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Safe, Quality Drinking Water

On May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

strongest democraciesFreedom House’s annual nonpartisan report on the state of global democracy, Freedom in the World, had grim findings in its newly released 2018 version. According to the report, 2017 marked the “twelfth consecutive year of decline in global freedom” in which civil liberties and political rights eroded in multiple democracies, both young and old.

That said, the focus in this post will be highlighting the world’s top 10 strongest democracies, moving from last to first, based on various economic and social factors:

  1. Uruguay
    Uruguay is known for its strong record on legal equality and social tolerance of minority groups. It has a strong economy, an informed populace and a national identity based on democratic freedoms rather than ethnicity. It is also highly regarded for its notable lack of government corruption, an issue that has long plagued other democratic nations in South America.
  1. Ireland
    Despite instances of corruption, Ireland has upheld its strong and stable democracy throughout the political turmoil of the past few years. Balanced and fair elections have maintained the country’s tradition of equal protections under the law, though Ireland could stand to dedicate more to foreign aid, giving just 0.33 percent of its Gross National Income (GNI) in 2016.
  1. Switzerland
    Notable as one of the only countries in the world to operate as a confederation, Switzerland follows a tradition of decentralizing power and allowing citizens to weigh in on government decisions through referendums, making the nation closer to a direct democracy than a representative one.  Switzerland has a long history of civil rights and political liberties, having been a democratic nation since 1848.
  1. Denmark
    A parliamentary representative democracy with open and fair elections, Denmark remained one of the world’s strongest democracies in 2017. Despite pressures following the 2015 migrant crisis, Denmark has maintained its core democratic structures. It has strong checks on power and corruption, a robust set of civil liberties for its citizens, and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
  1. Australia
    Australia is widely recognized as a strong democratic system, with free and fair elections and a system of obligatory voting. The country encourages the sharing of powers, with a bicameral parliament designed to mitigate extreme divides between opposing views.
  1. New Zealand
    A nation that contains immense and stunning scenery, New Zealand is perhaps best known for its appearances in the popular Lord of the Rings movies and its thriving tourist industry. But the nation also possesses a thriving democracy. With regular elections and a system of checks on governmental abuse of power, New Zealand remains a destination for those who wish to combine epic scenery with the modern attributes of a prospering democracy. Its only shortcomings relate to combatting global poverty, as the country contributed just 0.25 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016 despite strong economic growth.
  1. Finland
    Competition between multiple parties with diverse views, along with deep respect for the law and a resulting lack of corruption, made Finland one of the best democracies in 2017. It boasts a free press and independent judiciary that respects the political rights of citizens. It is above average in terms of foreign aid contributions, contributing 0.44 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016, but could still improve in this regard.
  1. Canada
    A country recognized by its broad social welfare system and vast landscapes, Canada remains an admirable democratic society. A strong electoral system combined with governmental respect for diverse opinions among citizens has led to a solid and functioning country. Canada could do better in foreign aid, however, contributing only 0.26 percent of its GNI to helping less fortunate nations in 2016.
  1. Sweden
    A parliamentary monarchy with a robust and independent judiciary, Sweden remains one of the best multiparty political systems and one of the strongest democracies, incorporating the viewpoints of most members of society and benefitting from a respected judicial branch that largely upholds civil liberties. Sweden also contributes the most toward fighting global poverty among members of the United Nations, with 1.09 percent of its GNI going to foreign aid in 2016.
  1. Norway
    Despite the political and social turmoil that defined 2017, Norway preserved its status as one of the strongest democracies in the world. Norway sports strong protections for freedom of speech among its populace and has a civil society and independent media that is encouraged to critique the government and promote responsible behavior by public officials. Key to Norway’s success is its modest population, which makes it easier to represent all viewpoints in government and mitigate the societal divisions that plague larger countries. Norway also has done more than most democracies to address the issue of global poverty, contributing 1.1 percent of its GNI to foreign aid in 2016.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index found in its July 2017 report that democracy was in retreat across the globe, including in the United States, which is considered one of the world’s oldest and strongest democracies. It is important to examine the strongest democracies in the modern world in order to study how they have maintained strong systems of civil and political liberties, as well as what they are doing to improve other nations’ economic well-beings, a key foundation for democratic stability.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hunger in UruguayUruguay is a medium-sized country on the south-east coast of South America with a population of just under 3.5 million people. According to the World Bank, “Uruguay stands out in Latin America for being an egalitarian society and for its high per capita income, low level of inequality and poverty and almost complete absence of extreme poverty.”

Uruguay has high levels of equality providing access to services such as healthcare, education and sanitation to the majority of its citizens. Approximately 60 percent of its population is middle class, and its governance structures have low levels of corruption and institutional instability. In 2016, the rate of remote poverty was 9.4 percent, and the rate of extreme poverty was 0.2 percent but although they have low poverty rates, hunger is still prevalent in the country.

In discussions of poverty and equality, food security and access to nutritional food is an important piece of the puzzle. Below are five facts about hunger in Uruguay.

  1. In 2017, Uruguay’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was less than five, down from 9.7 in 1992. The GHI score is calculated based on four indicators. The first is undernourishment, which is the share of the population who have an insufficient daily caloric intake. The second is child wasting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are underweight relative to their height. The third is child stunting, which is the share of children under the age of five who are short relative to their age. Lastly, child mortality, which is the mortality rate of children under five.
  2. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) has a presence fighting hunger in Uruguay. Their approach tackles hunger from several angles in order to address every facet and source of the problem. They have implemented policies to improve competitiveness in value chains, to improve land planning and natural resource management, to develop the fisheries sector, to increase health and food safety, to develop food security and family farming in rural areas and to increase cooperation among countries in the “South.”
  3. The depth of hunger is a measure of hunger in a country, it is the intensity of food deprivation based on the number of average kilocalories (per person, per day) consumed by citizens being below the desired level. In 2008, the depth of hunger in Uruguay was 140 kilocalories per day. While this is not ideal, it is relatively low, as it is below 200 kilocalories per day.
  4. Overall, the number of people who are undernourished in Uruguay is 200,000, which is approximately five percent of the total population. The prevalence of malnutrition is at 4.5 percent.
  5. There are other important indicators of hunger in Uruguay besides statistics that report solely about hunger and undernourishment/malnourishment. For example, the prevalence of anemia indicates overall nutrition. The prevalence of anemia among women between the ages of 15 and 49 is 17.4 percent and 23.6 percent among children. The percentage of children that are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life is also important. Just over 65 percent of infants in Uruguay are exclusively breastfed during that time period.

While organizations like the FAO maintain the belief that no person should lack access to food and adequate nutrition and so remain in Uruguay to fight hunger, Uruguay is still one of the leaders, in its region, for hunger and poverty rates.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in UruguayWithin the past few decades, Uruguay—a small country with a population of about 3 million—has managed to reduce its moderate poverty rate from 25.5 percent in 1989 to 12.4 percent in 2012, and the extreme poverty rate from 3.3 percent to 0.5 percent over the same period. Because of the great reduction of poverty in Uruguay, the nation’s Human Development Index ranking is ever increasing, and it is seeing longer life expectancy and greater birth rates.

However, despite improved conditions for citizens of Uruguay, there is still anxiety among community members due to a long embedded history of fluctuations in the economy and government that have contributed to poverty-like phases for many. The last 40 years have been illustrated by a slow-moving economy, one that is not quick to adapt to change, but with moments of remarkable growth. Uruguay is uniquely addressing its poverty issues, some with successful outcomes and others with less positive consequences. Here are three ways poverty in Uruguay is being tackled.

  1. Economy
    Uruguay has been relatively successful in ramping up economic development, which has seemed to keep up with globalization. Gross Domestic Product increases in the late 80s have been able to sustain Uruguay through some economic downturns in recent history. This, coupled with social reform, is keeping extreme poverty low.
  2. Social Integration
    Uruguay still experiences marginalization and social disintegration, but has taken initiatives in the last few decades to bring these issues to public view. It has been argued that education is a key element is bringing many different demographics of people together and enabling students and families to take charge of their lives. From the early 90s to the present, referendums have been drafted regarding education and social reform as well as being a topic for political platforms.
  3. The Work Force
    Women have become more of a present figure in the job market, having the highest rate of participation in labor in Latin America. While the amount of active workers is higher than it has ever been, Uruguay still has relatively high unemployment rates. However, the Uruguay legal system is working toward slimming the gap between wage discrimination and job security rights among its citizens.

While Uruguayans are working toward a more stable economy and social reforms, there is clearly still some way to go. But, despite slow moving and small-scale changes, Uruguay is a positive example of poverty reduction efforts and there is growing hope for change in the South American nation.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in UruguayIn recent years, Uruguay has been lauded as something of a success story in the realm of economic progress and poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, which has played an enormous role in supporting the Uruguayan economy over the past decade, poverty in Uruguay has decreased from 32.5 percent to 9.7 percent in the past ten years. Extreme poverty has nearly been eradicated with only 0.3 percent of the population being identified in the poorest sector. Still, poverty does exist in this Latin American country, and the causes of poverty in Uruguay can be summarized in three major categories: lack of education for young children, the rapidly modernizing rural sector and discrepancies in economic status between men and women.

A large majority of the impoverished population in Uruguay is made up of women and children. Children under the age of 15 make up a large percentage of the most impoverished sector. Further, rural families who fall in the poorest 20 percent of the population tend to have the largest number of children. This inverse relationship between family size and economic status contributes to the lack of nourishment and education available to the children in these families. Research performed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean revealed extreme learning deficiencies in children at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

The modernization of the rural sector has also played a large role in perpetuating the high level of poverty in the more rural regions of Uruguay. As rural production work is streamlined with the rise and availability of new technologies, those employed by rural producers are being forced out of work. While the more urban areas of Uruguay remain positively impacted by modernization the number of rural workers who are finding themselves unemployed due to modernization is also on the rise.

In both rural and urban areas of the country, women make up a large proportion of the workforce. In fact, Uruguayan women have the highest participation rate in the labor industry in all of Latin America. Still, the discrepancy in wages between men and women is enormous and one of the main causes of poverty in Uruguay. With Uruguayan women making less than 60 percent of men’s income on average, it is no wonder that women fall into the most impoverished sector far more often than men. Women also continue to fulfill traditional obligations in the home, allowing them less mobility and time during which to work for pay. As a result, single-mother households make up a large part of the poverty sector in Uruguay.

There is certainly still much work to be done in the restructuring of agribusiness, education and wage disparity between men and women if the causes of poverty in Uruguay are to be addressed in the coming years. However, the progress that the Uruguay has experienced in the past decade is no small feat.

With assistance from the World Bank, the Uruguayan government has been able to implement a development process — a composite of loans, insurance, donations and informational exchange — that has had outstanding results. In 2013, Uruguay was ranked as a high-income country with the largest middle class in the Americas, at 60 percent of the population. Beyond economics, Uruguayan citizens have an extremely high level of confidence in their government, based largely upon low levels of corruption and governmental stability.

Overall, Uruguay is something of an anomaly in Latin America in terms of its financial independence and high level of equal opportunity for citizens. And though poverty does still exist in the country, the prospects for decreasing the level of poverty even further are extremely favorable as Uruguay continues to grow and prosper as an egalitarian and economically stable country.

Bhavya Thamman

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Uruguay
Prompted by the Syrian refugee crisis, many countries have implemented stricter immigration policies. However, some Latin American countries, specifically those with a higher proportion of Muslims or Syrians, responded to the refugee crisis with more sympathy. Uruguay is one such country. Nestled in between Brazil and Argentina, the territory of Uruguay is roughly the size of Washington state and is home to only 3.4 million individuals. Here are some essential facts about refugees in Uruguay:

  1. Uruguay was the first country in Latin America that showed a willingness to receive refugees.
  2. According to one political analyst, Uruguay’s economy will largely be unable to assimilate refugees into their workforce.
  3. Refugees publicly lamented the country’s limited economic opportunity.
  4. According to the most recent statistics, Uruguay accepted 117 immigrants up to September 2015.
  5. Refugees now appeal to other countries and even to the United Nations to help them leave the country.
  6. Some refugees tried leaving the country, but such efforts failed because most countries do not accept their Uruguay-issued documentation and the immigrants also lack their Syrian-issued passports.
  7. Amidst such social discord, public opinion toward Syrian refugees began to sour. Many citizens felt that the refugees in Uruguay are ungrateful.
  8. Due to such public backlash, President Vasquez temporarily suspended any further allocation of Syrian refugees.
  9. The country’s first group of Syrian refugees was to take Spanish classes to help them assimilate.
  10. Uruguay hoped that, with their initial open-door policy, they would have a type of contagion effect on surrounding countries.


The following information about refugees in Uruguay reveals that countries with already suffering economies are, in many cases, unfit to offer refuge to large numbers of displaced persons. Therefore, more prosperous nations ought to show Uruguay’s initial willingness to accept refugees.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr


In recent decades, Uruguay has taken strides to eliminate poverty and the prevalence of hunger. Only 3.3 percent of the country’s population was considered undernourished in 2016. Only 1.3 percent of children under the age of five experienced wasting conditions. The elimination of hunger in Uruguay can be attributed to both broad changes in infrastructure and the contributions of nonprofit organizations.

How Uruguay is Successfully Addressing Hunger

Uruguay succeeded in meeting the first U.N. Millennium Development Goal, known as the “Zero Hunger Challenge” in 2013. The country achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule.

The government’s success in its social policies against poverty has received international attention. The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) especially praised the implementation of monthly income subsidies. Households classified as “vulnerable” receive a monthly income subsidy of 700 Uruguayan pesos. “Highly vulnerable” families receive twice that amount.

As an outcome, moderate poverty decreased from 32.5 percent in 2006 to 9.7 percent in 2015. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 2.5 percent to 0.3 percent in the same period.

Alongside broad government initiatives to eliminate poverty in general, a number of small-scale nonprofit organizations have arisen in recent years. Many share the goal of eliminating residual hunger in Uruguay.

Niños con Alas, or Children with Wings, works specifically to improve the infrastructure of Uruguayan schools. The organization provides schools with staple pantry products like flour, sugar, rice, cornmeal, tomato pulp, oil, noodles, milk powder and minced meat on a weekly basis. Through its contributions, Niños con Alas supplies three meals a day for more than 1,000 children.

Argentine national Santiago Abdala created Uruguay’s Banco de Alimentos, in 2012. Originally operating from Santiago’s home, the food bank now delivers food to more than 45 charities and helps feed more than 7,000 individuals. Banco de Alimentos is supported by the Global Food Banking Network and partnerships with international companies like Unilever.

Overall, the Uruguayan government and charitable nonprofit organizations have provided the people with options in terms of hunger. The defeat of hunger in Uruguay sets a good example for countries all over the world looking to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr


Supporting the education of women and girls around the globe is often a key component in efforts to end extreme global poverty. Statistics show that educated women marry later. This results in fewer child marriages and reduces fertility and infant mortality rates. Educated women are also more likely to go to work. When a woman receives regular pay, she can give back to her community, and when the working population in a community doubles due to female education, the cycle of poverty ends. This is why the World Bank Group (WBG) is focusing on ending the gender disparity in education in Uruguay.

Educating girls and women is WBG’s main goal in their fight to eradicate poverty. In Uruguay, women and girls face gender-based violence that discourages them from attending school. Gender bias and stereotyping is a long-standing issue in Uruguay that extends beyond the classroom. Recently the government in Uruguay has prioritized addressing the gender bias. They teamed up with WBG to implement the Improving the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay Project to end gender-based violence and discrimination in schools.

The project is a part of the $2.5 billion investment in global education that WBG President Jim Yong Kim announced at the Let Girls Learn event in April 2016. Improve the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay is a $40 million project that will implement teacher training to make educators aware of the gender disparity and equip them with the knowledge and tools to address it. The training will focus on social norms regarding masculinity versus femininity. In the process, WBG will direct a study of gender equality that will inform the Gender Equality Action Plan from 2017-2020.

In addition to addressing gender inequality, the project will also improve access to quality early childhood education. WBG plans to utilize the teacher training component of the project to focus on emotional and social development in primary schools. Their hope is to create a sustainable, gender-equal education system by implementing these practices from the beginning of a child’s schooling.

In April 2016, WBG President Jim Yong Kim said, “empowering and educating adolescent girls is one of the best ways to stop poverty from being passed from generation to generation and can be transformational for entire societies.” The Improve the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay plans to do just that.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr

Uruguay

Poverty in Uruguay was at borderline catastrophic levels less than 15 years ago. Uruguay has made strides over the past decade to dig itself out of a massive hole and has brought its poverty levels from nearly 50% to below 10%. Its success is due in large part to government action — via a safety net to lift those at the bottom to a more manageable level with the help of leaders who lead by example.

In 2002, Uruguay fell into one of the worst financial crises in its history, which was heavily influenced by the Argentine depression and the Brazilian Financial Crisis. That year, unemployment shot from 10% to 18%, GDP fell by 11%, and poverty in Uruguay doubled. By the time 2004 came, the poverty rate in Uruguay had reached a peak of 39.9%, of which children made up almost 60%.

Thanks to the implementation of new governmental policies targeted at improving the quality of life of its citizens, poverty in Uruguay fell to 9.7% in 2015, and its GDP grew to $56 billion. One of the reasons for this turnaround was taking care of Uruguay’s weakest and most vulnerable first, via the Emergency Social Program. Enacted in 2005 by then-president Tabare Vasquez, it provides the safety net necessary to slowly lift the citizens of Uruguay back to their feet. An allowance program was also created during this time, providing families in poverty a means to live — 700 pesos a month (on average), or about $31.

After Vasquez, poverty in Uruguay continued to fall during the term of Jose Mujica — “The World’s Poorest President.” Mujica was the president of Uruguay from 2010-2015 and did not live in the presidential palace, but instead on a modest farm outside the capital city. He donated 90% of his earnings (about $12,000 per month) to charity and the people he represented and is quoted as saying, “I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live.”

Uruguay has experienced a drastic turnaround since its economic crisis due to economic growth, introducing social safety nets and strong leadership from the presidents who governed during this time. It still utilizes high levels of social spending and agricultural exports, and current projections are that Uruguay’s growth will continue to climb in the coming years, leaving the high rates of poverty in Uruguay a thing of the past.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Education in Uruguay

Despite being one of the smaller nations of South America, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay boasts some of the most successful education statistics in the continent. In fact, Education in Uruguay boasts statistics among the best in the world.

According to the U.N. Development Program’s Education Index in 2013, Uruguay is “slightly better educated than the average country at 0.71 out of one” while the world’s median is 0.65. The Republic also boasts a 98.36 percent adult literacy rate, making them rank first out of 12th for South America and 33rd in the world’s ranking.

Education is compulsory in Uruguay for students between the ages of six and 11, and free at all levels. Its capital of Montevideo is also the major center for education and the home of the main and only public university: University of the Republic. Across the board, classrooms have a great student per teacher ratio, at 13.8 students per teacher. This assuring statistic has resulted in a greater amount of attention given to pupils in addition to higher grade averages.

The commitment to compulsory education in Uruguay dates back to the 1800s when President José Pedro Varela convinced the government to pass the 1877 Law of Common Education. This key statute instituted a model for public school systems and was made in the image of the French academic system. It created three separate branches – primary, secondary, and university levels. Although president for only one year, Varela’s impact remains influential to the country’s education system.

Uruguay’s commitment to education even goes so far as to become the first country to give free laptops and Wi-Fi connection to every student across the country. In 2009, President Tabaré Vázquez finalized the inaugural project “Plan Ceibal” which gave laptops to all grade school students and their teachers. The project worked in alliance with non-profit One Laptop Per Child, an organization with a mission to distribute low-cost laptops to poor children all over the world.

Education in Uruguay only continues to improve classroom conditions and technologies with each succeeding year. Minister of Education and Culture María Julia Muñoz and American Ambassador to Uruguay Kelly Keiderling recently renewed a Fulbright partnership between the two countries, which will allow teachers to learn modern education methods from their Fulbright scholars.

Muñoz stated that the Ministry of Education and Culture has even increased their contribution to the partnership program from 60,000 dollars to 100,000 dollars, to maintain their marked dedication to the lives of Uruguayan students and teachers.

The continued efforts of Uruguayan leaders will undoubtedly secure the significance of academia as an apex of the Oriental Republic and its culture. Further movements concerning the Education of Uruguay are, therefore, not to be discredited.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr