Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Bolivia
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. Approximately 60 percent of children are anemic as a result of malnutrition. The high percentage of anemic children indicates chronic malnutrition in Bolivia.
  9. 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.
  10. 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
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty and Inequality in BoliviaIn 2009, poverty and inequality in Bolivia were some of the highest in South America. Extreme poverty rates were roughly 40 percent and the poorest 10 percent received only 0.5 percent of the total national income.

There was a sharp turnaround between 2004 and 2014, according to the World Bank. Economic growth averaged 4.9 percent annually, moderate poverty rates dropped from 59 to 39 percent, and inequality plummeted. Poverty and inequality in Bolivia began to wane.


Fighting Poverty and Inequality in Bolivia


It was not until 2006, a year after the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, that government commitment to economic growth and poverty reduction began to drastically improve. Morales increased spending on health, education, and poverty reduction programs by 45 percent between 2005 and 2006.

On July 22nd, 2017, President Evo Morales declared Bolivia completely independent from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Spurring this independence are the improvements achieved by Morales’s government. Since his election, inflation has run below four percent each year, basic consumption goods have been at a surplus, extreme poverty has fallen to 17 percent and the richest 10 percent of the country, which used to earn 128 times more than the poorest, now only earns about 38 times as much.

What’s more, as Francisco Toro writes, “Bolivia was running budget surpluses every year between 2006 and 2014. This allowed it to draw down the public sector’s debt, which fell from 83 percent of GDP in 2003 to just 26 percent in 2014, even as Bolivia built up its international reserves dramatically, from $1.7 billion in 2005 to $15.1 billion at the end of the boom in 2014.”

Much of this had to do with the burgeoning natural resources in the country. Export revenue, in the decade following the appointment of Morales, grew by six percent contributing to the impressive reduction of poverty an inequality in Bolivia.

Independence from the World Bank and IMF marks a new era for Bolivia. Its unprecedented economic improvements and reduction of poverty and inequality are a victory for the fight against poverty. The question is, will the world follow suit?

Joseph Dover

Photo: Pixabay

poverty in bolivia
According to UNICEF, poverty in Bolivia is among the worst in South America. Economic growth and opportunities to make a living are most commonly found in urban areas because the more citizens in a setting, the more consumers there are. This makes it difficult however for indigenous farmers, inhabitants of more remote areas with fewer people, to market their products and provide for their families.

For the vast majority of citizens in Bolivia, this proves to be a major issue: 60% of Bolivians live below the poverty line. In rural areas, the numbers are even more dramatic. Three out of every four people living in these areas suffer from poverty. Because of this, Bolivia the poorest country in South America.

One reason for the extreme poverty lies in the geography of Bolivia. Undeveloped roads and infrastructure make up a vast portion of the country, with a majority of the land inhabited by indigenous citizens. This makes it difficult for farmers living in these areas to market their products and travel to sell them, which in turn impacts their families and the communities they live in.

For the farmers of Bolivia, the recent visit by the World Bank’s President to the country represented a unique opportunity. The fact that Jim Yong Kim recognized the need for economic growth and food security was important to the rural citizens of the poorest South American country. A World Bank agreement with the Government of Bolivia plans to promote the Andean marketable products that the indigenous people have to offer. This will get the people of Bolivia involved in national markets, boosting job growth and the economy.

Bolivians are finally being given opportunities to make a living through improved  economic stability and job growth.

– William Norris

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, The World Bank
Photo: Bioversity International

Etta Turner was 16 years old when she traveled to Bolivia as an International Rotary exchange student in 2002. Known for her compassion and commitment to social justice, the teen was prepared to provide for the less fortunate and help them change their lives. What was supposed to be a year away from her home and family in the States, however, turned into a lifetime when Turner was tragically killed in a bus accident.

The following year, in 2003, Turner’s friends and family founded Etta Projects, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the life and service of Turner. The organization works with the people of Montero, Bolivia, helping members of the community lead sustainable lives and achieve improved health conditions. Etta Projects supports projects that provide clean water, healthy food, quality education and stable income.

In the western hemisphere, Bolivia is the second poorest country after Haiti, with nearly 70 percent of its population living in poverty. About 23 percent of the population lives on less than $1 a day and 42 percent on less than $2 a day. Furthermore, about 90 percent of Bolivia’s children attend primary school, but only for a year or less: the average literacy rate of a 16-year-old Bolivian is at the third-grade level.

Etta Projects is dedicated to changing these statistics and helping the people of Bolivia. The organization is unique, however, in that it does not simply send money or resources to Bolivia. Rather, it connects with the Bolivian people to understand what they need and teaches them how to personally meet those needs.

To address and eliminate poverty in Bolivia, Etta Projects provides forums in which members of the community can identify their own problems and create plans to solve them. The organization forms strong, fundamental relationships with the communities it helps and the local governments that run them. They use their own resources and the available resources of the community to empower the communities to tackle their problems and issues.

The organization has five main projects: safe water and sanitation, health, nutrition, leadership and U.S. community outreach. Etta Projects is making a lasting difference in many Bolivian lives by listening to community needs, providing resources to meet those needs and leaving the community with valuable skills to lead sustainable lives. Miss Turner’s legacy of compassion and social justice absolutely lives on in the mission of Etta Projects.

Sarah Sheppard

Sources: Etta 1, Etta 2, Etta 3
Photo: Doctors Without Borders

Six out of every 10 people in rural Bolivia live below the poverty line. In 2011, the World Bank Group launched its Community Investment in Rural Areas (PICAR) initiative in Bolivia, seeking to broaden impoverished rural access “to basic and productive infrastructure.”

Thus far, the project has maintained an effective track record, financing 612 sub-projects as of April 2015, including water and sanitation, irrigation, infrastructure and livestock protection initiatives. These sub-projects have a 75 percent completion rate, impacting 132,219 rural Bolivian inhabitants. The World Bank estimates that the project will surpass all target numbers, impacting more than 35,000 rural households in the country’s poorest communities.

After a successful start, the World Bank Group has extended an additional $60 million credit on top of the original $40 million loan for PICAR’s implementation. The funding increase is anticipated to facilitate the implementation of poverty reduction and rural development initiatives in 750 new communities, also providing 120 communities with a second round of grants.

By increasing funding, the World Bank Group expects PICAR to positively impact an additional 200,000 rural, primarily indigenous Bolivians, bringing PICAR’s number of beneficiaries to an estimated 350,000.

Along with indigenous groups, rural women are most strongly affected by poverty. Impoverished people face greater levels of food insecurity, limited access to basic services and depressed economic opportunities.

PICAR has been designed to take into account the importance of providing economic opportunities and necessary services to rural women, with 40 percent of sub-projects prioritized and implemented under female directive. The World Bank also reports that at the community level, PICAR has helped to develop 660 female leaders.

“We expect that at least 45 percent of PICAR beneficiaries will be women,” World Bank Resident Representative in Bolivia Nicola Pontara said, “with at least 20 percent being female heads of household, the most vulnerable group among the poor.”

Handing over the reins of agency to those most impacted by poverty is a common theme. PICAR functions by providing communities with financial resources to meet the issues the community members identify with solutions they define based on small projects, completed with local labor and materials.

Through direct transfers of resources to the communities in which the funds will be invested, PICAR seeks to give Bolivia’s most impoverished regions the capital and support to not only participate in, but actually manage their own advancement.

Alberto Rodriguez, World Bank Country Director for Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, spoke on this aspect of empowerment: “[Bolivia’s most vulnerable communities] are able to search for collective solutions to their basic and productive needs, lead projects and manage their own resources, enabling them to control their own development.”

Although Bolivia still faces significant challenges — 30 percent of the population lives in poverty — the country has taken strides toward economic growth. With assistance and initiatives like PICAR, substantial poverty reduction promises to continue.

Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF
Photo: World Bank

education in boliviaEducation in Bolivia appears to be lacking: one in every seven children in Bolivia does not complete primary school, and the majority of Bolivians never go on to secondary school. In fact, over one million Bolivians over the age of 15 are illiterate. This lack of education contributes to the overall poverty Bolivians face. What factors are contributing to this lack of education? Here are the top four:

    1. Classes are mainly taught in Spanish, but some children learned to speak Quechua and Aymara at home. Many children, especially those from rural areas, cannot understand what is being taught. Being taught a second language in school is also not typical. It is easy to see why kids would become discouraged and decide to drop-out.
    2. Due to widespread poverty and not prioritizing education, schools can be very run-down with little to no proper classroom materials. While there is a lack of resources in Bolivia in general, schools are ranked at the bottom when it comes to addressing the country’s needs.
    3. The poverty in Bolivia also affects the teachers—they often go on strike to protest for higher wages and other related issues. This leaves children without teachers for sometimes days or even weeks at a time.
    4. The primary reason for a child not being in school and the shrinking literacy rate in Bolivia is poverty. Children in urban areas are able to go to school on average for 9.4 years, while those in rural locations only make it on average for 4.2 years. Many children have to work and help support their impoverished family rather than go to school.

Some changes to education in Bolivia have been made, however, with the help of nonprofits. Many organizations have helped provide classrooms and classroom materials in decent condition. One organization, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, helps provide training, tutoring, childcare and workshops to assist Bolivians with their educational needs. When given support and better learning conditions, children typically stay in school and even begin to learn at higher levels than their peers who are not given that support.

If their educational needs are met, they are more likely to succeed. Bolivian children should receive the education they need to thrive.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: Bolivia Bella, Foundation for Sustainable Development
Photo: Netpublikationer