Inflammation and stories on South America

According to the Global Age Watch Index, Honduras is the worst Western hemisphere country to live in as an elderly person. The survey measured income security, health status, employment and education, and enabling the environment. It is important to understand and consider the well-being of the elderly in different countries, because their mortality is a good indicator of a country’s total development.

Over half of the participants reported not feeling safe using public transportation or walking alone at night. According to the World Bank, “Between 2005 and 2011, the homicide rate in Honduras more than doubled from 37 to 91.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.”  The lack of a pension system leaves 70 percent of Hondurans above the age of 60 in poverty.

Less than seven percent of Honduras’s population is 60 years old or over, which correlates with the poor living conditions of the elderly. Moreover, it is harder to advocate for better condition for the elderly when they are a minority. Inversely, developed Western countries have high aging populations and living standards for the elderly. Larger aging populations have more representation, especially in democratic countries. Therefore, governmental policies are more favorable to the elderly.

Population make-up significantly impacts the future of a country. Countries with large youth populations are more inclined to political instability. The Arab Spring, for example, was started in countries with large populations of youth. The Survey was created by the United Nations Population Fund and covered 98 percent of the world’s elderly.  It was motivated by the growing aging demographic in the world’s population.

As expected, traditionally developed countries fared better in the survey – Sweden, Norway and Canada top the list of best countries to grow old in.

– Nicole Yancy

Sources: Foreign Policy: Think Again Global Aging, Foreign Policy: The Arab World’s Youth Army, The Guardian, World Bank, IB Times
Photo: Billweeks

18.6 % of the population is below the poverty line in Uruguay. Although the majority of this poverty in Uruguay is not extreme, it is still problematic. Like many of other South American countries, Uruguay struggles with alleviating extreme poverty for the poorest sections of its population. The country is also trying to prevent those who are only slightly below the poverty line from plummeting further into the category of the extreme poor.

The small South American nation experienced an economic boom in the early 1990’s followed by a damaging recession in 1995. This recession left a lasting impression on the economy, which to this day continues to suffer. The recession caused a widespread loss of jobs across the country and an increasingly wide income gap. The poverty is not debilitating, but it is significant enough to render notice from the international community. According to the World Bank’s 2001 report on Uruguay, “reduction in poverty is highly dependent on growth, and pockets of poverty and unemployment still exist and in recent years have shown some increase.”

Uruguay also struggles with the high number of children who are born into poverty. The World Bank reports that “children have become a significant portion of the poor with about 40% of Uruguay’s children born into poor families, pointing to a potentially serious problem of inter-generational poverty.” This threat of continuing, irreversible poverty is very concerning. The longer poverty continues to ravage Uruguay, the more entrenched it will become as it roots itself in disenfranchised communities.

The poverty problem in Uruguay is not the most dire in the world, but it requires confrontation. In order for the poverty problem in Uruguay to be eradicated, the economy must be fundamentally changed and social welfare programs must be instituted.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: The CIA World Factbook, The World Bank
Photo: Tico Times

Poverty in Guyana remains a problem. Guyana is a small country located in Northern South America that borders Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname. Initially a Dutch colony in the 17th century, Guyana came under British control in 1815. The British first used African slave labor to man their sugar plantations, but slavery was finally abolished in 1834. The abolition of slavery in Guyana led former slaveholders to import indentured servants from India, maintaining ethnic and socioeconomic divisions in the colony. Though Guyana achieved independence from the U.K. in 1966, the country is still experiencing the aftereffects of its colonial background.

Societal Divisions in Guyana
Today, approximately three quarters of Guyana’s population descends from slave or indentured servant populations. 43.5% of Guyana’s population is of East Indian descent, and 30.2% is of African descent. These dominant ethnic groups frequently clash, backing ethnically based political parties and voting almost entirely along ethnic lines. Roughly 43% of Guyana’s population lives below the poverty line, with indigenous people comprising the biggest fraction of those affected.

Education and Economy
Though Guyana reports a literacy rate of 91.8%, the poor quality of education and teacher training combined with its suffering infrastructure contribute to a much lower level of functional literacy for most of the population.

Guyana’s emigration rate is also one of the highest in the world, with 55% of its citizens living abroad. The country is one of the largest recipients of remittances relative to GDP out of Latin American and Caribbean countries. 80% of Guyanese citizens with tertiary degrees have left the country, depriving those living in Guyana of invaluable services, including healthcare.

The Guyanese government owned more than 80% of industries until the 1990’s, but mismanagement combined with falling commodity prices and high fuel costs caused the standard of living to fall drastically. The government has since divested itself of many industries, but problems such as deforestation, violent crime and widespread poverty continue to threaten the economy.

Poverty Statistics
Roughly two-thirds of Guyanese citizens living in poverty, or 29% of the population, can be classified as being extremely poor. Most of the poor live in rural areas and work as agricultural laborers. Though Guyana’s farmers have access to adequate land resources, their productivity is extremely low.

Guyana has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Latin America, with 280 deaths per 100,000 live births. Its infant mortality rate is the 66th highest in the world, with 34.45 deaths per 1,000 live births. These grave statistics can be attributed in part to the low density of physicians, with just .59 doctors per 1,000 people. 1.2 percent of Guyana’s population is living with HIV/AIDS, a rate higher than that of most other Latin American countries.

Solutions to Poverty in Guyana
The World Bank is currently working in Guyana to refocus public expenditures to improve the infrastructure and the quality of health, education, and water services. Advocating for the privatization of most industries, the World Bank hopes to increase opportunities for investment and conserve government resources.

The United Nations Development Programme is also working to empower vulnerable people in Guyana by improving the economic status of indigenous groups and establishing community livelihood projects that will create jobs.

Though Guyana ranks 117th out of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, continued aid and humanitarian assistance will ensure that its citizens can overcome past subjugation and establish a strong infrastructure.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: CIA, World Bank, UNDP, BBC
Photo: California Historical Society

Farmers Essential to Fighting Poverty in BoliviaWorld Bank President Jim Yong Kim concluded his weeklong trip to South America in Bolivia. On his last day, he visited Cliza, a farming village and market. Proud farmers of the region displayed their products to President Kim and the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales. These farmers and their food products are an important part of achieving food security in Bolivia.

These farmers play an important role in fighting poverty in Bolivia and promoting opportunities for all. An agreement signed by Kim and Morales guarantees programs and funds to support thousands of small farmers and increase their access to the market. The agreement will foster a partnership between the country’s own farmers and decision-makers.

“The President of the World Bank does not come here to give us recipes but to support our own recipes and policies, our programs developed by our own ministries. The World Bank does not blackmail, or impose conditions, not anymore,” Morales said.

The World Bank has been involved in developing rural Bolivia since 2005 when they launched the World Bank’s Rural Partnership Project (PAR). PAR has successfully developed relationships between small-scale farmers and buyers. Bolivia has more rural partnerships than any other Latin American country, with approximately 800 productive partnerships that benefit 30,000 families. The World Bank is extending the project (PAR II) that will benefit an additional 35,000 families.

“In the past, the farmers immigrated to other countries, like Spain or Argentina, but when PAR was established we could build good, high-quality flower nurseries thanks to the investment and technical assistance. Now we have more income for our families and we even provide employment,” said Marcelino Cervantes, from the association of organic flower producers of Bella Vista.”

– Catherine Ulrich

Sources: World Bank, UN
Photo: Flickr