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Brazil Refugees
As the fifth-largest country by both area and population, Brazil is the largest country in South America and Latin America and receives more refugees than any other country in the region. Brazil is also the only country in the Americas to have Portuguese as the official language.

The country is both a regional power in Latin America and a middle power in international affairs. Due to its recognition as an emerging global power, Brazil has been identified as a shelter to refugees and migrants. Here are 10 facts about Brazil refugees:

  1. As of 2016, Brazil has about 2,100 refugees living in the country.
  2. Brazil receives more displaced people from Syria than any other country in Latin America.
  3. As of 2013, Brazil issued 8,000 humanitarian visas under more simplified conditions to allow survivors of the Syrian war to claim asylum in the country.
  4. Due to these visas, Brazil has had approximately 2,000 refugees settle in the country.
  5. Brazil’s refugees are able to receive informal, temporary employment in the services and retail industry.
  6. Refugees in Brazil are considered by some to be an unnecessary cost and security threat due to the country’s deep economic recession.
  7. Asylum-seekers in Brazil have a higher education than the average Brazilian.
  8. The Brazilian government wants to limit the intake of refugees due to the country’s economic woes.
  9. Brazilian refugees will now be faced with the country’s recalibration of its foreign policy.
  10. Brazil’s refugees have the right to work, access to education, and health care.


In recent years, Brazil has been praised for the country’s humanitarian efforts and openness to asylum seekers. As of recently, questions of the country’s ability to aid refugees have plagued the government amid the country distancing itself from developing nations and experiencing the worst recession in its memory.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

 GuatemalaGuatemala is a center for disease monitoring in Latin America. The Center for Disease Control Central American Regional Office was placed in Guatemala City in 2005. Here are four of the top diseases in Guatemala.

  • Lower Respiratory Infections
    Lower respiratory infections killed about 10,000 people in Guatemala in 2012. It’s possible that lower respiratory infections in Guatemala and other developing nations come from air pollution from solid fuels.
  • Neonatal and Nutritional Issues
    Neonatal and nutritional issues killed about 600,000 Guatemalans in 2012. Still, Guatemala is working on fighting against it. In 2005, the government strengthened the Extension of Coverage program to provide basic healthcare to even the most vulnerable and impoverished people in rural communities. This program included the World Bank’s Maternal-Infant Health and Nutrition Project, which along with other programs helped reduce malnutrition in children under two years old and helped with other issues related to maternal health.
  • HIV, TB and Malaria
    About 2,000 people died of HIV, TB or malaria in 2012. Sex workers, sexually active gay men, prison inmates and street children are among those most at risk of contracting AIDs, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Guatemala has adapted prevention standards from the WHO and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to test for and treat HIV.Tuberculosis is spread very quickly in overcrowded areas. One can obtain tuberculosis through contaminated air or certain milk products. Malaria is most present in low altitude areas (not Guatemala City or Antigua). It is spread by the anopheles mosquito. People may get bitten by these mosquitoes without even realizing it because the mosquitoes are silent and do not leave bite marks.
  • Zika
    Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should have the most concern about Zika because it causes birth defects. Almost 1,000 pregnant women were suspected of having the Zika virus, and 275 women were confirmed with having it in 2016.


These are just four of the top diseases in Guatemala. The Center for Disease Control and other organizations are working to alleviate these and other diseases in the nation.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Multidimensional Poverty

Low-income families in Mexico have struggled for years to acquire and maintain affordable housing. In fact, 34% of Mexican families live in poor-quality homes, many of which are self-constructed. Patrimonio Hoy was created in 1998 to address this problem. The program provides low-income families with building materials, microfinance, technical assistance and logistical support so that they can acquire livable housing.

Patrimonio Hoy is a subsidiary of the multinational Mexican cement manufacturer CEMEX. After joining the Business Call to Action in 2014, its goals are to offer a market-based solution to meet the needs of low-income families, provide at least 125,000 low-income families in Mexico with affordable housing and replicate the model in other developing countries.

How it Works

Technical Assistance

A Patrimonio Hoy architect visits a family in their home to assess their house structure, discuss their building plans and evaluate their financial situation. After the assessment, the architect develops the building plan. This plan includes the design type and quantity of material needed to meet the required construction standards.

Financing

Families receive customized financing products according to their financial needs. New customers can choose a schedule with multiple deliveries of building materials. This schedule is then customized to each customer’s needs, ability to pay and the desired construction timeline.

Building Materials and Construction Services

Patrimonio Hoy has created additional demand for construction materials. This, in turn, has enabled local distributors to increase their sales without any additional investments.

In addition to helping customers acquire proper building materials, Patrimonio Hoy supervises the entire construction process. The program acts as a professional contractor and manages the legalization of land titles. This lightens the administrative burden on low-income families.

How Patrimonio Hoy Addresses Poverty

Patrimonio Hoy is addressing Millennium Development Goal 1: To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The program improves the lives of more than two million individuals through more than 3.3 million square meters of home construction. It also empowers families and encourages local economic development.

Patrimonio Hoy also addresses Millennium Development Goal 3: to promote gender equality and empower women. The program has trained more than 3,000 women promoters and their families in low-income communities.

Patrimonio Hoy also increases local employment and improves the local public school infrastructure. This brings greater responsibility in households and encourages better learning and health for children.

Expansion and Success

More than 750,000 low-income families in Latin America have benefitted from the project. Patrimonio Hoy has attained national coverage in Mexico (29 states, 56 cities) and has expanded across Latin America to Costa Rica, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama.

Patrimonio Hoy is constantly innovating and creating new business initiatives to further improve the quality of neighborhoods. Already the program has empowered families, and improved their general quality of life, ultimately preparing participating countries for steady economic and social growth.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Costa Rica _Poverty
The end of 2016 signaled positive signs for Costa Rica as its poverty rate registered at the lowest rate in seven years, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses.

Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination, drawing more than 2.6 million visitors in 2015, but many visitors are surprised to see the heavily impoverished areas around the country. While the nation has reduced its homicide rates and experienced moderate economic growth, the poverty rate climbed to a four-year high of 20 percent in 2014, it is still suffering from deep wealth disparity. The inflation rate in Costa Rica is relatively low, but it disproportionally impacts the poorest in the country.

Costa Rica has one of the highest-rated education systems in Latin America, and it ranks higher than its neighbors in both social capital and health. However, despite these positive gains, the poverty rate remained a challenge. In 2015, the nation launched the National Strategy for the Reduction of Poverty from the Bridge to Development.

Developed with the cooperation of eight different public agencies and social aid programs, the Bridge to Development aims to reduce poverty and emphasize human rights; its goals included linking social institutions and combining the various social welfare programs into one cohesive unit. Prior to this system, aid was scattered among 30 different programs creating both confusion and overlap of the programming money. By consolidating into one program, the target was to reduce the uncertainty and prevent fraud.

In addition, Costa Rica’s economic growth is creating more opportunities to escape poverty; increased economic activity and an uptick in goods and services have generated more jobs and reduced the unemployment rate. The combination of this growth and social policies is a positive development for the country.

In 2016, more than 10,000 households rose above the poverty line, and the poverty level declined by 1.2%. Another 10,000 households were able to move out of the category of extreme poverty. The results are promising, and the country is committed to building on those returns going forward.

Costa Rican officials are proud of the gains that have been made; by steadily lowering the poverty rate, they hope to reinforce the nations’ reputation as one of the best-developed nations in Latin America. However, the nation still has work to do in order to reach its goals of social inclusion and enhanced human rights, but it is a hopeful success story as 2017 begins.

Jennifer Graham

Photo: Flickr

"Thomas Rhett and Friends" Concert aids 147 Million Orphans
Thomas Rhett emerged in 2016 as one of country music’s notable rising stars. This year he released his sophomore studio album Tangled Up, which spawned multiple hits including “T-Shirt,” “Star of the Show” and CMA song of the year, “Die a Happy Man.”

Off stage, however, Rhett’s success is supplemented by his enthusiastic support of relief projects for impoverished communities in developing nations. Following the conclusion of his ‘Six String Circus Tour’ co-headlining Jason Aldean, Rhett hosted the first annual “Thomas Rhett and Friends” charity concert benefiting 147 Million Orphans.

On Twitter, Rhett often calls attention to 147 Million Orphans, an organization sponsoring trips to Africa and Latin America with a purpose of building up local communities. Beginning in 2009, the organization’s original mission was to provide food, water, medicine and shelter to children in Uganda.

However, it has since expanded to Haiti and Honduras with remarkable achievements such as funding the construction of a large-scale medical center in Gressier, Haiti. According to its website, the organization accomplishes its goals by focusing on sustainable income projects that encourage healthier technologies and family preservation.

As a longtime supporter of the organization, Rhett announced a charity concert held on the evening of October 4, 2016. Tickets were limited and hopeful attendees raised money by bidding for the chance to take part in the event. Before the concert, guests participated in a silent auction to bid on exclusive items such as autographed guitars and appropriately customized t-shirts. Guests then arrived at The Old School in Nashville for dinner and drinks, a private concert, a personal meet and greet and an after-party bonfire.

Drawing additional publicity, Rhett’s performance was accompanied by fellow musicians: Dierks Bentley, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Walker Hayes, Shane McAnally and Russell Dickerson. With all proceeds benefiting his charity, the concert all in all raised over $250,000.

Further, Rhett’s wife Lauren Atkins is an avid supporter of the organization. Atkins is professionally trained as a nurse, and she frequently embarks on mission trips herself to deliver medical supplies, new mattresses, and bed covers to the aforementioned nations.

Most recently, the couple also celebrated Giving Tuesday in Kenya by raising awareness of a wildlife refuge. Rhett then announced a few dates for his solo “Home Team Tour” beginning in spring 2017. While a follow-up “Thomas Rhett and Friends” concert has not been formalized yet, it is clear that the causes in developing nations will remain an important component of the Atkins’ family philanthropy.

Zachary Machuga

Photo: Flickr

Violence Fuels Honduran Refugees
While many in the U.S. have begun focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis and the horrors committed by the Islamic State (IS) and the Assad regime, the U.S. still has a major refugee crisis along its southern border.

For decades, millions of migrants have traveled from South and Central America to the U.S. in search of better work opportunities and social benefits for themselves and their families. Recently, however, the migrant crisis has transformed into a refugee crisis, with many also traveling to the U.S. to escape the dangers of their home countries.

With the U.S. as the world’s biggest customer, a thriving drug market worth more than $300 billion has fueled the violence between gangs, each fighting for territory and the rights to sell drugs. In countries dictated by drug trades, government corruption also becomes inevitable, with police sometimes working hand in hand with gangs.

Especially in Honduras, these drug wars have displaced thousands, destroying neighborhoods and forcing their inhabitants to move north. Thousands of Honduran refugees have traveled to the U.S. in search of new lives.

In the past few years, however, U.S. investment in countries like Honduras has helped reduce violence. The American government has put money and resources into programs that dissuade youth from joining gangs and replenish impoverished neighborhoods.

Here are 10 facts about Honduras and Honduran refugees:

  1. One hundred and seventy-four thousand people, four percent of the country’s households, have been displaced because of violence.
  2. In 2011, Honduras was the murder capital of the world, with 91.6 murders per 100,000 people. In 2014, that number dropped to 66.
  3. In 2014, 18,000 unaccompanied Honduran children arrived at the U.S. border.
  4. This year, the U.S. has sent between $95 and $110 million in violence prevention funding to Honduras.
  5. In one pilot program, participants were deemed 77 percent less likely to commit crimes or abuse drugs and alcohol after a year of counseling, according to Creative Associates International.
  6. Because of fear and corruption, 96 percent of homicides do not end in a conviction in Honduras.
  7. There are about 23,000 gang members involved in police shootouts and turf wars daily.
  8. About 15,000 Hondurans applied for refugee status in 2015, double that of 2014.
  9. In 2014, 64.7 percent of unaccompanied minors received the asylum they applied for.
  10. For 2016, the U.S. has 3,000 refugee slots for applicants from Latin America and the Caribbean even though 9,000 people may be eligible.

While there is a lot of potential in the U.S. funded pilot programs, more money is necessary to enact change on a large scale. Although many may criticize the foreign aid the U.S. already gives as being too charitable, they must keep in mind the costs of receiving these refugees illegally and the cost of them making the journey north. By fixing the roots of the problem, the U.S. can prevent the symptoms from reaching its borders.

Because Honduras is filled with human rights violations, many would see the funding completely cut. This summer, government officials tried to pass a bill in Congress that would do so.

However, responding to the human rights issue by cutting funding to violence prevention may be most impractical and harmful. Although expensive, the best solution may be to continue funding violence prevention programs while beginning separate programs that address government abuse and corruption.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Poverty in Latin America
Within the past decade, 70 million people were able to escape poverty in Latin America due to economic growth and a lessened income gap. However, millions still remain in the cycle of poverty. Presented below is key data about poverty in Latin America.

 

10 Leading Facts on Poverty in Latin America

 

  1. One in five Latin Americans lives in chronic poverty conditions. Latin Americans account for 130 million of the nearly 500 million who live in chronic poverty worldwide.
  2. Poverty rates vary from country to country in the Latin American region. With estimated poverty rates floating around 10 percent, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have the lowest chronic poverty rates. Meanwhile, Nicaragua with 37 percent and Guatemala with 50 percent have the highest chronic poverty rates in Latin America, which are well above the regional average of 21 percent.
  3. Poverty rates can also vary within a country. A single country can have both ends of the spectrum with the highest poverty rate that is eight times higher than the lowest. For example, Brazil has a chronic poverty rate of 5 percent in Santa Catarina, but 40 percent in Ceará.
  4. Poverty in Latin America encompasses both urban and rural areas. Most assume that rural areas have higher poverty rates than urban areas, like in Bolivia, where the amount of people living in rural poverty is 20 percentage points higher than those living in urban poverty. However, the number of the urban poor is higher than the number of rural poor in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
  5. Poor Latin Americans lack access to basic health care services. Approximately 20 percent of the Latin American and Caribbean population lack access to health care due to their poverty conditions. The region also has high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
  6. Those living in poverty in Latin America lack access to safe water and sanitation. The World Water Council reported that 77 million people lack access to safe water or live without a water source in their homes. Of the 77 million, 51 million live in rural areas and 26 million live in urban areas. An estimated 256 million rely on latrines and septic tanks as an alternative to basic sanitation.
  7. The lack of education in Latin America lowers prospects of rising out of poverty. One in 12 young people ages 15 to 24 have not completed primary school, and therefore lack the skills necessary to find decent jobs. The same age group represents 40 percent of the total number of unemployed in many Latin American countries. When they are employed, six out of 10 jobs are informal, lacking decent wages, contract agreements and social security rights.
  8. Limited economic opportunities keep the poor in poverty. The biggest factor that led to poverty reduction from 2004-2012 was labor income. The Huffington Post reported that in poor households every Latin American country had an average of 20 percent “fewer human resources to generate income” than non-poor households and those households who managed to escape poverty.
  9. Chronic poverty levels are falling. Between 2000 and 2014, the number of Latin Americans living on under $4 a day decreased from 45 percent to 25 percent. The Latin American population living on $2.5 per day fell from 28 percent to 14 percent.
  10. The falling poverty levels in Latin America can be attributed to improved public policy. Latin American governments created conditional cash transfers (CCT), which substituted subsidies for money transfers for the poor who invested in human capital beginning in the late 1990s. As a result, child attendance in schools has risen and families have more food and more diversity in diets.


In 2010, the middle-class population exceeded the low-income population for the first time in the region. However, with one-fifth of the population still in poverty, there is much work to be done.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

Honduran Refugees
Honduras, the small Central American country nestled between Guatemala and Nicaragua, is home to a rich, cultural heritage, stunning wildlife, beaches and forests. Despite the beauty this country has to offer, many of its citizens are seeking a safe haven far from the country they know. Here are 10 things you need to know to better understand Honduran refugees.

  1. The countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador often are reported on in tandem. This grouping, referred to as Central America’s Northern Triangle, experiences similar problems leading all three to their high refugee rates.
  2. Honduras is struggling with an incredibly high homicide rate. The country is currently tied with El Salvador for the highest homicide rate in the world and in 2015, over 17,000 homicides were recorded across the Northern Triangle.
  3. Many of these killings are related to gang or criminal organization activity. Citizens of Honduras run the risk of being extorted by these groups and are often threatened with violence if they are unable to pay fees.
  4. Honduras is dangerous for women. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reported that women fleeing the Northern Triangle often report being assaulted, extorted and threatened. Honduras averages at 10.9 female homicides per 100,000 people. In comparison, the same statistic for the U.S. is 1.9 per 100,000.
  5. The number of Honduran refugees is growing. Nearly 10 percent of the region’s 30 million citizens have fled in the past 10 years. An analysis from the Council on Foreign Relations said that the number of people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala living in the U.S. increased from 1.5 million to 2.7 million between 2000 and 2013.
  6. In addition to the threat of violence, Honduran refugees may also be fleeing from their countries for climate-related reasons. Honduras is experiencing prolonged drought effects due to the El Nino weather phenomenon.
  7. This drought is having a severe effect on food prices and on farming in the country. Bean and maize harvests have been cut in half due to the drought leading to an increase in food prices.
  8. Malnutrition is a serious risk for families. The U.N.’s World Food Project reports that around a quarter of children aged six months to two-and-a-half years struggle due to chronic malnutrition.
  9. The U.S has begun attempts to help the situation. In 2015, the Obama Administration appropriated $750 million to help address the root causes of the influx of refugees.
  10. The U.S. Refugee Admission Program has been established to aid refugees from the Northern Triangle. The program will seek to identify families in need, and then relocate them as permanent residents in the U.S.


Though the situation in Honduras looks grim, the U.S. has the opportunity to make a difference through programs that will alleviate poverty-induced violence and restore the country that is home to so many refugees.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

Access to Clean Water
Many communities in Latin America lack access to clean water transported through piped infrastructures and water problems have been the source of much strife. Water in Bolivia made international news in 2000 when the country’s municipalities were privatized, causing costs to skyrocket and leading to four months of violent riots in Cochabamba.

Fortunately, recent movements have been more peaceful. They often take a community approach to change, transforming one neighborhood at a time. Three projects in three different Latin American countries have given communities reliable access to clean water.

Maria Auxiliadora in Aguilares, El Salvador

Ninety-eight percent of El Salvador’s water is contaminated. A growing movement is working to legislate access to clean water as a human right. In the meantime, one community has taken matters into its own hands.

Sixty percent of Maria Auxiliadora’s population used to lack clean drinking water. People were forced to pay high prices or rely on polluted water, all of which had to be trucked in. Franciscan foundation Tau partnered with the Association Foundation for Cooperation and Common Development in Salvador (CORDES) to change that. The organizations built a safe well that is maintained by the community’s 50 families, each of which has a water meter and pays for the amount it uses.

Alto Buena Vista Barrio in Cochabamba, Bolivia

The arid city of Cochabamba is making headlines again but this time in a positive way. While water transportation in Bolivia has improved, poorer neighborhoods don’t have access to piped water yet. Many are forced to rely on truck deliveries, facing constant shortages and contamination problems. The supply they receive is barely enough for drinking, let alone washing.

In southern Cochabamba, the people of Alto Buena Vista have decided to take matters into their own hands. Following the example of Maria Auxiliadora, El Salvador, they plan to build a well and use a similar metered system.

La Mosquitia, Honduras

La Mosquitia’s water sources are also polluted, causing widespread illness. Rain collection only provides relief for a season, and good wells are difficult to build because of contamination and brackish water. Two organizations, Charity: Water and the Arlington Rotary, have been building biosand filters to help. These systems filter water using sand and decomposing organic material. While there is still work to be done, the community’s plight has improved significantly.

While achieving countrywide access to clean water in Bolivia, Honduras and El Salvador is a work in progress, the three communities above are experiencing a better quality of life. Hopefully, they will pave the way for others to trade inefficient and ineffective methods of water transportation for clean and reliable ones.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

Poverty_Colombia
Across the world, landfills are awash with plastic that takes at least 500 years to decompose. Poverty in Colombia is on the rise, and so too in numerous countries around the globe. In addition, there is a major shortage of inexpensive housing for the 40% of people in Africa and Latin America who are homeless. Thankfully, a new Colombian enterprise has found a way to solve both of these problems simultaneously, thus helping to alleviate poverty in Colombia.

Conceptos Plásticos

The organization Conceptos Plasticos turns recycled plastic into interlocking, lego-like bricks that can be easily and inexpensively assembled by four people in five days. The houses do not require adhesives, so they be dismantled and transported easily.

Founder Oscar Mendez created this program as part of his architecture graduate thesis. Inexpensive, mobile housing that helps the environment serves as the perfect solution for impoverished people in Colombia.

The lack of dwellings and abundance of plastic make Colombia the perfect place to launch this project. Across Latin America, 33% of families live in unsuitable homes. His project acts as a solution to poverty-stricken Colombians’ difficulty of getting the materials and skilled labor required to build in remote, rural areas.

Another complication is the large amount of internally displaced people. Since so many citizens do not stay in a permanent location, investing in homes proves very difficult for many even those who have the resources.

An Environmental and Fiscal Solution

The environmental impact of these homes is wonderful — Bodega, Colombia alone throws away 750 tons of plastic, and Conceptos Plasticos transforms this unused resource into inexpensive housing.

The organization boasts prices are 30% cheaper than other systems; each house costs about $130 per square meter, or $5,200 total. Their traditional model is 40 square meters, with two bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room and bathroom.

The blocks can be used to build larger structures as needed. Ease of construction and mobility sets this organization apart from others, and having a house that can be taken apart and moved is invaluable for people in unstable living situations.

Since its founding in 2010, the organization has accomplished a remarkable amount. In Guapi Cauca 2015, Conceptos Plasticos built homes for 42 displaced families. Last year, they built three shelters and four houses.

On July 14 of this year, the organization was one of five out of 2,500 organizations to win funding from the Venture, a competition for businesses providing positive social change. Conceptos Plasticos was awarded the highest amount of $300,000.

Founder Oscar Mendez states that, “We will improve all of our processes and increase our capacity. We want to replicate our business model in other countries.” This funding will help him to not only alleviate poverty in Colombia, but the money will also allow Mendez to provide his innovative housing solution to people all over the world.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr