Posts Tagged Latin America and Caribbean

Celebrating 10 Years of Bolsa Família, the Widely Successful Brazilian Poverty Alleviation Plan

February 4th, 2014

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Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program contributed to a dramatic drop in poverty and inequality within the country, said Tereza Campello, Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger at a January 29th event at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The event, titled “A Conversation with Tereza Campello, Brazils Minister of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger,” was co-sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Brazil Institute and the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Region and shed light on some of the progress made in poverty alleviation in the first 10 years of the Bolsa Família program.

Minister Campello began her discussion by saying that poverty and inequality in Brazil has dropped dramatically thanks to three main public policies: a raise in the minimum wage, the expansion of the formal job sector, and the Bolsa Família program. The program was launched in 2003 during former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term. It is the largest conditional cash transfer program in the world, and is responsible for lifting 22 million people out of poverty. The three main goals of the program are to alleviate poverty and hunger; increase education attendance and reduce school drop-out rates; and improve access to health services for children, pregnant women, and women who are breastfeeding.

Since the beginning of the program, Bolsa Família has assisted over 50 million people over a quarter of Brazil’s population. In return for direct cash transfers, beneficiaries must ensure their children attend school and receive their vaccinations, and pregnant women must receive prenatal and postpartum care.

Minister Campello highlighted the following achievements from the Bolsa Família program in the focus area of health:

  • 19.4% reduction in infant mortality rate,
  • 52% decrease of chronic infant malnutrition in children up to 6 years of age,
  • 58% reduction in death due to malnutrition,
  • Drop from 16.8% to 14.5% in the rate of stunting in children up to 5 years of age,
  • 50% increase in prenatal care,
  • 46% reduction in deaths from diarrhea, and
  • 99.1% vaccination rate in children.

Its impact has been greatest in the northeast and Amazon regions of the country, where poverty is more prevalent. Additionally, out of the total current beneficiaries of the program, 73% of them are afro-Brazilian women.

The success of Bolsa Famíliadelegations from 63 countries interested in learning more about how the program works. Deborah Wetzel, Country Director for Brazil for the World Bank, said the World Bank is working with the Brazilian government on ways to share the lessons learned with other countries.

Although Bolsa Família has been widely successful, challenges do remain. Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world with a population of more than 200 million people living in more than 5 thousand municipalities. To address this issue, the Brasil Sem Miséria plan (Brazil Without Poverty plan) was launched during President Dilma Rousseff’s term in 2011 in order to expand the reach of the Bolsa Família program. Through this complementary plan, the Ministry of Social Development and Fight Against Hunger is currently reaching out to an additional 9 million people who are not part of the Bolsa Família program but are in dire need of support.

Minister Campello closed the conversation by saying that the “end of poverty” is only the beginning. We join the Brazilian government in celebrating the first 10 years of Bolsa Família and we look forward to sharing many more success stories!

Guatemala Launches its National Plan on NTDs – Plus Other Great News from Central America!

September 10th, 2013

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By: Mia Wise and Raquel Corona-Parra

On Friday August 30, 2013, the Ministry of Health of Guatemala launched its multi-year, integrated, national plan addressing neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ambitious plan targets the control and elimination of six NTDs by providing deworming medication to children in prioritized municipalities and improving access to clean water in communities affected by NTDs. Even more, Guatemala’s national NTD plan will be linked the country’s Zero Hunger Plan which tackles hunger and malnutrition in the country.

More specifically, this integrated plan will target the control and elimination of onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, or intestinal parasites), Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, trachoma, and leprosy from 2013 to 2015. The Guatemalan Minister of Health Jorge Villavicencio said the increased attention placed on these diseases is essential for reducing malnutrition and poverty in Guatemala as these diseases represent an incredible health burden on communities in the country, trapping already marginalized populations in the cycle of poverty.

Even More Good News…

Guatemala was not the only country focused on NTD treatment and control this summer.  The Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic ( regional meeting on June 27 and 28 in San José, Costa Rica. The Global Network team was happy to collaborate with COMISCA at this meeting – where they shared information on upcoming challenges and solutions in NTD treatment efforts, and global and regional policy activities.

COMISCA is a political faction of the System for Central American Integration (SICA) comprised of the Ministers and Secretariats of Health of eight Member Countries. The Council strives to ensure the right to health care services to the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic, and is influential in determining health care priorities within the region.

The Global Network was delighted that COMISCA recognized the importance of NTD control and elimination with regards to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals. The Ministers of Health also approved the addition of NTDs in their closing report – a result that has paved the way for NTD control and elimination action items to be included in the next COMISCA Regional Health Plan.

And More Collaboration…

The Global Network was also invited to participate at the Forum of the Health Sector in Central America and the Dominican Republic (RESSCAD), during its annual meeting held in Guatemala on July 17. RESSCAD meetings serve as another opportunity for integration among the ministers of health of the region.

During the meeting, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that NTDs are the clearest example of preventable health inequities. She added that prioritizing these diseases, which affect the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, is a public health, political, and moral imperative. RESSCAD will now be placing a stronger emphasis on intersectoral collaboration and NTD control and will review progress made at the next meeting in 2014.

The launch of Guatemala’s national plan on NTDs and the increased attention to NTDs made by COMISCA and RESSCAD are all great news for the NTD community!

Kiss of Death: A Parasite Threatens Latin American Immigrants

August 30th, 2011

Helen Coster is a staff writer at Forbes; International Reporting Project. Below is an excerpt of her report on Chagas disease in Latin America, and how it can spread to the States:

By: Helen Coster

Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. could be infected with the deadly disease known as Chagas—and most of them dont know

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The vinchuga bug, also known as the kissing bug, transmits Chagas disease. Image: Helen Coster. If Maira Gutierrez hadnt donated blood over a decade ago, she probably wouldnt know that she has Chagas, a parasitic disease that may one day stop her heart. The Los Angeles resident felt fine. Only her blood sample, which contained the diseases telltale antibodies, revealed that she was sick. Like many Chagas patients in the United States, Gutierrez probably contracted the disease as a child, when she was living in rural El Salvador. Today she suffers from heart palpitations and undergoes an annual echocardiogram and electrocardiogram to monitor the diseases progress. Its a relief to know what I have, where it came from, and what its doing to me, Gutierrez says. I know that Im not going to die tomorrow.

Chagas is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) that remains dormant in peoples bodies for up to 30 years, until it kills them suddenly by stopping their hearts or rupturing their intestines. Its a silent killer; patients rarely show symptoms or know that theyre infected. Worldwide, 18 million people have the disease. Chagas has been a scourge of the developing world for decades—particularly in poor Latin American countries, where a bug called the vinchuga, sometimes known as the kissing bug (because it bites people on their faces while they sleep), transmits the disease. But its increasingly becoming a U.S. health problem.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.