222 Million: the Official Number of Latin America’s Extremely Poor

In spite of recent advances Latinamerica still has 222 million people living in extreme poverty of which 96 million are described as in indigent, including 22 million Brazilians.

This according to the latest report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latinamerica and the Caribbean released this week in Santiago.


The Latinamerican and Caribbean population was estimated in 533 million in 2003.
Poverty reduction in the region has been slow and the UN Millennium development targets have been not achieved.


Among the targets are cutting poverty in half; universal primary schooling and reverting environmental damage points out the Cepal report which was drafted together with other United Nations departments.


The only country that has had success in substantially reducing poverty has been Chile: in 1990 when dictator Pinochet left office, 45% of Chileans were classified as living in poverty, a figure that has now dropped to 19%.


However Cepal indicates that if advances of recent years continue countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Uruguay could reach the goals.


In the rest of the continent and particularly in the Caribbean, progress has been insignificant and in some cases poverty has expanded.


Cepal also highlights that the region is the less equitable of the world.


With long periods of slow growth the region has been unable to improve wealth distribution and access to production assets which has been worsened by the lack of sufficient jobs thus denying workers opportunities to abandon poverty and their children access to adequate health and education services, and is some cases proper nutrition, argues Cepal.


The report however points out to advances in basic schooling, greater woman incorporation in labour activities and infant mortality under 5 has dropped considerably.


Cepal underlines that according to UN estimates to cut extreme poverty and hunger by half in the next ten years, a sustained annual average growth of at least 2.9% per capita is essential. In the poorest countries the needed expansion index jumps to 4.4%.


The report finally states that besides the urgent reduction of poverty and hunger Latinamerica and the Caribbean need massive investment in infrastructure and social programs.


This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.

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