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Digital accessDigital access for all is becoming more and more necessary with the growing digital economy. Ecuadorian businesswoman Pierangela Sierra recently became the United Nation’s eTrade for All initiative representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. The program seeks to “expand and promote” the digital economy across middle to low-income countries. Sierra is the founder of Tipti, which is an e-commerce online grocery shopping platform in Ecuador. The platform makes strides for women entrepreneurs around the world as Sierra advocates for their place in the digital workforce. Unfortunately, the growing global digital divide creates barriers to access. People in lower-income countries, especially women, have less access to the online world. Sierra’s advocacy for internet access equality provides much hope for the global digital accessibility movement.

The Digital Divide: A Global Crisis

On February 15, 2021, the United Nations Commission for Social Development discussed the presence of the global digital divide as it applies to the COVID-19 pandemic and global poverty. Members of the Commission noted that while technology has made it possible for numerous countries to overcome educational and economic crises throughout the pandemic, the digital divide has expanded globally.

The U.N. Secretary-General Amina Mohammed states that half the world’s population currently lacks internet access, “the majority of whom are women and mostly in developing countries.” The World Bank reports that only 35% of people in developing countries have access to the internet, indicating that the greatest digital access disparities are seen within rural areas as “these disparities impede shared prosperity and constrain access to pathways out of poverty.”

These disparities can sometimes even impact the speed, and therefore, the accessibility of the internet in different areas. As of 2019, it would take an average of 30 hours, one minute and 40 seconds to download a 5GB movie in Yemen in comparison to the average eight minutes it would take in Taiwan.

Pierangela Sierra and Founding Tipti

The global digital divide has grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as those in rural or impoverished areas lack access to the resources the digital world provides. As impoverished communities and women continue to bear the brunt of internet inaccessibility, communities need advocates now more than ever. Sierra and her company Tipti work to debunk myths surrounding digital access and generate change by advocating for greater e-commerce and digital access among low-income populations and women.

After working for a variety of international corporations across Latin America, Sierra founded Tipti in 2016. Tipti is an abbreviation of “Tiempo para ti” or “time for you.” Tipti is an e-commerce grocery shopping and delivery platform designed to save clients time otherwise spent buying groceries in person.

Tipti’s Impact on Women

While 346 million people in Latin America have internet access, only 20% of the population “made online purchases in 2019.” The U.N. reports that there is an overall “lack of trust in postal services” and barriers to online bank account access. Sierra attributes the low level of e-commerce in Latin America to inadequate technology access and a lack of internet education. Sierra emphasizes that “there is a great need for access to education” in low-income areas, especially for women.

As part of the United Nation’s eTrade for All initiative, Sierra will teach a Masterclass “geared toward women who are ready to craft their own business plan for the tech sector.” Furthermore, Sierra aims to mobilize communities in order to create lasting change and significantly reduce the digital divide. As Sierra states in talks with the United Nations, “the moment you lend a woman a helping hand, you are helping up to 20 other people, too.”

The Future for Women in the Digital Workplace

As the digital divide increases worldwide, advocates like Sierra are extremely important. Fortunately, Sierra is not alone in her fight to increase e-commerce access and internet equality. Among various other organizations, the World Bank recently called for global broadband internet access for everyone. Currently, the World Bank is embarking on initiatives surrounding sector policy, loans and grants for broadband access. Individuals like Sierra along with organizations such as the U.N. and the World Bank further the movement to close the global digital divide through their advocacy and educational efforts.

– Lillian Ellis
Photo: Flickr

IFAD Plans to Alleviate HungerWith the new COVID-19 variants spreading in places such as Latin America and the Caribbean, poverty and hunger rates continue to increase. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has expressed its support for people suffering from these issues. It created a program with the main focus of providing money to businesses that depend on food systems. IFAD is also helping out by working with school programs. Here is more information about IFAD’s plans to alleviate hunger.

IFAD Helps Those Living in Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on more challenges to many people, but that has not stopped IFAD from helping those in need. Since 2020, millions of people have received assistance and several projects have emerged. With the challenges of the pandemic, IFAD has been working to support citizens who lack access to essential resources such as food. The Rural Poor Stimulus Factory emerged to help farmers who were not able to work effectively. IFAD has also provided some digital services to countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. It also contributed to grass-root activities, along with encouraging more citizens to get involved in other activities.

IFAD Creates New Financial Program

One way issues such as poverty and hunger can undergo resolution is by prioritizing workers who make major contributions to food systems. IFAD recently launched a financial program aimed to help businesses responsible for working with food systems. The purpose of the Private Sector Financing Programme, also known as PSFP, is to give financial assistance to small-scale farmers who struggle to provide food due to a variety of barriers. Some of the benefits they will receive include loans and other financial assistance. The benefits from PSFP will also help workers reach their potential through job opportunities, which will open the door to more solutions for hunger and poverty.

IFAD Expresses Support for Farmers

While Latin America and the Caribbean continue to see the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, IFAD is working to help citizens who have suffered from pandemic-related challenges. IFAD has been supporting programs in Mexico that teach citizens about components such as economic development. It has invested a lot of money to help farmers in Mexico learn more skills and pursue their passions. In Guatemala, IFAD was able to help maintain the availability of school feeding programs during the lockdown. Farmers in Guatemala also had the opportunity to sell crops to citizens. The Rural Adelante Project, which received funding from IFAD, worked to guarantee citizens access to nutritious foods in El Salvador. IFAD also created a virtual marketplace to help farmers who lacked access to essential resources.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development has helped people living in poverty through a variety of ways, which includes expanding access to food and other resources. IFAD’s new financial program, the Rural Poor Stimulus Factory, aims to help workers suffering from pandemic-related challenges. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on Latin America and the Caribbean, IFAD made different contributions to serve those living in underprivileged communities.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

efforts to mitigate food insecurityAccording to the Council on Foreign Relations, about 135 million people experienced severe food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has worsened this crisis with less access to quality food and prices skyrocketing. COVID-19 has already destroyed decades-worth of work made toward reducing global hunger. There are already predictions that millions of children will suffer more from malnutrition, obesity and stunting. Global hunger is an impediment to international development, increasing tensions within developing countries.

How Food Insecurity Worsened During COVID-19

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) states that millions of citizens across 43 developing countries face an “emergency phase of food insecurity in 2021.” The majority of those experiencing food insecurity in those countries are either refugees or anyone forced to migrate.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that 272 million people are food insecure one year into the pandemic. Many believe that higher food insecurity rates worldwide occurred due to the shortages from panic buying and stockpiling. However, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) determined that agricultural production reached its highest level. In 2020, the world produced 2.7 billion tons of the most commonly grown crops. The reality is that disruptions within the supply chain are the root cause of this worsening issue.

Actions of the World Bank

As part of its efforts to mitigate food insecurity during COVID-19, the World Bank increased funding for more effective agricultural systems in Guatemala to reduce disruptions in the supply chain. Its assistance also aimed to help alleviate the food insecurity caused by economic challenges and droughts. The World Bank helped Liberia by incorporating a Contingency Emergency Response Component that allows the government to respond to the needs of those at a higher risk of food insecurity. The component also helps increase crop production and helps normalize the supply chain there.

How to Overcome Economic Challenges

The pandemic also worsened the economic situation in developing countries. People received fewer remittances preventing them from accessing essential goods. Latin America has been most impacted by reduced remittances. However, food prices in other regions facing conflict became higher than many people’s daily salaries, making the situation difficult to overcome.

Haiti is a country with the highest food insecurity rates and faced severe impacts from the reduced remittances. The pandemic and reduced remittances hurt farmers the most. The World Bank assisted by providing programs with enough funding for farmers to produce enough crops for a two-year time frame. The programs will also help farmers incorporate safety precautions into their practices during the pandemic.

Other Efforts to Mitigate Food Insecurity

The World Bank’s other efforts to mitigate food insecurity included issuing a transfer of funds to families with food insecure infants and toddlers in Tajikistan to alleviate malnutrition. It sent food for 437,000 citizens in Chad facing food insecurity. The organization also provided additional funding that went toward addressing the concerns that the pandemic caused in Rwanda.

Accomplishments Occurring with the World Bank’s Help

The World Bank also provided more certified seeds to local communities in Afghanistan and helped farmers produce more yields than before. The U.S. sent $87.8 million to help provide more equipment for dairy and poultry farmers in Bangladesh. The World Bank’s programs in India resulted in further women’s empowerment with the establishment of women’s self-help groups that work with hygiene, food administration and storage. As of 2021, there are 62 million women that participate in these groups.

The World Bank also reports that farmers in developing countries face food insecurity and works to alleviate their distress. The organization helped Cambodia incorporate new agricultural practices that led to farmers receiving higher incomes with increased productivity. The World Bank also taught farmers in the Kyrgyz Republic the proper practices to grow more crops while conserving water. Eventually, more than 5,000 farmers gained an income that allowed them to buy essential goods.

The World Bank’s efforts to mitigate food insecurity in developing countries are effective so far. These international programs brought more farmers out of poverty and further combat global hunger. Many of these countries made commendable progress with this support, which is a significant step toward future development.

– Cristina Velaz
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in ColombiaColombia’s healthcare system is not perfect but it also far from inadequate. Located in the northernmost part of South America, Colombia has estimable healthcare provision for the country’s people. With both public and private insurance plans, reputable facilities and well-equipped healthcare providers, Colombia sets an example of what sufficient healthcare looks like in a developing country. To understand this better, it is necessary to know some key facts about healthcare in Colombia.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Colombia

  1. Healthcare in Colombia ranked 22nd out of 191 healthcare systems in overall efficiency, according to the World Health Organization. For perspective, the United States, Australia, Canada and Germany ranked 37th, 32nd, 30th and 25th respectively.
  2. Colombia’s healthcare system covers more than 95% of its population.
  3. Indigenous people are considered a high-risk population due to insufficient access to healthcare in indigenous communities in Colombia. Specifically, they are more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to this lack of healthcare access and significant tourist activities in indigenous regions increase the risk of spread. Robinson López, Colombian leader and coordinator for Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA), said in March 2020 that tourism in indigenous territories in Latin America should stop immediately to curb the spread of COVID-19.
  4. There are inequities in the utilization of reproductive healthcare by ethnic women in Colombia, according to a study. Self-identified indigenous women and African-descendant women in the study had considerably less likelihood of having an adequate amount of prenatal and postpartum care.
  5. The Juanfe Foundation is a Colombian-based organization that promotes the physical, emotional and mental health of vulnerable and impoverished adolescent mothers and their children. So far, the organization has supported more than 250,000 people. The Juan Felipe Medical Center served 204,063 individuals — 20% of the population in Cartagena, Colombia. The organization also saved the lives of 4,449 infants through its Crib Sponsoring Program.
  6. In 2019, four of the top 10 hospitals in Latin America were in Colombia and 23 of the top 55, according to América Economía.
  7. Colombia secured nine million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson in December 2020. Combined with the doses it will receive from Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc, COVAX and other finalizing deals, Colombia will be able to vaccinate 35 million people within its population of 49.65 million, striding toward herd immunity.

Recognizing Colombia’s Healthcare System

Simultaneously recognizing the current inequities and challenges alongside the positives in Colombia’s healthcare system is the true key to understanding it and the individuals depending on it overall. Despite attention-worthy deficits, healthcare in Colombia stands out in Latin America and in the world as high quality, widespread and respectable. The country’s healthcare is contributing to the well-being of many and the future ahead looks promising.

Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

demand for child rightsWith 25% of Latin America’s population being under the age of 15, an increased demand for child rights is inevitable. As a result, Latin America and the Caribbean have seen gradual implementations of protection for children under the law. Countries in these regions have seen improvements spanning from a growing economy to quality health care.

Health Improvements for Children

One immediate causes for the demand in children’s rights is because of the abuse that many children in impoverished countries endure. Some issues that exemplify the need for child rights are sexual abuse, drug and alcohol consumption and child labor. The health care systems in Latin American countries are responding.

For example, increased demand for child rights in places such as Argentina and Peru has resulted in more representation for children in health care services. Argentina has had children’s rights written in law since 1994. Now, with children included in health plans, child mortality rates have decreased to 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018, compared to 12.6 just five years earlier.

Strengthening Written Law

Previously, many children in these countries were not seen as separate individuals until they reached adult age. However, increased children’s rights in certain Latin American and Caribbean countries have improved the livelihoods of the underaged. Children’s rights in Latin America and all across the world have moved to the forefront of many political agendas thanks to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and active citizens.

Countries such as El Salvador have shown that the demand for child rights have proved their international leadership on the issue. There are more than 15 comprehensive laws within the country protecting children and almost 20 international laws protecting El Salvadoran children.

Though the numerous laws, in theory, protect the children, it is not as easy to enforce the laws. A large discrepancy still remains between the sentiment and enforcement of law for the protection of children. Legislature rendered ineffective through lack of enforcement “allows perpetrators of violence against children and adolescents to continue committing the same crimes with no fear of prosecution or punishment.

The BiCE

One organization that has made child rights in Latin America a priority is BiCE, the International Catholic Child Bureau. The organization’s main goal is the preservation of child rights in different countries in Latin American and around the world. Current field projects take place in countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala and Peru. Most of the projects focus on fighting sexual abuse of children.

BiCE’s projects have many goals that ensure the safety of a child. For the programs fighting sexual abuse, they offer therapy services for recovery. They also train people to learn advocacy techniques for children’s rights. Over 1,000 children in Peru have received help from BiCE and the organization continues to do more in other countries in Latin America.

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have written laws and statutes that protect children. However, this has not proved to be enough for the safety of children in these countries. There have been health improvements and decreased poverty rates, but more still needs to be done to enforce the written laws.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in ColombiaMacroeconomic trends show there has been equitable growth in Colombia. While as of 2017 Colombia holds the second-highest wealth inequality rate in Latin America, only slightly better than Brazil, it has been on a downward trend since 2000. Additionally, poverty in Colombia dropped by 15% between 2008 and 2017 to a low of 27%. Extreme poverty was cut in half from 2002 to 2014, with more than 6 million people moving out of poverty. This put more Colombians in the middle class than in poverty for the first time. Finally, between 2008 and 2017, the country’s gross domestic product grew at a rate of 3.8%. This is more than twice as fast as the members of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Problems

However, increasing exports drives much of the recent growth and reduction in poverty in Colombia. Commodity prices have risen significantly over the past several years. This growth is unsustainable, as a recent drop in prices has hindered the export industry. Colombia has also been struggling with such issues as a lack of financial inclusion, low productivity, low-skilled workers and a large informal economy.

The informal economy consists of such jobs as farmworkers, taxi drivers and street vendors where “they make no direct tax contributions, have no security of employment and do not receive pensions or other social benefits.” As of May 2014, informal workers made up nearly two-thirds of the Colombian labor force. This means millions do not possess a dependable income. They do not have the opportunity to contribute to or receive a pension fund or other government benefits. For these reasons, the large informal sector is also a big contributor to inequality and poverty in Colombia.

Another major issue holding back Colombia has been its decades-long internal struggle for peace. Nearly a quarter-million Colombians have died from the conflict, with 25,000 disappearing and nearly 6 million being displaced. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2016, tensions are still high in the country between the government and the rebel militia.

Solutions

Nonetheless, steps are being taken to ensure that Colombia is able to continue its recent progress. With nearly 6 million people displaced because of the internal conflict, land restitution is a key step to make. With the help of the World Bank, 1,852 land restitution legal cases were held by the end of 2014. Additionally, the World Bank helped the Colombian government give reparations to those affected by the conflict, with a focus on Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups who were disproportionately affected.

Digitalization and use of technology are being used to help formalize businesses by simplifying the registration process and making tax collection more efficient, enabling businesses and individuals to pay taxes and contribute to the pension system and providing them access to many social benefits. Digitalization also provides greater access to financial services. This is done by providing micro-credits, expanding the outreach of banking services, lowering the cost of financial services and simplifying electronic payments.

USAID’s Role in Poverty Reduction in Colombia

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been involved in helping decrease poverty in Colombia by increasing the presence of democratic institutions in the country. Through this, the USAID hopes to “foster a culture of respect for human rights, promote access to justice, increase public investment and provide services to historically underserved and conflictive rural areas.” This organization fights for inclusive growth and encourages investment in rural areas. Additionally, it helps producers expand their market, provides financial services and helps restore the land to its original owners before the conflict.

All of these efforts and many more are being made to reduce poverty in Colombia. The goal is to keep the country on a path toward equitable and inclusive development that leads to a reduction of inequality.

Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Chile
Like many other countries, Chile has struggled to ensure its citizens remain out of poverty. Luckily, the country has experienced economic growth over the past few years, now one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. This success can be seen by looking at how much of the population was impoverished in 2000 compared to 2017. In 2000, 30% of the population was impoverished. By 2017, the country was able to cut that number all the way down to 3.7%. As a result, Chile has grown its economy, helped those in poverty and reduced the poverty rate.

3 Things to Know About Poverty Reduction in Chile

  1. Free-Market: Much of the reason there has been poverty reduction in Chile is due in part to its decision to become a free-market economy in the mid-1980s. This resulted in increased trade with other countries. From 1985 to 1989, Chilean exports doubled. That trend has only continued for the country up into the modern day. By becoming a free-market economy, the country set itself up for a healthier economy.
  2. Chile Solidario: The Chilean government has implemented a multitude of programs to bring aid to those in poverty and bring about poverty reduction in Chile. The Chile Solidario was the first large-scale version of such programs. The program continued throughout the years 2002 and 2009. One of the ways the program met the needs of impoverished people in Chile was by actually sending case workers out to meet with Chilean citizens in poverty and rectify the problems they struggle with. By doing so, the program was able to personalize the aid given to a family depending on the unique problems that family was struggling with. While Chile Solidario did not help with employing Chilean citizens in poverty or improving housing conditions, it did help them use the welfare system within the country to get them through their economic troubles.
  3. Countercyclical policy: A countercyclical policy works opposite to the business cycle rather than along with it. The country instead lowers taxes and increases spending during a periods when the market is not favorable and raises taxes and reduces spending when the market is favorable. During the early 2000s, Chile adopted a countercyclical policy. As a result, public spending remains at the same rate throughout the year. The countercyclical policy has proven effective and reliable in Chile. For example, copper is the most important export to the Chilean economy. During 2009, however, the copper industry suffered quickly and as a result unemployment increased to 10%. The excess money that Chile saved up due to its countercyclical policy was used as a stimulus to help the people. Therefore, this policy can promote poverty reduction in Chile should there be an economic crisis in the future.

Due to the Chilean government’s actions, Chile has reduced poverty and provided a better standard of living for its people. Moving forward, it is essential that the country and other humanitarian organizations continue to focus on poverty reduction and improving livelihoods. If they do, poverty in Chile will hopefully continue to decrease.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GuatemalaGuatemala is a Central American country that borders Mexico and Belize to the North, and Honduras and El Salvador to the Southeast. With a population of 17.2 million as of 2018, Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America. Of the country’s total population, an estimated 45-60% is indigenous, and approximately 59% of the total population lives in poverty. Although most demographics in the country face poverty, rural indigenous communities feel the effects most acutely.

Second-Highest Level of Poverty in the Americas

Poverty in Guatemala is disproportionately high for the country with the largest economy in Central America; while Guatemala had a Gross Domestic Product of $75.62 billion in 2017, it also has the second-highest level of poverty in the Americas. Since 2006, poverty has grown. Approximately 2 million people slid below the poverty line (measured by an income of less than U.S. $5 per day) from 2006-2014. During the same window of time, around half a million slipped into extreme poverty (U.S.$1.90 or less per day). According to a national survey, the poverty rate among indigenous, predominantly rural communities is as high as 79%.

Poor Distribution of Resources

Extreme socioeconomic and geographic inequality largely characterizes the nature of poverty in Guatemala. As many as eight in 10 citizens living in rural municipalities live in poverty. One study found, from a sample of six other Latin American countries, that Guatemala had the poorest distribution of health and educational resources. Access to health resources and quality education is key in enhancing social mobility and bringing individuals out of poverty. Poor distribution of these resources in rural areas fortifies the regional cycle of poverty between contributing to lower life expectancy and limiting opportunities for education.

Additionally, chronic malnutrition debilitates poor Guatemalan communities; the level of malnutrition in Guatemalan children—47% as of 2019—is the highest of all the Latin American countries, and among the highest globally. This aggravates the cycle of poverty as well. Malnutrition burdens the already-limited healthcare system and stunts the local economic potential by reducing the physical and intellectual capability of youth. While many families traditionally subsist on agriculture to feed themselves, chronic drought has left many of these communities fully reliant on overseas remittances for survival.

Effects of the Coronavirus

As is the case in many countries, experts anticipate that poverty in Guatemala will increase as a result of COVID-19. In addition to the uneven allocation of health resources, the country’s poor have also suffered under strict lockdown rules, job loss and an enormous reduction in overseas remittances. The country reported a 17.2% loss in remittances corresponding with the rising unemployment rate in the U.S. These remittances not only make up approximately 12% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product but directly impact those families that rely on that form of income to feed themselves.

Additionally, stay-at-home orders have effectively collapsed the country’s informal economy, in which 70% of Guatemalans participate. Unregulated by the government, the informal economy comes with no formal protections or benefits in the event of labor loss. Similarly, official reports of unemployment in Guatemala are disproportionately skewed, as only 30% of Guatemalans work in the formal sector; this allows for employment statistics to disproportionately represent the number of individuals at risk of slipping into poverty.

NGOs Working to Help

Both domestic and international NGOs have turned their attention to meeting the challenges of poverty; these include issues both introduced and aggravated, respectively, by the COVID-19 pandemic. The humanitarian group Plan International presently tracks food prices via telephone surveys throughout Guatemala, identifying which regions are most food insecure.

The locally-based Konojel Community Centre is working to adapt their boots-on-the-ground services, suspending traditional programs aimed at reducing child malnutrition in order to distribute food packages to the community’s most vulnerable families. Simultaneously, Konojel Community Centre’s director is currently pushing the Guatemalan government to apply for loans from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to lessen the blow of economic crisis in vulnerable areas.

This comes at a time that Konojel Community Centre, like many NGOs at present, is hard-pressed for funding with the sharp decline of the global economy. Despite the circumstances, these NGOs are working to prevent as much loss of progress on malnutrition and poverty in Guatemala as possible.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr