ access to affordable care.

Striving for Improved Conditions

Local citizens Mario Salazar and Tatiana Arango created the Salazar Arango Foundation for Colombian prisoners. After being imprisoned on fraud charges in 2012, Mario Salazar’s experience drove him to find ways to make prison sentences more tolerable. Salazar and Arango Foundation provides workshops for prisoners in the city of La Picota and puts on plays for fellow inmates. Prisoners have found the organization to be impactful to their self-esteem and their push for lower sentences.

Mass incarceration in the Colombian prison system is both a result and driver of poverty. Issues of food shortages and violence have created poverty-stricken conditions within prisons. Despite these conditions, organizations such as the Salazar Arango Foundation seek to improve the lives of prisoners. Hopefully, with time, external forces will help to reduce the rate of incarceration in Colombia. In essence, efforts to due so would have considerable impact on the lives of prisoners and their families.

– Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Colombia
Officials have reported 16,295 cases of COVID-19 in Colombia and 592 deaths as of May 19, 2020. In an effort to contain the virus, the government has closed all international travel. It has also recently extended its nationwide stay-at-home order through May 25. Testing is available at the Colombian National Institute of Health facilities.

Most public locations remain closed. Individuals over the age of 70 will need to self-isolate until at least the end of May 2020. Municipal authorities allow one hour per day of exercise, at prescribed times, for individuals ages 18 to 60. Though the virus poses a nationwide public health threat, here are three particularly at-risk groups in Colombia.

COVID-19 in Colombia: 3 At-Risk Groups

  1. Indigenous Peoples: With historically limited access to food, shelter and health care, indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities and towns remain unprepared for the pandemic. A scarcity of clean water and hygiene products has left many without the means to maintain personal cleanliness and prevent infection. In addition, some of these semi-nomadic groups are now at risk of starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, indigenous communities cannot move around to access their means of subsistence. They may be unable to grow their own food or survive by working temporary jobs. Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) are working to raise awareness about this urgent issue and garner support from Colombian authorities. Along with the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, AI petitioned the government to deliver food and supplies to at-risk indigenous groups. In response to these efforts, Colombian officials initiated a campaign to provide indigenous communities with food and supplies. The first round of deliveries went out in April 2020 but still left many without aid. AI and partner organizations will continue working with leaders of the campaign to reach more people in future deliveries.
  2. Refugees: Venezuelan refugees are another group at high risk due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Colombia. The virus has compounded instability from low wages and rampant homelessness. Many have lost temporary jobs as economic concerns heighten nationwide. With fear and social unrest on the rise, refugees also face increased stigmatization. Some states, for example, are forcibly returning refugees in response to the virus. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Migrant Organization (IOM) have instigated a call to action. Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, explained in an April 2020 statement that “COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill – but the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased and our concerted action remains more necessary than ever.” U.N. representatives are seeking out innovative ways to protect Colombia’s migrant population and provide refugees with information, clean water and sanitation. Some organizations have also set up isolation and observation spaces for those who have tested positive. Others, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are distributing food and supplies to refugees and their host communities.
  3. Coffee Farmers: As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout South America and the world, Colombian coffee farmers are grappling with new economic uncertainties. Since extreme terrain limits the use of mechanized equipment, these farmers tend to rely on manual labor. In a typical year, some farms hire between 40% and 50% of their workforce from migrant populations. Now, however, travel restrictions have left many with a shortage of manpower. Large-scale farms are seeking out unemployed retail and hospitality workers from local areas, offering pay rates at a 10% to 20% increase. On smaller farms, family members can manage the crops. However, medium-sized operations, in desperate need of labor and unable to match the wages of larger competitors, are feeling a significant strain. Even the largest farms could struggle to meet their expected harvest in 2020. Public health officials have ordered strict distancing measures in the fields, which reduces picking capacity. Though disruptive in the short term, these efforts should help contain the spread of the virus and allow farmers to resume full operation as soon as possible.

COVID-19 in Colombia has undergone rapid growth, bringing economic and social challenges in its train. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon world leaders to support vulnerable populations in Colombia and help the nation emerge from this world crisis.

– Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Sustainability in Curitiba
Sporting a population of 1.9 million, Curitiba is Brazil’s eighth-largest city. Many also tout it as one of the greenest cities in the world, earning praise for its eco-friendly urban planning. Curitiba’s creative, environmentally friendly solutions to urban planning issues have been effectively alleviating poverty in the city. Curitiba has also done well curbing emissions and protecting the area’s biodiversity. This is a quick look at the story of sustainability in Curitiba, Brazil.

Background

Curitiba has had a long and rich history. From a “sleepy” city surrounded by farmland to a hub for European immigrants in the 19th century, Curitiba, the capital of Brazil’s state Parana, was long a cultural and economic center in the region. The mechanization of soybean agriculture in the 1940s was a turning point for Curitiba. Within a span of 20 years, the population of the city doubled, leaving Curitiba a hectic and polluted municipality. This changed in 1972 when Jaime Lerner became mayor of Curitiba and instituted his plan for a sustainable city.

Sustainable Solutions

  1. Bus Rapid Transit System: One of the biggest innovations that Curitiba put in place was a bus rapid transit system. Roads with express lanes for buses, specially designed buses for quick boarding and cheap and uniform ticket prices have helped Curitiba maintain a quick, cheap and low-emission transit system. Streets that the city allocated for pedestrians only and designated bike lanes have also contributed to this.
  2. Green Space: Since the 1970s, Curitiba has planted 1.5 million trees and built 28 public parks. To combat flooding which had previously assaulted the city, Curitiba surrounded the urban area with fields of grass, saving itself the cost and environmental expense of dams. To maintain the fields, the city uses sheep rather than mechanical means, saving its money and oil while providing manure for farmers and wool.
  3. Recycling: Curitiba recycles around 70 percent of its garbage thanks to a program that allows for the exchange of bus tokens, notebooks and food in return for recycling. Not only does this protect the environment, but it also boosts education, increases food access and facilitates transport for the city’s poor.
  4. Education: Curitiba houses the Free University for the Environment, which empowers the city’s poor and teaches them about sustainability. Signs and information panels provide citizens with information about the city’s green design. Encouraging a culture of pride around sustainability and promoting knowledge helps to maintain the city’s greenness.

Population and Poverty

Not only has Curitiba’s creative urban planning helped it become one of the world’s leading green cities, but it has also resulted in poverty alleviation and population growth. Its 30-year economic growth rate is 3.1 percent higher than the national average, and its per-capita income is 66 percent higher. In the last 60 years, the population of Curitiba has increased by 1,000 percent to a staggering 2 million people due to this. With such a quick population rise and migrant population, one would expect a great deal of wealth inequality and poverty within Curitiba. Indeed, 10 to 15 percent of Curitiba’s population lives in substandard housing. However, this is a trend that Brazil’s other large cities and affordable housing plans match. The city’s above par per-capita income is also evidence of this. These numbers are likely to lower and help Curitiba continue its mission of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.

Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Suriname
Suriname, located on the Northern Atlantic coast of South America, originated as a Dutch colony and faced many of the difficulties that other formerly colonized nations face today. Since the introduction of Suriname’s democratic government in the 1990s, the economy, culture and tourism have been thriving. However, despite this economic growth, there is a lack of emphasis on education in Suriname. Surprisingly, most of the adolescents enrolled in school are actually girls. Despite this, girls’ education in Suriname requires improvement.

Improvements to Girls’ Education

Schools in Suriname have been making vast improvements since the 1990s. Following the economic crisis, many schools fell into a state of disrepair and lacked running water, electricity and materials necessary for lessons. This created a sense of apathy and caused school attendance rates among children and teens to plummet. Although the rates of attendance and student retention in secondary school are not currently stellar, they do show signs of improvement. For instance, there were 6,000 adolescents out of school in 2015, half the amount from 2009. This is likely due to the rising GDP and economic status of the country that favors an emphasis on education.

Barriers

Despite these improvements to girls’ education in Suriname, the changes have not occurred throughout the entire nation. In particular, rural areas have fewer resources for education and more barriers for girls to attain one. One of the main obstacles of academic success that girls face is teenage pregnancy; the adolescent birth rate is 62 in 1,000 for girls in the area. Additionally, one in every 10 girls marries before age 15. Poor sexual health education combined with poverty suggests that girls often abandon education in Suriname out of necessity to find work and raise a family.

One could assume that because of the barriers to education that girls face, far more boys would enroll in secondary school than girls, but the opposite is true. In primary education, the distribution is about even; however, once children reach secondary school, many boys drop out while the girls remain. In 2015, 88 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school while only 67 percent of boys attended. This is in high contrast to other nations that people commonly perceive as “developing” because it is usually the women who do not receive as much education as men, and therefore, people do not advocate on their behalf because they are not attending school.

Solutions

Despite many women completing their education, the fact remains that more women experience unemployment than men in Suriname. There is only so much an education can do if gender bias and inequality prevents women from earning a living. In 2016, the percentage of unemployed women was at 21 percent, which was twice as high as their male counterparts.

The dichotomy of girls’ education in Suriname indicates that despite the high percentage of girls enrolled in school, the fight for gender equality in the country is not over. Teen pregnancy remains at a high, which disproportionately (and almost only) affects girls. Many groups such as the Love Foundation give teens resources to educate themselves and their peers on sexual health, which could lead to more adolescents of either gender remaining in school. As girls’ education in Suriname advances, the labor industry must follow so women can fully enter the workforce as well.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr