The Republic of Suriname, bordered by Guyana and French Guiana, is home to approximately 566,000 people, 47 percent of whom live in poverty. Here are four issues contributing to poverty in Suriname:
- Child Labor
Many children in Suriname are forced to work in order to help their families make ends meet. While the legal working age in Suriname is 14, eight percent of children between the ages of five and 14 are forced into work. The majority work on the streets, which is a safety risk, or in agriculture, handling toxic and dangerous materials. Since these children are working illegally, their wages are unregulated and they are often grossly underpaid.
- Health Issues
The people of Suriname are especially susceptible to major infectious diseases. There are high instances of food or waterborne diseases, such as typhoid fever, and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. AIDs has also become one of the main causes of death in children under five. Families in poverty struggle to get treatment for these diseases and are thus often impacted the most. Malnutrition is also a concern for many people living in Suriname. Undernourishment affects 8.4 percent of the population.
- Disparities Between Rural and Urban Populations
There are clear differences between the living conditions in urban and rural areas. Only 61.4 percent of rural populations have access to sanitation facilities, while 88.4 percent of the urban population does. The quality of education, which affects future income, also depends on location. Rural areas have poorly trained teachers compared to urban areas, which puts rural children at a disadvantage. The rural Maroon population, for example, has lower educational attainment, higher malnutrition, and less access to resources like electricity, sanitation and healthcare than urban populations. Rural populations’ disadvantages are partly due to the fact that geographic isolation restricts their opportunities to participate in policymaking.
High rates of discrimination in Suriname have hurt the wellbeing of minority ethnic groups. Compared to majority groups, people in the ethnic minority have limited access to quality education, good healthcare and other public services. Children from minority ethnic groups are also more likely to be forced into labor or sexually exploited as they try to earn money.
While the country is facing difficult issues, there are a number of programs and government efforts in place working to reduce these inequalities and address the health and labor issues that contribute to poverty in Suriname.
– Alexi Worley