Peru is home to sections of the Amazon rainforest, the Andes mountains and sites of the former Incan empire, which was the largest empire in pre-Columbus America. Although colonial architecture such as Machu Picchu and the infamous llamas attract tourists, poverty in Peru is devastating. Nearly 1.2 million Peruvians, 3.8 percent of the population, lived in extreme poverty in 2016.
The Peruvian economy continues to suffer from the devastating floods and landslides that have wreaked havoc across the country, and the central bank’s economic activity index fell to its lowest level in eight years. Currently, $1 is equivalent to 3.25 Peruvian Sol. This benefits American tourists seeking cheap food and accommodations but harms the Peruvian people.
Poverty in Peru Disproportionately Affects Rural Areas
Poverty in Peru runs deepest amongst the indigenous population living in remote rural areas. Peru is divided into 25 sections, and five of these are home to 45 percent of indigenous Peruvians: Apurimac, Ayacucho, Cuzco, Huancavelica and Puno.
The poorest areas are in the Andean Highlands, where a large majority of the indigenous Quechua and Aymara populations are living below the poverty line. Many of these communities are located in remote and isolated regions, so the quality and quantity of material and human resources are inadequate.
Rural poverty in Peru has led the indigenous populations to suffer disproportionately compared to the populations that live in urbanized areas.
In 2009, UNICEF calculated that 78 percent of children whose first language was Quechua or Aymara lived in poverty, compared to 40 percent of those whose mother tongue was Spanish. UNICEF also reported that only 32 percent of indigenous children between three and five attend school, with the number being 55 percent for non-indigenous children.
This data shows that the rural poverty in Peru has roots in high rates of illiteracy, particularly in women who make up a majority of the family income, and a lack of essential services such as education and electrical power.
In the last decade, there has been a drop in poverty in Peru, which has led to seven million Peruvians who are no longer poor.
– Stefanie Podosek