In Latin America, Some Progress in Fight to End Poverty

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Posted on 1/14/2014
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Despite overall progress, rates of extreme poverty remain high in Latin American countries such as Honduras.

According to a recent report published by three economists at the World Bank, many families remain at risk of falling below the poverty line, and more must be done to protect them and maintain the momentum established in recent years.

For many years, Latin America has served as an example of how coordinated public policies and aid interventions can lower poverty rates.. After a lengthy period of stagnating poverty statistics, much progress was taken to end poverty in many Latin American nations, which have some of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the world. Mexico and Brazil, two countries where ChildFund works, still have 80 million living below the poverty level, but with your help, families can break the generational cycle of poverty.

Mixed Signals: Problems in Latin America

Until as recently as 15 years ago, income inequality in Latin America was among the widest in the world. However, since then, significant progress has been made to help families emerge from poverty, thanks to the interventions of governments and the work of international aid organizations. In fact, the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region experienced a sharp decline in the rates of extreme poverty between 1995 and 2013, falling from 26 percent to less than 13 percent.

However, there are still no definite solutions to poverty. Many families living in the LAC regions are at risk of falling back into poverty, as they earn more than the established poverty guidelines, but fall below those of the middle-class threshold. Approximately 40 percent of families who live above the poverty level are considered "at risk."

"Today, 80 million people still live in extreme poverty in LAC by regional standards ($2.50/day), half of them in Brazil and Mexico," according to the report. "Still, with its recent gains, the region is on track to ending extreme poverty in the coming years. But how quickly are countries in the region moving toward shared prosperity? Consistent with the substantial decline in inequality, the average income of those in the bottom 40 percent has grown rapidly over the past decade and has grown faster than mean per capita income."

The Other Side of the Story

Although the report published by the World Bank economists includes a great deal of statistical information, it doesn't tell the whole story. Many families may have emerged from poverty, but in some countries across Latin America, indigent poverty levels have actually risen due to increases in the cost of food and other factors.

In December, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean published a report on indigent poverty across Latin America. Although the report acknowledges the progress that has been made, it also emphasizes the basic needs of millions of families that remain unmet.

"Since 2002, poverty in Latin America has fallen 15.7 percentage points and extreme poverty 8.0 points, but recent figures show a slowdown," said Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of ECLAC. "A multidimensional measurement of poverty limited to unsatisfied basic needs shows that shortages like the lack of access to drinking water or to appropriate sanitation systems still affect a significant number of people in the region."

Making a Difference: Help Children in Poverty

ChildFund works in some of Latin America's poorest countries to help families break the cycle of generational poverty. In Honduras, the lowest-ranked country in the World Bank economists' report, ChildFund supports local health care facilities that help families seek care near their homes instead of being forced to travel hours to a hospital. At these health posts, they have access to trained birth attendants and "guide mothers," volunteers who make house calls in some cases to train caretakers about child developmental benchmarks. As a result, maternal health has improved, and newborn mortality rates have decreased.

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