Bolivia is one of Latin America’s poorest countries. Still, Bolivia’s government has ambitious development plans and its constitution declares the right to adequate food for its citizens. However, even with the government’s work toward self-sufficiency, hunger in Bolivia remains a major problem. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Bolivia to help understand the situation better.
Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Bolivia
- Approximately 39 percent of Bolivians live in poverty, one of the highest rates in South America. The Bolivian government’s work toward a stronger economy has helped reduce poverty from 59 percent, but poverty rates remain significantly higher in rural areas.
- Most of Bolivia’s people live in rural villages. Of Bolivia’s almost 11 million people, more than half live in rural communities where poverty rates are the highest.
- According to the World Food Programme (WFP), “Access is the main cause of food insecurity in Bolivia.” Especially in rural communities, citizens lack access to a lot of resources, including food, water and infrastructure. Action Against Hunger (AAH), an NGO working in many poverty-stricken countries, reports that 75 percent of Bolivian households lack regular access to food.
- Rural households heavily depend on agriculture and eat only what they can grow themselves. Many rural people are peasant farmers with small plots that have little to no access to infrastructure or other food sources. Therefore, people often go hungry during lean seasons. Frequent natural disasters can also make farming an unreliable source of income.
- Nearly two-thirds, 63 percent, of households in Bolivia do not earn enough money to afford sufficient amounts of food, leaving the households unable to provide the minimum caloric intake for healthy living.
- Bolivia has the highest level of undernourishment in South America at 15.9 percent, meaning that a substantial portion of the population does not have enough food or eat enough nutrients.
- Approximately 27.1 percent of children in Bolivia are stunted, meaning they are too short for their ages. Stunting is a product of undernourishment and malnutrition. Stunting persists in adult populations, with nearly 10 percent of women aged 15-49 measuring less than 4 feet 9 inches (145 centimeters).
- Approximately 60 percent of children are anemic as a result of malnutrition. The high percentage of anemic children indicates chronic malnutrition in Bolivia.
- Many poor families eat insufficient diets based on cheap carbohydrates such as rice. Carbohydrates contain a lot of starches and fats, which often lead to obesity if not eaten in moderation. Approximately one-third of women aged 15-49 are overweight in Bolivia due to poor diets.
- Hunger in Bolivia not only affects children physically but it also affects their education. Many children have long walks to and from school, which are especially hard on empty stomachs. Sergio Torres, the head of WFP’s Bolivia operations, said, “When children arrive at school hungry after walking up to three kilometers, they cannot concentrate or assimilate what is being taught.”
Organizations Working to Address the Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Bolivia
Like poverty, hunger in Bolivia is steadily decreasing thanks to government work and foreign aid. AAH has helped 12,651 Bolivians in 2017 alone. Among those helped, 7,672 people’s lives were changed by nutrition and health programs, 1,470 were helped by water, sanitation and hygiene programs and 3,509 people were shown food security and livelihood programs.
WFP also does a lot of work in Bolivia, targeting three goals: enhancing emergency preparedness, improving enrolment and attendance of primary schoolchildren and reducing child malnutrition. Furthermore, The United Nations is working with the government of Bolivia to ensure food in schools for children. This is based on a law passed in 2015 that guarantees students complimentary school meals.
These organizations, along with the government’s commitment to a citizens right to adequate food, are working to help alleviate poverty and hunger in Bolivia. Although they have a lot of work to attain food security in the country, the efforts are being made and must continue.
– Kathryn Quelle