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Poverty Among Indigenous Peoples in Central America
Indigenous people in Central America have struggled against prejudice and a lack of visibility for hundreds of years. This struggle to maintain their place throughout the region has taken a toll on the living conditions and health among their communities. Here is more information about poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America.

Costa Rica

Approximately 1.5 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of indigenous people. They are considered among the most marginalized and economically excluded minorities in Central America. Approximately 95 percent of people living in Costa Rica have access to electricity. The majority of indigenous peoples in the country are included in the remaining five percent. Many believe this is due to a lack of attention from the government in the concerns of indigenous people and the living conditions in their communities.

A lack of education is also a problem among indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. The average indigenous child in Costa Rica receives only 3.6 years of schooling and 30 percent of the indigenous population is illiterate. In the hopes of reaching out to indigenous communities and reducing their poverty rates, the University of Costa Rica instituted a plan in 2014 to encourage admissions from indigenous peoples from across the country. By 2017, the program was involved in the mentoring of 400 indigenous high school students and saw 32 new indigenous students applying for the university.

Guatemala

Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of the population in Guatemala and approximately 79 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty. Forty percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. With these levels of poverty among the indigenous people, many are forced to migrate, as the poorest are threatened with violence among their communities. Ninety-five percent of those under the age of 18 who migrate from Guatemala are indigenous.

One organization working to improve the living conditions for indigenous people in Guatemala is the Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya (ODIM). ODIM, which was started with the intention to support the indigenous Maya people, focuses on providing health care and education to indigenous people in Guatemala. One program it supports is called “Healthy Mommy and Me,” which focuses on offering mothers and their young children access to health care, food and education. These efforts are benefiting 250 indigenous women and children across Guatemala.

Honduras

In Honduras, 88.7 percent of indigenous children lived in poverty in 2016. Approximately 44.7 percent of indigenous adults were unemployed. Nineteen percent of the Honduran indigenous population is illiterate, in comparison to 13 percent of the general population. Despite the wide span of indigenous peoples across Honduras, they struggle to claim ownership of land that belonged to their ancestors. Only 10 percent of indigenous people in Honduras have a government-accredited land title.

Due to the poverty indigenous people in Honduras face, many seek opportunities in more urban areas, but the cities simply don’t have the capacity to support them all. As a result, many settle just outside of the cities to be close to opportunities. There are more than 400 unofficial settlements near the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Despite the difficulties they face in living just outside of a city that has no room for them, being in urban areas does have its benefits for indigenous people. Ninety-four percent of indigenous people living in urban Honduras are literate, versus 79 percent in rural areas.

For those among the indigenous peoples in Honduras who struggle with poverty, Habitat for Humanity has put a special focus on indigenous people in its construction programs. Habitat for Humanity worked with different ethnic groups within the indigenous community to provide homes for those most in need, reaching 13,810 people throughout Honduras.

Panama

Poverty affects more than 70 percent of indigenous people in Panama. Among their communities, health problems and a lack of access to clean water are common.

In 2018, the World Bank approved a project to improve health, education, water and sanitation among 12 different indigenous groups in Panama. The Comprehensive National Plan for Indigenous Peoples of Panama aims to implement positive development in indigenous communities while protecting and maintaining the culture within those communities.

The aim of this project is to create a positive relationship between indigenous peoples and the government in Panama to further developments of their communities down the road. It is projected to assist some 200,000 people through improved living conditions and infrastructure among indigenous communities.

With poor access to an education and a certain level of prejudice fueling a wage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people, natives globally face a unique challenge in their efforts to escape poverty. In many countries around the world, indigenous people are forgotten and often fall to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. This creates particularly difficult circumstances for indigenous peoples of regions that already have high poverty rates overall. However, people like those who work with the World Bank are working to see a reduction in poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America and see that indigenous people are not forgotten and are no longer neglected.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Criminalization of Poverty in Rio
Brazil boasts the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the entire world and a lot of these arrests occur in the most urban areas of the country like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo. These cities happen to be centers of diversity and culture, but also areas of extreme wealth disparity. The criminalization of poverty in Rio demonstrates the general poverty-crime cycle, where greater economic disadvantage and higher rates of incarceration lead to each other.

The Case of Rafael Braga Vieria

In 2013, the case of Rafael Braga Vieria became a landmark for the government of Rio’s less-than-neutral approach to making arrests at the time filled with mass demonstrations. Vieria was a homeless street cleaner carrying cleaning supplies. The authorities only arrested Vieria out of the 300,000 protesting that night. He received a five-year sentence on the grounds that he could have used the supplies to make a molotov cocktail.

Article 3 of Brazil’s constitution protects against this sort of discrimination against poverty, but at the same time, there is legislation allowing for drug offenses to receive judgment based on personal circumstances. For example, if the suspect came from a certain background, authorities could legally assume that they intended the drugs for personal use.

Life in Favelas

Usually, the poorer people in the area, living in favelas or poor neighborhoods, receive the worst of this treatment. The residents become targets for drug trafficking as well as scapegoats for the law. Rio de Janeiro’s favelas hold upwards of 1 million that face discrimination from the general public. In reality, violence is not an inherent part of favelas. It is a result of the system that allows them to exist in a state of such neglect. All of this leads to violence within the community and violence on behalf of the state. For instance, the police killed upwards of 600 people in 2015 alone. Around 75 percent of these deaths were black men.

Such high incarceration rates because of the criminalization of poverty in Rio often have other economic effects on the people most affected. Those living in favelas, disproportionately black families, receive evictions from their homes without reason. Between 2009 and 2013, the government forced around 20,000 families out of their homes with no compensation. In addition, many low-income families felt the impact of having one person incarcerated for a long time, especially if the person was the wage-earner of the family. Not only does this criminalization of poverty in Rio make life more difficult in the moment, but it also opens the door for further turning towards crime and violence.

Today

The percentage of people living in poverty is rising after the boom of the 2016 Olympics. Unemployment has risen, as well as the other byproducts of poverty, but many organizations are working to make a difference in Rio. Habitat for Humanity has helped almost 20,000 families find houses outside of these favelas, but people can always do more. Investing in other aid organizations, especially local ones, would be necessary to improve living conditions, thereby decreasing the criminalization of poverty in Rio and Brazil as a whole.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Fiji
Despite significant progress, poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem. In 2013, almost 300,000 Fijians or 34 percent of its population lived below the national poverty line. Interestingly, of middle-income nations, Fiji’s national poverty rate trends high whereas its extreme poverty rate—which is 1.4 percent—is comparatively lower. Still, there is cautious optimism when considering the future of poverty in Fiji. After all, as a result of wide-scale efforts by both the government and various organizations, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent in the early 2000s. In 2020, these groups continue to work towards a poverty-free future in Fiji.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Fiji

  1. Caritas Australia: An originally Catholic organization that works across the Pacific, Caritas runs a variety of programs targeting the effects of poverty in Fiji. An example of one of its projects is the Tutu Rural Training Centre, where farmers learn a multitude of skills through a four-year course relating to agriculture technology. When Cyclone Evan hit in 2012—which caused $312 million of damage and killed 14 people—the center also provided plants for people to start regrowing their farms. Another program is the People’s Community Network, which works to improve the lives of squatters throughout Fiji and promote self-sufficiency. Thus far, the project has helped 500 families secure land.

  2. The World Bank: The World Bank has perhaps acted as the primary player in alleviating poverty in Fiji. The organization has provided loans to the Fijian government since the 1970s for more than 13 large-scale projects on issues such as improving transportation infrastructure and natural disaster relief. In 2019, the World Bank announced it would start loaning over $21 million annually for such projects with 0 percent interest. This money has ultimately been invaluable in helping Fiji become a more technologically advanced country and providing critical economic opportunities to Fijian people.

  3. Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS): The umbrella body of almost 500 grassroots organizations across Fiji, FCOSS has worked throughout the country connecting different groups and their projects together while coordinating with the government to ensure maximum productivity. Some of the programs that the organization embarked on to fight poverty include the Rural Women Initiative for Development & Education, which helps women obtain economic freedom, and HelpAge, which provides services to elderly individuals who the state often ignores.

  4. Peace Corps: The Peace Corps, an American volunteer organization run through the U.S. government, has worked in impoverished communities in Fiji since 1968, sending over 2,529 volunteers. These volunteers have worked on a variety of projects throughout this tenure, working primarily on conservation and resource management, teaching sanitation and safe water practices, and helping communities with economic development. These projects have proved invaluable in these poor communities. For example, in 2010, the Peace Corps conducted a large scale study and found that 87 percent of host communities saw improvement in their sanitation practices and 90 percent reported better environmental and livelihood security. Furthermore, when teaching business practices, 80 percent learned habits that helped them in their everyday lives. Clearly, the Peace Corps is providing crucial assistance in poor communities in Fiji.

  5. Habitat for Humanity Fiji: Another international organization fighting poverty in Fiji is Habitat for Humanity. The organization builds homes in Fiji where almost 140,000 people lived in poor housing conditions. Habitat for Humanity has served a large number of homes. The organization is evidently mitigating the effects of poverty in Fiji, although Fiji requires more work.

Clearly, while poverty in Fiji remains a serious problem, there are a variety of organizations leading the fight against it. With these organizations’ continued aid, poverty in Fiji will hopefully become a part of the past.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Straddled by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, Nepal features vast, mountainous landscapes and people from diverse ethnic cultures. However, the nation remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Here are 15 facts about poverty in Nepal.

15 Facts About Poverty in Nepal

  1. Poverty Rate: Twenty-five percent of the Nepali population lived below the poverty line in 2011. However, the country has seen a significant improvement compared to a rate of 41.8 percent in 1996 and 30.9 percent in 2004.
  2. Malnourishment: High food prices and limited access to farming in rural areas contribute to hunger in Nepal. Around 5 million people in Nepal do not have sufficient nourishment. Additionally, more than 85 percent of people rely on small scale agriculture as their main form of sustenance.
  3. Civil War: Nepal experienced a civil war between 1996 and 2006, the effects of which the country still feels today. Conflict within a country often coincides with increasing poverty rates, as it limits the transportation of resources, health care access and a healthy job market.
  4. Corruption: Nepal’s government holds a reputation for being corrupt. Abuse of authority leads to an unfair economic system and unequal distribution of resources thereby perpetuating the issue of poverty in Nepal. Countries often feel the effects of corrupt government bureaucracy during natural disasters.
  5. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters have heavily afflicted Nepal, such as the 2015 earthquake which destroyed infrastructure, homes and economic growth. An already struggling economy and little political stability often exacerbate the effects of earthquakes in Nepal. Between the main earthquake in 2015 and the aftershock that came two weeks later, 8,970 lost their lives and 22,303 people became seriously injured. Estimates determine that the total value of the damages from the earthquake and aftershock are equivalent to $7 billion.
  6. Infant Mortality Rates: A lack of health care and access to education in impoverished regions, for which there are many in Nepal, contribute to high infant mortality rates. In 2016, for every 1,000 children born in Nepal, 34 died before their fifth birthday.
  7. Geography: The geography of this country makes it difficult to effectively alleviate poverty. As a landlocked and mountainous region, the development and transportation of resources are cumbersome in Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal experiences political pressures from neighboring countries that can interfere with resource distribution.
  8. Infrastructure: Nepal’s roads are often in rough condition and the seasons heavily affect them. Delays, flat tires and small spaces are common. Because of their rural location, distance and terrain isolate much of Nepal’s population from employment and economic opportunities. Lack of basic infrastructure and access to transportation services makes it difficult for those in poverty to access markets and services.
  9. Agriculture: A lack of advanced farming methods also makes it hard for the country to make progress against poverty. Eighty percent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas. In 2017, agriculture made up nearly one-third of the Himalayan country’s GDP. Additionally, over 85 percent of its people relied on agriculture as their main form of sustenance. However, outdated methods are slowing the farming pace, and Nepal’s government continually fails to provide proper infrastructure to farmers.
  10. Education: Prior to 1951, only members of the upper class received an education. Since then, the Nepali government began expanding the reach of education. However, when the country introduced private education, the gap between rich and poor children only widened. Poor children still have low rates of access to education and many children leave school to work or help at home. Nepal as a whole has a literacy rate of only 65 percent. Furthermore, the quality of education remains low, as the teachers themselves often have very little schooling.
  11. Forced Labor and Human Trafficking: Nepal is a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and human traffickers. Lack of education for women and children leave them particularly vulnerable. Many women will agree to marriages through matchmaking companies and find themselves in a domestic slavery situation instead. In desperation, parents will allow people to take their children in exchange for education opportunities. However, these children often end up in false orphanages to garner donations from tourists.
  12. Sanitation: Access to basic sanitation is still a major problem in Nepal. Nearly 10.8 million people are without access to basic sanitation and 16 percent of the population practices open defecation. Organizations such as the Global Hope Network have sought to educate inhabitants of villages about the health issues associated with these systems, and have begun building more sanitary infrastructure in places without access to toilets.
  13. Rice Production and Economic Growth: In 2017, Nepal produced 5.2 million tons of rice, the most ever recorded. This helped the country grow economically by 7.5 percent and greatly reduced its poverty levels. During this same time period, Nepali foreign workers sent significant amounts of remittances and inflation rates stabilized for the time being.
  14. SAMBHAV: There are many nonprofits working to alleviate poverty in Nepal from the ground up. Organizations such as SAMBHAV are beginning with the education system. This group has reconstructed schools and moved them to more convenient locations in order to increase attendance. SAMBHAV also renovates and rebuilds schools so that students can study in modern, clean and safe classrooms, often adding sanitation facilities where they did not previously exist.
  15. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is also working on the ground in Nepal to address the housing crisis. Currently, the organization, alongside its partners, is building 2.3 houses per hour.

The issues contributing to these facts about poverty in Nepal are many, but the country is making progress. The country’s poverty rate has seen significant improvement over the past two decades, and recent economic successes should continue that trend, leading to a better quality of life for more and more Nepalis. Efforts of volunteers and nonprofit organizations have the potential to make a big difference. These 15 facts about poverty in Nepal highlight the various issues that contribute to the problem and the impact they have on the country.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary

Hungary is a country of 9.8 million people located in central Europe. It makes up a portion of the EU’s southern border and is a major immigration hub. Hungary is one of the EU’s poorer countries, with a GDP in the lower third of all member states, though it is still better off than many of its central European and Balkan neighbors. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Hungary

  1. Impressive work-life balance
    Unemployment is high in Hungary, with only 68 percent of people age 15 to 64 employed. Of those employed, 75 percent are men and 61 percent are women. However, the number of employees working very long hours is less than 4 percent–much lower than the United States, where 11 percent of employees work long hours.
  2. Standards of living are nearly the lowest in the EU
    In terms of GDP, Hungary is ranked 23rd out of the EU’s 28 member states, at 68 percent of the EU’s average. In first place for the region is Austria, which produces at roughly twice Hungary’s capacity. Another metric used to determine the welfare of the consumer, Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), places Hungary second-to-last.
  3. Habitat for Humanity is raising awareness on housing inequality
    In 2015, the Hungarian government ended housing support to nearly half a million impoverished residents. Prior to that, several hundred thousand Hungarians were already experiencing housing poverty. A Habitat for Humanity report from 2014 noted that more than half a million Hungarians lived with leaky roofs and/or moldy walls. Just under half of the population (44.6 percent) live in overcrowded flats, and 52 percent of Hungarians not living in major cities have access to a sanitary sewer.
  4. Hungary has universal health care, but the rate and efficacy of coverage are low
    Although Hungary has had universal health care coverage since the 1940s, it still ranks in the bottom third in the EU in terms of quality of coverage. This is partly due to low salaries—medical professionals cannot expect to make as much money in Hungary as they would in other EU member states. The main issue is a focus on curative care in hospitals, rather than preventative care in other medical facilities.
  5. Hungary has received significant foreign investment
    As of 2018, Hungary has an annual inflow of $4.3 billion per capita of foreign direct investment (FDI), a full recovery from the stagnation of the 2009-10 financial crisis. While this is partly since Hungary has an ideal geographical position for foreign investment, foreign investors have also shifted focus from the relatively poor textile and food processing industries to more lucrative industries such as wholesale, retail trade and automotive repair.
  6. Primary and secondary education enrollment rates are high
    For primary school students, enrollment has varied slightly over the past two decades, but has remained above 95 percent overall. At its highest, the enrollment rate was 97.2 percent in 2009, and at its lowest in 2012, at 95.7 percent. For adolescents in school, the statistics are similarly good: though there has been a slight rise since 2014 of the number of adolescents out of school, the overall number has hovered at less than 5 percent.
  7. Tertiary education needs investment
    Only 13 percent of 25-64 year-olds have a bachelor’s degree, with 9 percent of that population holding a master’s degree or equivalent. These statistics are low, but the individuals who possess these degrees are reaping the benefits. Studies have shown that postsecondary education credentials can potentially double one’s earnings in Hungary: a bachelor’s degree is worth a wage premium of 72 percent, while a master’s or above can earn 140 percent more than the country’s respective average salaries.
  8. Investments in higher education are underway
    An initiative led by the NGO HEInnovate to invest in higher education has been taking place over the last decade, spurred by a decline in institutional funding from the state. The focus of this initiative has been to utilize Hungary’s educational system to boost economic and socio-cultural development at the local and national levels. This has led to a marked increase in venture capital and start-up creation among academics and has caused strong domestic economic growth.
  9. Many institutions have been consolidated by the federal government
    Since his election in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken steps to consolidate hundreds of pro-government media outlets into a propaganda conglomerate. These actions have been received well by some but not as well by others — Orban enjoys far more support from individuals living in rural areas of Hungary than he does from individuals living in Hungary’s urban centers.
  10. Hungary’s location has made it a major migration hub for refugees in the past
    Since a section of Hungary’s border forms the external border of the European Union, the country has received many migrants in the past. However, in recent years Hungary has adopted a harder stance on immigration, which has drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers from the Middle East.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary demonstrate how the country remains at a crossroads in the European Union—geographically, economically and socially. While the country performs well in some areas, such as education and cost of living, it still faces more economic hardship than most other EU member states, and its status as a migration hub has led to entrenched xenophobia in the country’s political landscape.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

ethnically and culturally diverse country

Brazil is located in South America and neighbors every country within the continent except for Chile and Ecuador. It has the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world and is known as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world. Since the 1930s, immigrants from many countries have become the backbone of Brazil. Although the country’s growth does not necessarily cause poverty, there is a correlation between overcrowdedness and population growth in specific regions of the country that are poor. Here are seven facts about overpopulation in Brazil.

7 Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

  1. Brazil is currently the most populous country in South America and the fifth-most populated country in the world with 212.41 million people. The current growth rate is 0.75 percent per year. Although the population is dense on the east coast, the central and western parts of Brazil are vastly less populated than these regions. Brazil is ranked sixth in the world in population density with about 24 people per unit area.
  2. Brazil is home to the most expensive cities in the Americas. In addition, São Paulo is ranked as the world’s 10th most expensive city and Rio de Janeiro is ranked as the 12th most expensive city in the world. Of note, 81 percent of Brazil’s population lives in urban areas. Purchasing an apartment in urban Brazil is estimated at $4,370 per square meter. Owning an apartment in these areas is more expensive than owning one in New York City, which is ranked as the 32nd most expensive city.
  3. More than 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing. São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, South America, the western hemisphere and is even the 12th most populous city in the world. Forty percent of Sao Paulo’s population experience poor living conditions and the poverty rate stands at 19 percent.
  4. There are about 1,600 favelas, or slums, in São Paulo and more than 1,000 in Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha is the largest favela community within Rio de Janeiro. Although the 2010 census reports only 69,000 people living in Rocinha, there are actually between 150,000 and 300,000 inhabitants. The population density in Rocinha is crammed with 100,000 people per square kilometer compared to Rio de Janeiro’s city proper 5,377 people per square kilometer.
  5. Communities like Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro also have high crime rates. There are roughly 37 murders per 100,000 people. In comparison, cities such as London have less than two murders per 100,000 people.
  6. In Brasilia, there are 25 million people who lack access to improved sanitation. Although the country possesses 20 percent of the world’s water, there are still 5 million people who lack access to safe drinking water. In addition, 83 million people who are not connected to sewage systems which have caused many odors and health risks. Habitat Brazil has been working to improve access to clean water for those families who live in extreme poverty. In order to solve this problem, Habitat Brazil is repairing and enlarging roofs and building cisterns for collecting and storing water. This will provide access to safe and usable water for hundreds of families. In addition, Habitat Brazil has constructed 30 water reservoirs. Each reservoir stores 16,000 liters of water. This makes it possible to capture the 200mm of rainwater that falls during the year.
  7. One of the top facts about overpopulation in Brazil happens to be the housing deficit which stands at between 6 and 8 million houses. Low-income families account for 73.6 percent of the housing deficit population. Projects such as the Sustainable Social Housing Initiative Project (SUSHI) and the My House, My Life Brazil Project (Habitat for Humanity) are fighting the country’s sustainability crisis. My House, My Life has already provided 2.6 million housing units for 10.5 million low-income Brazilians. It is currently building 685 houses in two states of Brazil. It is also expected that 100 families in Sao Paolo will have their houses repaired and improved through Habitat Brazil.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about slums in Brazil

Brazil, being among the top 10 most populous countries in the world, has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality. Wealth distribution is lacking, as the south is responsible for the vast majority of Brazil’s bustling economy and holds a large fraction of the nation’s money. The stark contrast between the affluent and the poor is as visible as the divide between the metropolis and the countryside. The outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, namely Rio de Janeiro, indicate a clear division as unregulated neighborhoods, or slums termed “favelas,” are ever-present. Here are 10 facts about slums in Brazil.

10 Facts about Slums in Brazil

  1. Construction of homes: The original slums were constructed from debris and stolen materials such as wooden scraps. The homes generally start as makeshift creations. After a time, improvements are made and the homes are solidified with brick, cinderblocks and sheet metal; however, the homes are far from being “adequate living conditions,” according to the World Bank.
  2. Growth: Favelas started growing between the 1950s and 1980s. As the cost of scarce land increased drastically and people migrated from the countryside to the city, rural migrants were trapped in poverty. During this time period, the population in favelas outside Rio de Janeiro alone increased from around 170,000 to over 600,000.
  3. Lack of housing: Brazil has anywhere between six to eight million fewer houses than it needs to house the residents of the favelas. The lack of housing leads to the proliferation of slum housing and the overcrowding of these neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity is working alongside city councils to rehabilitate the slums and find solutions to the housing crisis.
  4. Population: According to the 2010 census, nearly 6 percent of Brazil’s population lives in a favela. This is likely due to the low wages and extremely high cost of living in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.
  5. Poverty: Favelas are areas of concentrated poverty. More than 50 million Brazilians are living in inadequate conditions. Of these 50 million, most are families that have an income of around $300 per month.
  6. Sanitation: Twenty-six million Brazilians in urban areas do not have access to drinking water, 14 million are without trash collection services and 83 million live without sewage systems. In order to reach clean water, people living in favelas have to walk over two hours each day. Habitat for Humanity is making strides to alleviate the severity of this issue by repairing and enlarging roofs in favelas while also “building cisterns for water catchment and storage,” according to their website.
  7. Life expectancy: The life expectancy in Brazil is approximately 68 years while the life expectancy of individuals living in favelas is merely 48 years. Conditions are improving as medical care is available at no cost. However, essential medicines are lacking and care for illnesses such as bronchitis is rare as resources are slim.
  8. Crime: The favelas are overrun by drug-trafficking gangs, and the police presence is scarce. However, in the favela outside Rio de Janeiro, a local militia formed in response to these gangs. The Police Pacification Units were introduced in 2008 and are slowly reducing the crime rates in the favelas.
  9. Employment: Around 80 percent of people living in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, are employed and a grand majority of the inhabitants have no affiliation with the previously mentioned gangs and violence associated with favelas.
  10. Improving the favelas: While poverty and disease within the favelas is still high, there are social and religious organizations focused on gaining access to basic rights and services for residents of favelas. For example, The Future Begins at Home is a project based in Recife that allows 250 families access to healthier spaces for work, play, and family life.

The favelas of Brazil signify the divide between the poor and the wealthy. Rio de Janeiro has implemented programs to eradicate the favelas and replace the weak, dangerous infrastructure of the slums with more permanent housing. While the conditions of the slums in Brazil may seem hopeless, change is occurring and progress is being made.

– Clare Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Slums in Manila
Since as early as the mid-1900s, impoverished citizens of Manila, Philippines have resided in informal settlements known as slums. The metro Manila area has several of these slums which houses much of the poor population of the city. Below are 10 facts about slums in Manila.

10 Facts about slums in Manila

  1. An estimated 35 percent of the metro Manila population live in unstable, poorly constructed shelters in slums. Eleven percent of slum residents live near unsafe areas like railroads and garbage dumps. According to the World Bank, living conditions in slums are worse than in the poorest rural areas. The Mega-Cities Project’s research found that tuberculosis rates were nine times higher than in non-slum areas and that rates of diarrheal disease were two times higher.

  2. It is extremely difficult to collect adequate demographic data on slum populations, as most constituents lack a proper address. Even if surveyors reach slum occupants, most are timid to answer questions due to the fear that surveyors will use the information to demolish their shelters or resettle them. Most slum residents have very little or no tenant security. However, in 2000 the Asian Development Bank estimated a total slum population of around 3.4 million in Manila.

  3. The rate of childhood malnutrition is three times higher in the slums than in non-slum areas. According to USAID, children sometimes have to sort through garbage for scraps of food. A study of the Smoky Mountain slum found that 80 percent of children aged eight months to 15 years who scavenged for food had at least two species of intestinal parasites. An Asian Development Bank study found that 50 percent of children were anemic. This is despite the fact that many of these children have access to medical facilities.

  4. Residents in Manila slums lack access to proper sanitation and a clean environment. USAID states that 66 percent of slum residents lack an adequate way to dispose of human waste and often resort to open pits or rivers. A UNICEF study found that only 16 percent of children in the slums have access to clean drinking water. As a result, residents often turn to vendors or contaminated groundwater. The child mortality rate in slums is three times higher than in non-slum areas according to the Philippines Health Department.

  5. Project PEARLS is providing children in Manila slums with food and health care. The organization has three different food programs for the children of Manila slums. PEARLS launched The Soup Kitchen program in July 2015, which feeds at least 300  children per day on a budget of $160. The organization also provides free medicine to children for illnesses like dehydration, flu, pneumonia and infections, as well as various wounds.

  6. Slum settlements in Manila are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The Philippines ranks fourth in the global climate risk index and is often prone to typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The instability of the often homemade shelters provides little to no protection from these calamities. The Asian Development Bank states that this and the fact that most slums are in dangerous locations make slum settlements vulnerable to natural hazards. Heavy rains in July 2000 caused a landslide of garbage that killed 218 people in a slum settled on top of a garbage dump.

  7. Habitat for Humanity is building stable shelters for slum residents in Manila. With the help of volunteers, the organization builds around 5,000 homes every year. The team works with the local government to rebuild homes and also construct new homes that can withstand the natural elements. From digging the foundation to pouring the concrete and laying the roof, the organization and volunteers create sustainable homes from the ground up for thousands of impoverished slum residents.

  8. The moderate economic growth in recent years did not help to mitigate poverty or slums. The Asian Development Bank reported an average 5.3 percent increase in GDP from 2003 to 2006. Poverty rates increased from 24 percent to 27 percent during that time and continued to increase in 2007 when the GDP growth was 7.1 percent. Chronic poverty, driven by factors like severe inequality and corruption, hinders the reduction of slum residents and settlements. The Philippines ranked 141 out of 180 countries in the 2008 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. According to the Asian Development Bank, local political dynasties manipulate markets to deter the poor from accessing private goods and capital. In 2006, the richest 20 percent owned 53 percent of the wealth in the country.

  9. Poverty is fuelling online child sex abuse in the slums. The live streaming of child pornography in these locations has led UNICEF to name the Philippines the global epicenter of the online child sex abuse trade. Despite the new cybercrime unit at the Philippines National Police Headquarters and the passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law, convictions remain low and case reports high. This is partially due to the fact that the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12 years old. UNICEF reports that parents have even brought their children to these shows to earn money.

  10. Police and government corruption have engendered the unlawful killings of thousands of slum citizens at the hands of officers since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. These corrupt and violent raids target slum residents the most. A Human Rights Watch report found that these raids have unlawfully killed over 7,000 people. The report states that police often falsify evidence and falsely claim self-defense to get away with these extra-judicial killings. Although Duterte has not called for extra-judicial killings, his repeated calls for the killing of drug offenders and an absence of any investigations into the killings prompted the Human Rights Watch to label this campaign as a possible progenitor of crimes against humanity.

The Manila government has struggled to find ways to reduce poverty and the population of slum residents, but poverty is a drain on Manila’s economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every one percent increase in poverty, there is a 0.7 percent decrease in overall per capita income. Along with this economic algorithm, a lack of investment, access to capital and financial markets throughout slum communities hinders economic growth. Different non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Project PEARLS are providing basic essentials and helpful assistance for the different struggles of slum life. However, the Philippines requires more research and both domestic and international assistance to mitigate and eventually solve the aforementioned 10 facts about slums in Manila.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Hong Kong to voice discontent with their government. Sparked over a proposed extradition law that would allow the Chinese government to detain Hong Kong citizens in mainland China, the protests have brought a conversation about government, business and human rights to the forefront of international affairs. Hong Kong has long been a haven for big businesses and policies that allow huge gaps in the wealth of its citizens. In fact, this gap is the widest it has been in more than four decades. In the city that has the world’s third-largest concentration of people worth more than $30 million, over 20 percent of people fall below the poverty line. Poverty in Hong Kong has divided the nation.

Facts and Figures

  1. More than 1.3 million people are living in poverty in Hong Kong. These citizens are surviving on as little as the equivalent of $510 a month, which is very low in one of the world’s most expensive cities. These skyrocketing levels mark a seven-year high.
  2. Many of Hong Kong’s children (17.5 percent) live below the poverty line. More than one-third of children in low-income families can afford to eat two meals a day with meat or fish.
  3. For half the population, monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently named Hong Kong the number one most expensive city to live in, along with Paris and Singapore.
  4. The government blames the problem on its aging population and Hong Kong’s improving economy. Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-Chung claims the government is doing its part, and that changing demographics are the reason for the rising numbers.

Government Involvement

Hong Kong’s economy has been steadily growing with a 1.3 percent growth in the first quarter of 2019. This is a good thing, but in the context of a booming economy, the alarming poverty in Hong Kong is concerning, notes Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung.

Something is not working. The government has adopted policies that tend to favor citizens with assets. The government taxes salary, but not capital gains and dividends. Around 50 percent of the population owns homes in a volatile housing market, which the administration’s pro-cyclical land mentality fuels. On top of that, there are strikingly low returns on the government’s social welfare, universal education and public health care policies.

Some people, such as local politics expert and South China Morning Post reporter Alice Wu, go as far as to say that officials are not only negligent about poverty in Hong Kong but deliberate with their often-harmful policies. On the streets of the city, “cardboard grannies” use old boxes as makeshift homes to survive. More than 80 percent of them are over 60 years old, and they are often subject to fines and punishment from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers. In July 2018, one woman received a find for the equivalent of $192 USD for littering. Some concerned citizens then decided to launch an online petition, and only then did authorities discard her fine, proving advocacy to be a key tool for correcting local injustices.

Humanitarian Aid

Outside of government intervention, many organizations are looking to help Hong Kong’s poor. One NGO, Crossroads Foundation, empowers local charities dedicated to ameliorating poverty by providing funding or equipment. These groups are diverse, ranging from organizations like Bring Me A Book, which gives impoverished children access to books, to the Salvation Army Hong Kong, which brings shelters or charity shops to those in need. Another nonprofit, Habitat for Humanity, found that citizens living in poverty often reside in hazardous conditions. In 2016, it set out to find safe housing for 15 million residents by 2020, giving hope to Hong Kong’s poor.

– Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr