Poverty in Paraguay
Paraguay is a lower-middle class country with a population of 6.6 million people. The population is mostly concentrated in the eastern region. In 2009, a third of the population was living below the poverty line and about 20 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty. Even though poverty in Paraguay has decreased in urban areas, rural poverty is still prevalent.

Over the years, the agriculture sector, which is where the country’s economic potential comes from, has been rapidly expanding. This is due to high international commodity prices and the demands of agricultural and livestock products.

The agricultural sector has increasingly been on the lands of large-scale commercial farming operations. However, about ninety percent of all holdings are still in the hands of small-scale family farmers. There are high levels of inequality in the country. This inequality is the main reason for the devastating poverty in Paraguay.

In the late ’90s, less than 10 percent of the population owned and controlled 75 percent of the land. This left most of the rural population without land and living in extreme poverty. Furthermore, 46.6 percent of all income went to the top 10 percent of the population.

To this day, poverty in rural areas is still at an all-time high. About half of the rural population is living in poverty, and women and indigenous people are affected the most. Some of the main causes of the prevalent poverty in Paraguay are the following:

• Piteous access to land, markets and financial services
Deterioration of natural resources and loss of soil fertility
• Limited access to appropriate technologies and quality technical assistance
• Insufficient productive assets at the farm level
• Absence of essential public goods and services
• High levels of dependency on commercial agriculture and agribusiness

In 2013, Paraguay grew economically by 13 percent, however, most of the country did not experience the recorded growth. About thirty percent of the population was still living in poverty. In fact, Paraguay was at the bottom among the South American countries in decreasing poverty over the last decade.

However, advancements have been made as Paraguay is getting the help it needs to improve its poverty condition. The World Bank has approved a $100 million loan to help improve Paraguay’s social welfare programs and help the poor.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

Throughout the last year, the rural population in Paraguay has had an increasingly tough fight for clean water. The country’s economic woes have trickled down to the most vulnerable populations, affecting clean water accessibility for a majority of people. Paraguay’s water crisis has even affected animals living along the river region. Here are three things you need to know about the water crisis in Paraguay.

Three Facts About the Water Crisis in Paraguay

  1. The water crisis has been affecting animals. Infrastructures for water strongly affect resident water collection. On-and-off droughts in the regions within Paraguay also play an important role. This type of on-and-off seasonal drought not also affects the human water supply, but also heavily affects animals, especially those living in the lake region.This past summer, the extended drought along the Pilcomayo River became an ecological crisis, leaving 435 miles worth of land completely dry. The water crisis in Paraguay left masses of the population of animals dead. According to National Geographic, 98 percent of caimans and 80 percent of capybaras were left dead.The river running through Argentina often faces severe drought each year, sparking the creation of the 1991 Water Distribution agreement between both countries. The agreement says that both countries would share the water equally every year through infrastructures built between the borders of each country. The mass amount of animal death is due to negligence and lack of commitment to this agreement.
  2. Drinkable water is hard to find. For the average household among Paraguay’s rural population, drinking water is a rarity. Forty percent of Paraguay’s population of 6.9 million is rural. In 2015, the Inter-American Development Bank reported that the water crisis in Paraguay affects around 870,000 people lacking drinkable water.In the city of Chuco, which has a population of 53,000 people, only 15.4 percent of people have a water supply network that reaches their homes. Only half of the nation’s poorest homes have access to drinkable water.Life for the indigenous population in Paraguay is even harder regarding to access to water. Sixty percent of indigenous households use rainwater as their primary source of water and are not connected to any sources of water.
  3. Rural and Ingenious People Have Little Access to Sanitation. Overall, one million people do not have access to sanitation, as part of the water crisis in Paraguay. This population consists of mostly rural and indigenous people. Only three percent of indigenous people have access to sanitation. Only 10 percent of the poorest households in the nation have access to sewage treatment.Luckily, sanitation is improving in Paraguay with the assistance of the inter-American Development Bank, who disbursed a loan to the nation of $40 million dollars to support the building of infrastructures to allow access to sanitation of rural and indigenous households.The Development Promotion Fund from Spain also donated $20 million dollars to this plight, specifically supporting constructing draining systems for 380,000 residents in rural areas. This project will connect 7,000 people to sanitation networks.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

The Paraguayan nonprofit organization Po in collaboration with Thalmic Labs are using 3D technology to provide MyPo, an advanced type of prosthetic, to low-income people in the country.

According to the co-founder of Po, Eric Dijkhunis, there is a high percentage of limb amputations in the country because of unsafe work conditions and frequent motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately, less than one percent of people who have limb amputations are able to afford a prosthetic. Po claims it can make more than 100 3D printed prosthetics at the cost of one traditional model.

MyPo 3D Printing

3D printed prosthetics have many advantages over traditional ones. 3D printing allows those in need to receive their limb faster and cheaper. Cost is especially challenging for Paraguayans. Just one traditional upper limb prosthetics on average cost between $30,00 to $80,000. Even more problematic is the fact that prosthetics are not a one-time purchase. Prosthetics must be replaced after several years. Also, parents of children with an amputation must buy different prosthetics as the child grows and develops. However, a 3D printed limbs can cost less than $200.

Initially, Po only produced basic 3D printed prosthetics that could be personalized. Patients are encouraged to choose the colors and the design on their model. Recently, Po paired up with the Thalmic Labs to make the MyPo, a 3D printed prosthetics that uses bioelectric technology. The device moves based on bioelectric signals sent from the amputee’s muscles. Additionally, the MyPo can be paired with Thalmic Labs’ Myo armband which allows human movement to control electronic devices. Not only is it functional, but the MyPo is comfortable and easy to use even for those who are not tech savvy. It will be sold at a relatively cheap price and a portion will be subsidized by private donations. They are currently trying to raise $50,000 for their Indiegogo campaign and have already reached $35,000 with 160 donators.

As of November of this year, five people are testing the MyPo. Po-partner organizations are duplicating the MyPo model in Argentina and Brazil. Dijkhunis encourages people in other countries to use this technology, he says “We believe that these technologies applied to social impact are not only disrupting an industry, but are rewriting the rules of the game for the future of prosthetics, and handing the power of innovation to people all around the world.”

Paraguay is not the only country with such a high volume of amputees who cannot afford a prosthetic, but the MyPo model can provide millions around the world an affordable and advanced prosthetic.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Unlocking Accessibility for People with Disabilities in Paraguay
Through improving labor access, Paraguay has made recent advancements to become a more inclusive and equal society. Although only 15% of people worldwide have disabilities, an estimated 80% of them are out of work. Fundacion Saraki is at the forefront of finding employment and thus improving the lives of people with disabilities in Paraguay. Its first step was to work toward compliance with a congressional law providing labor inclusion in public institutions.

Congress agreed to grant the foundation an agreement for the “Effective Labor Inclusion” of those with disabilities in both the private and public sectors. Through this, Fundacion Saraki has begun to work toward increasing access to jobs with companies such as McDonald’s and Supermercados España, a Paraguayan supermarket chain. Both companies recently hired interns with disabilities who were later offered jobs with the companies in Capiata and San Lorenzo, two cities near the capital, Asunción.

The foundation has also worked to improve building access. Working with architecture students from local universities, the foundation is working toward raising building standards in the country. Students inspect the buildings and make recommendations to the companies housed there on how to improve their construction to accommodate disabled workers and customers. Thus, this solution is an improvement for both those with disabilities who can enjoy increased services and the companies who serve them in increasing their consumer base. They have also worked toward improving bus conditions to increase the ease of riding for everyone.

Through cooperation with USAID and the National Democratic Institute, the foundation has reached an agreement with Paraguay’s Superior National Electoral Tribunal to ensure improved participation of those with disabilities in the country’s upcoming election in November 2015. These organizations have recently published a manual titled “Equal Access: How To Include Persons with Disabilities in Elections and Political Processes.” Through this publication and continuing efforts on the part of all involved organizations, previous obstacles that prevented disabled people from voting in elections will be removed. Because those who are disabled are often also poor and marginalized, their voices in the political process are crucial.

“We are trying to work the government because in Paraguay disabilities have not been a priority, and we hope to have a greater impact on the private industry as well,” said Fundacion Saraki’s Executive Director Maria Jose Cabezudo Cuevas. Indeed, improving the quality of life and increasing opportunities for those with disabilities supports success and creates a more inclusive, fairer society for everyone.

– Jenny Wheeler

Sources: USAID, National Democratic Institute
Photo: USAID

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

paraguay floods
Rivers of trash flood the streets. Cats, dogs, chickens and hogs are stranded on rooftops. Over 15,000 people are displaced. The rains keep adding to the flooding in Paraguay and water levels keep rising, pushing people out of their homes and into improvised campsites in plazas and parks. The Red Cross estimates that over 200,000 people have been affected by the heavy flooding. The persistent deluge is destroying crops, hindering transportation and compromising homes.

The areas most affected are those that border the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers, specifically the departments of Ñeembucú, Alto Parana, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay. Officials report that water levels have risen almost seven feet above normal. If the rivers continue to rise and overflow the surrounding areas, Paraguay will be face to face with an environmental disaster.

The waters have already overwhelmed the Cateura trash dump-slum, which is home to the famous Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, whose characteristic instruments are crafted from salvaged materials found in the garbage dump. The floodwaters are carrying waste throughout the already polluted streets of Paraguay.

Residents of the Chacarita, an impoverished barrio nestled between Asunción’s commercial center and the Paraguay River, have had to leave their homes and relocate to tent camps on higher ground. Many families had to leave their pets behind, representing an emotional and economic loss. Not only cats and dogs, but also chickens, ducks, hogs and horses are left to fend for themselves amid the rising waters.

Paraguayan officials have issued an environmental alert over floodwaters approaching a dumpsite for toxic waste. The Congress and Senate are working on allocating $1 million to contamination prevention, and the Paraguayan government has already provided $3 million in food aid to assist displaced families.

The Paraguay Red Cross is heavily involved with relief efforts and water sanitation, in coordination with the government of Paraguay. The U.N. has also assisted with disaster assessments.

Red Cross disaster management delegate Omar Robinson states, “Our main concerns are focused on what will happen tomorrow when the population sees the receding waters and realize there are no crops left and the State will have to at some point suspend distribution of food aid. This can cause a serious crisis for the population.”

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Red Cross, TVNZ, BBC, Latin American Herald Tribune
Photo: BBC

After intense rain, flooding in Paraguay has destroyed crops, destroyed homes, and blocked roads. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated so far, most of which are sleeping in improvised tents and makeshift settlements. Those most affected by the flooding are people living near the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers. The National Secretariat for Emergencies estimates that the level of the Paraguay River is likely to rise by another 3 inches in the next week.

President Horacio Cartes expresses his concern for his citizens and his determination to support everyone, saying, “We won’t be happy or satisfied as long as we’re going through this situation.”

The Paraguayan government has spent more than 3 million on food aid to assist the people affected by the flood.

Governor Carlos Silva stated Friday that the United Nations and Red Cross experts have evaluated the situation, and the International Federation for the Red Cross has already dedicated 275,000 Swiss francs through their Disaster Relief Emergency fund. The governor believes that aid from other countries will be sent soon as well.

The flooding in Paraguay has also affected Brazil and northern Argentina. In Brazil, 11 people have already died, and 560,000 people have been affected in some way. In North Argentina, in the province of Misiones especially, roads and bridges have been damaged, and thousands have been cut off from the rest of the world. In both locations the heavy rainfall is expected to continue.

In this particular region of South America, flooding is frequent, and similar intense flooding happened just last year, lasting for almost 2 months. In central and southern Chile, although a bit further away from the other region, is also being negatively affected by flooding

Flooding has become all too common in recent years, and scientists believe it is due to rising sea levels from global climate change. When sea levels rise globally, areas with rivers are more susceptible to flooding.

Although people in developing countries carry a smaller carbon footprint than those in developed ones, flooding and other natural disasters negatively affect the poor at a higher and more dangerous rate.

The lower quality of infrastructure, inadequate health care and the inability to recover from unexpected situations result in a similar disaster affecting the poor much more severely than the rich. In 1998, when Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras, poor households lost 15%-20% of their assets, while the richer population only lost about 3%.

Another way flooding effects poor areas unequally is through the economy afterwards. In poorer populations, citizens rely on farming and tourism as two main sources of income. With massive amounts of flooding, both are likely to be damaged.

The flooding in Paraguay is expected to continue throughout this next week, and the full damage of the floods will not be known until it completely stops.

– Courtney Prentice

Sources: BBC News, The New York Times, USA Today, Floodlist, The Nature Conservancy, The Economist
Photo: Plus America

The Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson met in Asunción last Friday with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes to discuss regional issues covering topics such as transnational crime, education and investment. Following the meeting, Jacobson highlighted the “common perspective” of the two administrations regarding transnational crime.

Authorities in Paraguay are concerned about Brazilian drug cartels operating in their country, which use Paraguay as a holding source after shipping in cocaine and marijuana from the Andean region.

Both countries emphasized their similar worldview on the local, regional and worldwide level. Roberta Jacobson stressed their cooperation on democracy, transparency, education and economic development.

Increasing cooperation on issues like education is important for Paraguay, where more than half of third graders cannot solve simple addition problems. Programs by the Inter-American Development Bank use comparative techniques to improve education standards.

In particular, one study compared the teaching techniques of Paraguayan teachers with techniques used in the United States. The study uncovered that most of the teachers in Paraguay made their pupils copy from the blackboard instead of actually solving math problems.

In Brazil, Jacobson visited the Minerao stadium in Belo Horizonte, where the US soccer team is set to play during the upcoming World Cup. Jacobson also discussed educational relations between Brazil and the U.S. and opened an Education USA office in Belo Horizonte. The Education USA office is intended to increase educational cooperation between the two countries by providing information about US colleges and universities to international applicants, thereby increasing international student enrolment within the U.S.

Education USA is headed by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, along with the new program “100K Strong in the Americas,” designed to increase Latin American student enrollment in the U.S. to 100,000 and American student enrollment in Latin America to 100,000 by the year 2020.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: Merco Press, La Nacion, Shanghai Daily, Inter-American Development Bank
Photo: Guanajuato


What does a word leader look like? Presidents, executives, members of Congress, and those with major publicity are probably the first people that come to mind.

Yet there are some leaders that don’t get this same attention. These leaders are in the background, changing communities one step at a time and building life long bonds to international cultures that can’t be diminished.

These leaders are the young students of the Amigos de Las Americas organization. Founded in 1965, Amigos stresses the importance of leaders and advocates out in the communities today. Developing leadership and cultural skills, Amigos sends high school and college students out into international communities, where developed skills are used to implement change in health and education practices.

The community service projects that Amigos have been involved in have a profound impact on the people of Latin America. In just 48 years of operation, Amigos has administered nearly 8 million immunizations, given 63,904 medical screenings and planted nearly 300,000 trees in numerous communities of Latin America. They have constructed health facilities, homes and community centers, as well as nearly 38,000 restrooms.

The influence this organization has on Latin America can’t be overstated, and students have had an overwhelming response. Over two dozen chapters have opened up in America, including a large chapter in Austin. Eighteen states in America host these chapters and are involved in the Amigos organization.

Amigos have already begun planning ahead to the summer projects of 2014. Some of the places where students will participate include Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. The organization accepts donations on their website to help fund these trips and other projects. For more information on how to apply for one of these trips, visit

There are no limits to becoming a leader. Make a difference now.

– William Norris

Sources: Amigos de las Americas, Austin Amigos
Photo: Amigos de las Americas

Boom and Bust in Paraguay
Numbers can be misleading. Listen to government economists in Paraguay and they’ll paint a picture of an economy whose growth reached 13% this year, making it the fastest-growing country in the Americas. But what won’t be forthcoming is an explanation of why 30% of the population of the fastest-growing country in the Americas still lives in poverty.

The trouble is that the country’s growth is limited to a small percentage of the wealthy. The majority of the economy’s growth is driven by highly mechanized agriculture and the export of cash crops like soy and corn. However, modernized agricultural methods mean fewer jobs created for the lower classes, and 77% of arable land in Paraguay is controlled by 1% of landowners. This results in the vast majority of the income fueling the country’s growth belonging to a small elite class.

And this wealth disparity is only increasing. Social spending is minimal, and Paraguay ranks near the bottom for poverty reduction among South American countries. Part of this is due to inefficient, or completely absent, taxation. Paraguay only introduced an income tax this year, and tax collection only corresponds to about 18% of GDP, a percentage that is lower than African nations like Congo and Chad.

So economic inequality increases, even as Paraguay’s economy appears to be booming. It’s an unsustainable system though. Inevitably, social inequality will act as a brake on economic growth by slowing the development of markets and limiting investment opportunities for the poor. It will take the government realizing it though. Or at least acknowledging the issue. Government statistics report unemployment to be at less than 6%, while unofficial sources claim that up to 50% of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed in low-wage jobs.

Sustainable growth requires growth at all levels. Not a short-sighted view that creates a boom, but inevitably leads to a bust.

– David Wilson

Source: The New York Times
Photo: MercoPress