Posts

Bolivian-Healthcare

Although the Bolivian government’s new and improved universal healthcare plan has made a considerable dent in child and maternal mortality numbers, the plan still seems to be more suited for improving statistics than the lives of rural Bolivian women.

With one of highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the Latin America, second only to Haiti, Bolivia remains one of the worst places in the world to give birth, especially in rural areas. Mortality rates have historically totaled to 390 mortalities for every 100,000 live births in central cities (like the capital, La Paz), and reach as high as 887 per 100,00 live births in rural areas, according to UNICEF.

Beginning in 1994, Bolivian government officials centered in La Paz developed a series of free healthcare plans—or, more aptly, three free service packages—intended to keep mothers and children alive past the ordeal of childbirth. The most recent addition to these packages is the “Universal Maternal and Child Heath Insurance plan (SUMI).”

Upon its creation, SUMI was lauded as the symbol of iconic change of fate for Bolivian mothers. Targeted at pregnant women and children under the age of five, the program boasted that it would cover 500 common ailments. Additionally, SUMI was the first Bolivian public health program that did not come from a presidential decree, meaning that it would have longevity through congress even as presidential power shifted.

“The system was created to fight child mortality, to fight that economic barrier that prevented the mother from having proper attention from the start,” said Dr. Dante Ergueta, who works with SUMI at the Bolivian Health Ministry, in an interview with the U.K. Guardian. “It is an icon for Bolivia and I might even say for Latin America.”

Initially, SUMI managed to cut the alarming child mortality statistics. After its introduction, Bolivia saw reduction in infant mortality between 37.7% in urban areas. Even in rural areas, the program saw a 29.9% drop in infant mortality, which, although still less than the drop in metropolitan areas, represented a significant change.

However, the effects of SUMI have been blunted, if not entirely counteracted, since this initial drop.

The seeds for this decline can be found written into SUMI itself. According to a study done by Focal, SUMI’s plan to attack statistics was limited to quick fixes. Every service that SUMI provided was a double-edged sword, all of which left the deep roots of maternal health barriers in Bolivia untouched.

Where SUMI expanded the number of ailments covered by insurance, it also drastically tightened the program’s membership requirements, restricting it to women who had given birth within the past six months and children under the age of five. Previously, Bolivian health insurance had covered all women of childbearing age as well as the general population for endemic disease. SUMI cut the general public endemic disease coverage entirely, along with several family planning services for non-pregnant women.

Focal reports that “health indicators worsened after its [SUMI’s] implementation, particularly in rural areas. Inequity in health outcomes also grew because the services of high complexity that the SUMI plan made available in urban areas never reached the segment of the population [rural, indigenous communities] that needed them most.”

This “icon for Bolivia” is perhaps one of the most stark examples of one of the most common failures in public health: the rush to address startling statistics, instead of attacking underlying socioeconomic, or even cultural, gender-based problems.

According to UNICEF, Bolivian women exist in a culturally persistent subordinate role to men. Their rates of illiteracy are significantly higher, ranging as high as 37.91%, compared to 14.42% of men. This gap also drastically decreases the number of women who are capable of participating in the workforce, giving women less access to employment-based private healthcare options.

These socioeconomic and cultural forces show that the answer to improving Bolivian maternal health is more complicated than implementing a system of health-services handouts. It is not about the number of services the state can provide; it is about changing the situations of people receiving those services.

Emma Betuel

Sources: Unicef, The Guardian, ITG, WHO, Focal
Photo: Projects Abroad

Years of Violence
The infamous FARC terrorist organization in Colombia has the potential to end its years of violence and reign of terror with probable peace talks this month.

The FARC, or the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, has been responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 people in Colombia over the last 50 years since its establishment in 1964. The terrorist group has been notorious for violently attacking both civilians and significant political figures in the country throughout the years, as means of intimidation, gaining power and generally creating havoc.

The “revolutionary” group has been seemingly unstoppable through means of military force or political means, though the Colombian government has continued its efforts to end the excessive violence. However, lately, the government has discussed a potential ceasefire from the military in the midst of “peace talks” with the group. A discussion like this has not happened since the summer of 2012.

The question is, will these peace talks be successful and how long will said ceasefire last? Ending violence at the hand of the FARC have been attempted numerous times since 1964, while no solutions have been long-term. Issues with poverty and corruption in the government have led to continuous growth in the organization over generations, and many scholars argue that these attempts at peace will once again be unsuccessful.

What does this mean for the people of Colombia, and the overall security of Latin America in general? Most of the deaths at the hand of FARC have been innocent civilians in Colombia, many of which live in poorer and less secure regions of the country. The terrorist group is infamous for invading small communities, killing and torturing people and creating massive destruction. If said peace talks are successful, the 50 years of insecurity and terror for the people of Colombia may finally come to an end.

Alexandrea Jacinto

Sources: Foreign Policy, BBC
Photo: Caribbean Digital Network

Digital_Revolution
Revolution. The word carries a tremendous amount of weight. From the Arab Spring to the American Revolution, from wars to ideas, countries rise and fall on the waves of revolutions. A new revolution is sweeping through Latin America: a digital revolution.

Latin America currently has about 232 million Internet users. This number is a sharp increase from the number of Internet users in 2005: 78.5 million. By 2017, Internet users could rise by 63 percent to 294 million.

In Mexico, Colima’s 600,000 residents have complete Internet access to all kinds of different state services and documents. The state has made health records electronic and crime reports can be filled out online, as well as filing documents for permits. To go along with this, Colima has hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots for those that do not have Internet at home.

Further to the south, Columbia and Peru are spreading broadband Internet to remote corners of the two countries. The Peruvian government is working to spread Wi-Fi to public buildings, including hospitals and schools in all of its 25 regions.

The Columbian government in Bogotá has subsidized the spread of fibre optic networks around the country to the point where nearly every town in the nation is connected. The government has also gotten rid of taxes on Smartphones, tablets and computers. Under-resourced families have been given vouchers for broadband access. In the last five years, Internet usage has increased from 16 percent to 50 percent.

The digital revolution is helping to improve education equality in Brazil. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul began a new free online program for high school students to help prepare them for a difficult national exam. Grades from the national exam dictate whether students can attend the federal universities. Students who used the service were 31 percent more likely to achieve grades high enough to enroll in the universities, and the system was so successful that 10 other states have implemented it.

Latin America is often cited as a relatively violent area of the world. Never fear, the digital revolution is helping to fix this too. Ecuador released a real-time data supplier for crime hotspots four years ago. Fast-forward to today and the homicide rate has been reduced by 48 percent, thanks to the system.

Tech start-ups have followed the digital revolution. Coupled with inspiration from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, new “technolatinas” are using the Internet in Latin America to create start-ups of their own. Some companies have used close ties with Silicon valley to register their companies in the U.S. Successful companies have the potential to bring outside investments, creating the potential for economic growth.

The spread of broadband Internet opens up “new frontiers for regional development. It can serve as a tool for reducing social and economic inequities.” However, it can also lead to more inequality. It can enable a select few to “hyper-develop,” leaving the rest in the dust. However, the risks outweigh the gains. With the potential for reduced crime, increased economic growth and a more equal education system it is little wonder the digital revolution is booming in Latin America.

Greg Baker

Sources: FT, Latin Post, ABCNews
Photo: Unitee

Family-Planning-Reduces-Poverty

Latin America and the Caribbean provide valuable examples of how family planning can reduce poverty.

Family planning involves strategies to delay childbirth, space births over time and avoid unintended pregnancies. When women and men can control the size of their families, they are more likely to have the resources to support their children.

A recent report, “Family Planning in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Achievements of 50 Years,” shares many success stories of family planning research and programs in this region.

The current contraceptive prevalence rate in this region is 74%. This is one of the highest rates within the developing world. The rest of the world can learn from success in Latin America.

With the rise in contraception use, Latin America has seen an increase in educational participation, a decrease in the infant mortality rate and a more stable economic climate.

A few of the most effective strategies include the work of dynamic NGOs with new methods of family planning, financial and technical assistance from USAID, the development of local expertise, and availability and access to research data.

The family planning strategies developed from clinic-based efforts include direct delivery of contraceptives to community-based awareness efforts involving mass media.

The use of mass media to change cultural norms and attitudes proved to be an effective strategy. The use of radio and television helped increase awareness about family planning and strengthen support. Traditionally, families in the region had many children and did not use contraception. This put a strain on limited resources. For families to accept family planning methods, this required a change in belief about how families should be created and maintained.

In Mexico, popular singers, Tatiana and Johnny, recorded songs and produced music videos that supported responsible sex. For example, the song titled “Detente” or “Wait” in English, suggesting ideas to delay childbirths or wait to have sex.

While this region of the world has achieved great success and can serve as a model for areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa, there is still work to be done. Adolescent fertility rates remain high, and young, rural women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have access to family planning resources. There is a need for continued research and commitment to reach all people.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Carolina Population Center, Carolina Population Center 2
Photo: YouTube

Organic_Farming
Over the past few years organic products have grown in popularity in mainstream America. It is now hip and cool to go organic. In the United States, the organic food industry is valued at about 27 billion dollars.

With the demand to have organic foods, some entrepreneurs have taken organic farming overseas to poverty stricken areas to provide the U.S. with many of our agricultural products. One such area is Latin America. The most common products imported from there are coffee, bananas and other fruits.

The majority of those who live in poverty in Latin America are the indigenous people. They tend to be the ones who own small farms and work the farms that produce the crops. Culturally and historically, these people have a close connection with their land, crops and the surrounding environment. Going organic is a agricultural practice they are willing to embrace because it maintains traditional methods.

By returning to the natural way to grow agriculture products, farms no longer pollute the environment with harsh chemicals and release excess carbon dioxide. Organic farming utilizes renewable sources of energy rather than fossil fuel dependent resources, for example. There is the hope that organic farming can help mitigate climate change effects that could possibly push people into poverty in the long run.

There is some doubt about how successful shifting to organic growing will be in helping raise people out of poverty. There is approximately a three-year window after switching methods  before prosperous results are seen. Many times small farmers have to take substantial loans to help pay. However, joining in on the organic campaign has proven to be very successful for Latin American organic farmers. One example is Mayorga Organics, which works with harvesting coffee beans.

Mayorga Organics works to develop opportunities for their farmers in this market. They give the resources needed to be successful, such as: education on organic markets, how to grow organic, advocacy for the protection of their farmers, as well as creating an environment of fair trade so that the farmers receive the full amount of money owed to them.

These organic corporations focus on the farmers and the their love of the land. They use sustainable and innovative methods that are increasing the yields of organic farming. With the help of these companies the small Latin American farmers can reach the organic markets. They have a source of income, one that they can live on without fear of slipping back into poverty.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: FAO, Mayorga Organics 1, Mayorga Organics 2, Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank,
Photo: Audley Travel

young_leaders_of_americaPresident Obama announces the launch of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI — to foster business, social, technological and entrepreneurial partnerships between youth in Latin America and the Caribbean and the United States — with the first round of participants beginning in 2016.

In a visit to Jamaica in April, President Obama has unveiled plans to increase opportunities for youth in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region through the YLAI fellowship, which allows young men and women from LAC countries that have vested interests in business, social entrepreneurship and technology development, to join with their counterparts in the United States. These partnerships will build the skills of the Western Hemisphere’s emerging youth population as well as providing them with opportunities that may not be available in their home countries.

ShareAmerica said, “The fellowship will develop the knowledge, skills and networking capabilities of young leaders across the Western Hemisphere. Through the initiative, we will be able to significantly expand ties between the most promising entrepreneurs and civil society activists in Latin America and the Caribbean with their counterparts in the United States.”

According to The White House, the YLAI was designed particularly for the large youth population in the LAC region. Approximately 58 percent of the region’s population is under 35, and many LAC countries have a youth population of at least 70 percent. Unfortunately, many young people do not get to accomplish their dreams of becoming the next big entrepreneur or tech developer due to the prevalence of unemployment, limited access to jobs and education and poverty. These harsh realities often result in young people turning to illicit activities to produce income, which greatly reduces their chances of ever entering the workforce.

However, YLAI is working to address these issues by allowing a group of 250 ambitious young people to participate in a comprehensive program that will give them specialized training in their chosen field, either entrepreneurial or social/civil development. Similar to The Young Leaders of Africa Initiative launched in 2010, YLAI will also allow participants to connect to young people in the U.S with their same goals, and work to develop a stronger system of transnational ties.

The White House said, “The preponderance of the fellowships will take place at universities, incubators and non-governmental organizations across the United States, while follow-on exchanges will send Americans to Latin America and the Caribbean to continue the collaboration. YLAI fellows will receive ongoing support through a continuum of networking, mentorship, and investment opportunities.”

YLAI fellows will begin their fellowships with a comprehensive six-week training as well as becoming fully immersed with a social or business organization that will provide mentoring and networking opportunities. The fellowship will conclude with a summit in Washington D.C, where participants will continue to build on the connections that they have made throughout the fellowship.

Seventy million dollars has been committed to the YLAI and a pilot program has already been launched that includes a total of 24 participants who were selected by U.S embassies. Though the status of participants is unknown, such programs as the YLAI demonstrate the growing need to invest in the youth population of the world, so that they may contribute to the emerging world market.

– Candice Hughes

Sources: Devex, Share America 1, Share America 2, White House,
Photo: Share America

paraguay
Paraguay is one of the most malnourished countries in Latin America and the developing world. Although the region as a whole has made progress in reducing malnutrition, Paraguay is among the Latin American countries that have made little to no progress, especially with regard to chronic malnutrition.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.55 percent of deaths that occur in Paraguay are a result of malnutrition. Additionally, 32 percent of the population in Paraguay lives under the poverty lines, while 17 percent of the population is considered to be in extreme poverty. Among those populations, food insecurity is more prominent and varies from household to household.

Of those living in poverty, 25.5 percent are undernourished. Additionally, statistics reveal that 60,000 of the 150,000 children born in Paraguay will be born in impoverished households. A 2013 U.N. report states that Paraguay is one of the countries with the highest percentage of malnourished and food deprived people in Latin America.

There are several factors contributing to malnutrition in regions across Latin America, more specifically Paraguay. Environmental, social, cultural and economic factors as well as biological factors affect malnutrition in the region.

The most vulnerable to food insecurity are those who do not have the means to access a consistent food source.

The environmental impact on food security is most severe in rural areas. According to a UNICEF report, an estimated 50 percent of nutritional problems occur in homes found in rural parts of the country. Additionally, malnutrition is highest in parts of the world where agriculture can be easily affected by the environment. Natural disasters impact agriculture sources essential for survival.

Undernourished people are often found in homes without clean water or basic sanitation. In addition, disease is a significant contributing factor to malnutrition in Latin American countries such as Paraguay. Contracting infectious diseases can cause diarrhea, dehydration and other health problems that affect a person’s well-being and can lead to severe undernourishment.

Aside from environmental factors, social, cultural and economic factors also influence malnutrition in Paraguay.

It is known that malnutrition is closely connected to poverty; therefore, economic factors that affect malnutrition stem from low income households and limited access to a sustainable food source.

Additionally, lack of education also contributes to malnutrition. The less educated people are, especially mothers, the more vulnerable they become to their economic situation. Education is an investment that will increase income in the long run; however, without the necessary resources and income for an education, the population cannot have access.

Biological factors also seem to play a role in malnutrition in Paraguay. Poor maternal nutrition is a significant issue that leads to malnutrition in children. Low birth weights and undernourished children are a result of deficiencies experienced during gestation. With continued food insecurity and prior biological factors, children often times experience stunted growth and other health problems.

Eradicating malnutrition may be a slow process, but with continued efforts that focus on rural development as well as sanitation, water and health improvements, Paraguay will begin to see progress in reducing malnutrition.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: World Health Rankings, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, The Argentina Independent, World health Organization, UNICEF
Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran

How_Do_Remittances_Help_Poor_Communities
Immigrants come to work in the U.S. from around the world, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean. A lot of foreign workers send money back to their families in their home countries and these remittances play an important role in alleviating poverty and helping poor communities develop.

The economies of developing countries in the western hemisphere are incredibly dependent on these remittance flows. Remittances to Haiti account for 25 percent of the country’s GDP. Remittances to Honduras account for nearly 20 percent and remittances to El Salvador account for more than 15 percent of GDP. Remittances to Guyana and Nicaragua also account for more than 15 percent of GDP.

These remittance flows serve as the primary source of income for many poor families in the region. They allow them to buy basic necessities such as food and clothing. Many families use the remittances to invest and better their lives. They use them to build a new house or to expand their business or start a new one. In many poor communities in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, the entire economy depends on these remittance flows. Remittances are used to finance all local investment and construction in many villages.

Around $60 billion worth of remittances are sent back to Latin America every year. More than one-fifth, around $12 billion, goes to Central America. This is four times more than the amount of development aid provided by the World Bank and foreign donors. It’s also three times more than the total amount of foreign direct investment in the region.

Since the economies of so many countries in the region depend so heavily on remittances, they are very intertwined with the U.S. economy. During the recession, the economic downturn spread through Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico as remittance flows decreased. This had a major impact and resulted in several years of slow growth for many countries in Central America. Since the U.S. economy has recovered, remittance flows have increased and economies in the region have started growing again.

This highlights the importance that immigration plays in poverty reduction. These remittance flows create new jobs, infrastructure projects and opportunities for business expansion that are helping poor communities pull themselves out of poverty. This shows that a more open and structured immigration policy in the U.S. could potentially have a huge impact in the fight against global poverty.

– Matt Lesso 

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The World Bank, Americas Quarterly, Lonely Planet Guatemala
Photo: Flickr

Latin_America
According to the U.N., poverty-reduction in Latin America has hit a snag.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, or ECLAC, recently put out an annual report, showing that 28 percent of the region’s population was living in poverty in 2014. Of those 167 million people, 12 percent were living in extreme poverty.

Economic growth in Latin America has slowed recently. The region registered 1.1 percent growth in 2014—its smallest growth rate since 2009. Alicia Barcena, head of the ECLAC, blamed ineffective policy for much of the region’s woes.

“It seems the recovery from the international financial crisis was not taken advantage of sufficiently to strengthen social protection policies that reduce vulnerability from economic cycles,” said Barcena.

ECLAC has called on regional governments to put mechanisms in place that would improve the region’s resilience in the face of global economic downturns.

“Now, in a scenario of a possible reduction in available fiscal resources, more efforts are needed to fortify these policies, establishing solid foundations with the aim of fulfilling the commitments of the post-2015 development agenda,” said Barcena.

While the regional poverty rate has stagnated, some countries, such as Paraguay (from 49.6 percent in 2011 to 40.7 percent in 2013) and Chile (10.9 percent to 7.8 percent), have made significant progress in reducing their poverty rates. Peru (25.8 percent to 23.9 percent), Colombia (32.9 percent to 30.7 percent) and El Salvador (45.3 percent to 40.9 percent) also made positive progress.

ECLAC’s latest report also showed that while the income-based poverty rate has languished in recent years, multidimensional poverty has indeed fallen significantly since 2005.

According to the report, the percentage of the Latin American population living in multidimensional poverty dropped from 39 percent in 2005 to 28 percent in 2012.

Despite the current state of relative economic stagnation, preliminary ECLAC projections for 2015 suggest that there is cause for optimism, forecasting a 2.2 percent regional increase.

The ECLAC’s Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States will be held in Costa Rica, January 28-29.

– Parker Carroll

Sources: Andina, El Universal, Mercopress, Reuters, Telesur 1, Telesur 2,
Photo: Huffington Post

education_in_ecuador
Despite ongoing debates, the education system in Ecuador has shown improvement. Education of children who live in rural regions and promoting a bilingual education system are some of the greatest concerns moving forward. Currently, the predominant language in the schools is Spanish; however, there is an interest from governments to teach different languages and popularize them.

Education in Ecuador started to become a focus of the government in the 1980s when the literacy rate and accessibility in rural areas was very low.  Since then, there has been a decrease in the illiteracy rates for both rural and urban areas. In addition there has also been an increase in the number of children enrolling for secondary and higher education. For children ages six to 14, Ecuador has made school more attainable by offering free and compulsory education, making it easier on the parents as well.

Another improvement has been the standard at which teachers are being recruited. The increased enrollment in secondary and higher education shows that now people are interested in furthering their education. With an increase in higher education, teaching candidates are coming out of teaching programs from universities, giving schools a wide variety of skills to choose from.

Although the enrollment rates in higher education has increased,  according to the ministry of Education in Ecuador, only 10 percent of children attend schools in rural areas.

There have been big changes made for Ecuador in the past 30 years or so, but there are still areas of opportunity to improve upon. The recent improvements have assisted the country in training future professionals to make them educated employees and to contribute to the overall improvement of the country.

– Brooke Smith

Sources: Ecuador.com, Maps of World
Photo: Compassion