Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in UruguayWithin the past few decades, Uruguay—a small country with a population of about 3 million—has managed to reduce its moderate poverty rate from 25.5 percent in 1989 to 12.4 percent in 2012, and the extreme poverty rate from 3.3 percent to 0.5 percent over the same period. Because of the great reduction of poverty in Uruguay, the nation’s Human Development Index ranking is ever increasing, and it is seeing longer life expectancy and greater birth rates.

However, despite improved conditions for citizens of Uruguay, there is still anxiety among community members due to a long embedded history of fluctuations in the economy and government that have contributed to poverty-like phases for many. The last 40 years have been illustrated by a slow-moving economy, one that is not quick to adapt to change, but with moments of remarkable growth. Uruguay is uniquely addressing its poverty issues, some with successful outcomes and others with less positive consequences. Here are three ways poverty in Uruguay is being tackled.

  1. Economy
    Uruguay has been relatively successful in ramping up economic development, which has seemed to keep up with globalization. Gross Domestic Product increases in the late 80s have been able to sustain Uruguay through some economic downturns in recent history. This, coupled with social reform, is keeping extreme poverty low.
  2. Social Integration
    Uruguay still experiences marginalization and social disintegration, but has taken initiatives in the last few decades to bring these issues to public view. It has been argued that education is a key element is bringing many different demographics of people together and enabling students and families to take charge of their lives. From the early 90s to the present, referendums have been drafted regarding education and social reform as well as being a topic for political platforms.
  3. The Work Force
    Women have become more of a present figure in the job market, having the highest rate of participation in labor in Latin America. While the amount of active workers is higher than it has ever been, Uruguay still has relatively high unemployment rates. However, the Uruguay legal system is working toward slimming the gap between wage discrimination and job security rights among its citizens.

While Uruguayans are working toward a more stable economy and social reforms, there is clearly still some way to go. But, despite slow moving and small-scale changes, Uruguay is a positive example of poverty reduction efforts and there is growing hope for change in the South American nation.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Uruguay
Prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, many countries have implemented stricter immigration policies. However, some Latin American countries, specifically those with a higher proportion of Muslims or Syrians, responded to the refugee crisis with more sympathy. Uruguay is one such country. Nestled in between Brazil and Argentina, the territory of Uruguay is roughly the size of Washington state and is home to only 3.4 million individuals. Here are some essential facts about refugees in Uruguay:

  1. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America that showed a willingness to receive refugees.
  2. According to one political analyst, Uruguay’s economy will largely be unable to assimilate refugees into their workforce.
  3. Refugees publicly lamented the country’s limited economic opportunity.
  4. According to most recent statistics, Uruguay accepted 117 immigrants up to September 2015.
  5. Refugees now appeal to other countries and even to the United Nations to help them leave the country.
  6. Some refugees tried leaving the country, but such efforts failed because most countries do not accept their Uruguay-issued documentation and the immigrants also lack their Syrian-issued passports.
  7. Amidst such social discord, public opinion toward Syrian refugees began to sour. Many citizens felt that the refugees in Uruguay are ungrateful.
  8. Due to such public backlash, President Vasquez temporarily suspended any further allocation of Syrian refugees.
  9. The country’s first group of Syrian refugees was to take Spanish classes to help them assimilate.
  10. Uruguay hoped that, with their initial open door policy, they would have a type of contagion effect on surrounding countries.


The following information about refugees in Uruguay reveals that countries with already suffering economies are, in many cases, unfit to offer refuge to large numbers of displaced persons. Therefore, more prosperous nations ought to show Uruguay’s initial willingness to accept refugees.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr


In recent decades, Uruguay has taken strides to eliminate poverty and the prevalence of hunger. Only 3.3 percent of the country’s population was considered undernourished in 2016. Only 1.3 percent of children under the age of five experienced wasting conditions. The elimination of hunger in Uruguay can be attributed to both broad changes in infrastructure and the contributions of nonprofit organizations.

Uruguay succeeded in meeting the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal, known as the “Zero Hunger Challenge” in 2013. The country achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule.

The government’s success in its social policies against poverty has received international attention. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) especially praised the implementation of monthly income subsidies. Households classified as “vulnerable” receive a monthly income subsidy of 700 Uruguayan pesos. “Highly vulnerable” families receive twice that amount.

As an outcome, moderate poverty decreased from 32.5 percent in 2006 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 2.5 percent to 0.3 percent in the same period.

Alongside broad government initiatives to eliminate poverty in general, a number of small-scale nonprofit organizations have arisen in recent years. Many share the goal of eliminating residual hunger in Uruguay.

Niños con Alas, or Children with Wings, works specifically to improve the infrastructure of Uruguayan schools. The organization provides schools with staple pantry products like flour, sugar, rice, cornmeal, tomato pulp, oil, noodles, milk powder and minced meat on a weekly basis. Through its contributions, Niños con Alas supplies three meals a day for more than 1,000 children.

Argentine national Santiago Abdala created Uruguay’s Banco de Alimentos, in 2012. Originally operating from Santiago’s home, the food bank now delivers food to more than 45 charities and helps feed more than 7,000 individuals. Banco de Alimentos is supported by the Global Food Banking Network and partnerships with international companies like Unilever.

Overall, the Uruguayan government and charitable nonprofit organizations have provided the people with options in terms of hunger. The defeat of hunger in Uruguay sets a good example for countries all over the world looking to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr