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Poverty, Malnutrition, and Hunger in Panama (Especially Indigenous) and Latin America

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Plan gives hope to indigenous children of Panama to eradicate hunger and poverty

Wed, 10/31/2018 - 15:51

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Malnutrition, lack of education and poverty affecting the children of the Ngäbe Buglé (northwest) region of Panama, are gradually being brought down with the execution of a comprehensive program to benefit some 5,000 indigenous children, their promoters reported today.

In the mountains of El Peñón, district of Ñurum, the faces of children and infants glimpse a relief to be part of the pilot project "Sow, Learn and Grow", an initiative that includes three approaches: food, quality of life and good health; and skills for school environment.

"This project has been implemented in five districts of the indigenous region, the idea is to spread it to other places and benefit 5,000 children," said Acting Minister of Social Development (Mides), Michelle Muschett, during the presentation of the initiative.

She said that this "community model of comprehensive care for children between 0 and 3 years old" is being implemented for the first time in the country, and its execution is based on Jamaica's "Reach Up and Learn" plan, which shows positive results in the group’s cognitive and non-cognitive development.

"We seek to take that comprehensive care that every child from 0 years to 36 months should receive, which is the crucial stage for every human being, precisely in rural communities, that are not reached by childhood care centers for the total of the population because they are very dispersed," she said.

The head of Mides said that the project Sow, Grow and Learn, which will run for a period of two years, is carried out in partnership with other government institutions, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and executed by the Panamanian Foundation Nutre Hogar.

She added that in the segment "Sow" about 100 families work in orchards using the method of biointensive crops to ensure the production and consumption of nutritional foods, while in the segmentt "Grow", which has the program "Taking Care of Yourself", and they have trained a battery of promoters to collaborate with the mothers of the children in the program.

"This project encourages mothers to give importance to educate and raise with love and celebrate the achievements of their children, key elements to ensure development in the first stage of their lives," said the official.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index of Children and Adolescents (IPM-NNA), endorsed by the UN and Oxford University, points out that multidimensional poverty affects, on average, 32.8 percent of children between 0 and 17 years in Panama, with an incidence of 45.6 percent.

Poverty, however, does not affect all provinces equally and increases considerably in the indigenous districts of Guna Yala, Ngäbe-Buglé and Emberá, where the index reaches 99.3 percent, 95.4 percent and 81 percent, respectively.

Panama already launched in 2017 a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) at a broader level, which is updated annually and in its last installment reports that about 778,000 people live in poverty, representing 19.1 percent of the Panamanian population.

The meeting was also attended by Miss Panama 2018, Rosa Iveth Montezuma, representative of the Belgium-origin indigenous communities of Ngäbe Buglé.

"For me it is very important to be close to the people that belong to me, which is my family," said the candidate regarding the community, while advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.



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Latin America hunger is due to not have enough resources to get food

Tue, 10/16/2018 - 12:04

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In Latin America, the agricultural sector grew four times more, but now it is also harder for people who lack the necessary resources to buy good quality food, the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) warned today in Panama.

In the forum " Our actions is our future.  #ZeroHunger is possible for 2030", within the framework of the World Food Day, the FAO highlighted this problem, as well as the increasing use of agro-chemicals that cause diseases in a large number of people every year.

"In Latin America hunger is not because of lack of food, but because - people - do not have enough resources to be able to acquire food, and quality, because it is necessary to advance in development programs in the territories that generate economic opportunities," Tito Díaz, FAO coordinator for Mesoamerica, told EFE.

He added that in the fight against malnutrition, which are suffered by 821 million people in the world, 39 million of them in the region, it is necessary to make alliances between local institutions, academies, partners, to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in 2030, to achieve the objectives of sustainable development.

"To achieve this objective, it is necessary to focus many policies on vulnerable populations, work with indigenous communities, farmer families, rural women, and comprehensive standards, in order to eradicate poverty," Díaz said.

But, at this very moment, it is cheaper to get foods rich in salt, fat and carbohydrates, than a healthy one, that's why FAO seeks to improve productivity in the different sectors so they can have quality edible products on hand.

The FAO coordinator also highlighted the chronic non-communicable disease factor in the continent, such as kidney damage.

"The production of food in agricultural areas has quadrupled in the last 50 years, but at the same time, agrochemicals have been used up to 7 times, and many of these toxic substances cause kidney damage, so now we promote agro ecology to produce more natural foods," he said.

In addition, Díaz made reference to the coordination effort undertaken with the government to reduce the malnutrition figures in the student sector, with the development of food programs.

"One of the main policies that have been developed in FAO are the school feeding programs, in which we have supported 17 countries, which have evolved from a glass of milk and a cookie into a balanced diet," he stressed on the regional strategy.

Other issues addressed by the delegate were the triggers of global food security: poverty, natural disasters, inequality, unsustainable management of natural resources and conflicts.

The event will involve authorities and technicians from the ministries of foreign affairs, Agricultural Development, Government, Social Development, Health, Environment, Education, among others, as well as representatives of civil society organizations, the private sector and the academy.

The world agency reported that 821 million people in the world suffer from chronic malnutrition, and obesity levels are found in them and many countries are experiencing the double burden of hunger and obesity, since 1,900 million people are overweight, of which 672 million are obese.



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Panamanian indigenous suffer poverty and malnutrition

Fri, 12/21/2018 - 18:12

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The Guna Panamanian indigenous ethnic group could receive a global recognition after the actions taken by the government of the Canal country along with original authorities from this culture, because they will promote and postulate “la mola” of this group as Unesco's humanity heritage.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry of Panama indicated that with this objective it signed an Agreement of Cultural Cooperation for the protection and promotion of the intangible cultural heritage Guna, with the General Congress of Madugandí and the General Congress of the Culture of Guna Yala. Molas are designs that indigenous women wear on their skirts, shirts or dresses. Its technique of confection is inspired by sacred places that exist in the different layers of the universe proper to the Guna belief.

"Through this and other actions that are being developed, the National Government reaffirms its commitment to indigenous peoples and the promotion and protection of their traditions", said the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Augusto Arosemana, according to the initiative of entry of this cultural feature to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

"There are many tasks to be done, we hope to keep the road drawn and that the agreements we sign today will strengthen the future work of safeguarding their traditional knowledge and build greater spaces for their promotion", he added.

However, the relations of the Government of Panama with the indigenous culture is not quite right, since in the hours of this Friday it was known that the Naso ethnic group is willing to defend with its own life the creation of an autonomous region for its population, in spite of the refusal of the Executive.

Through Bill 656, the construction of this space in the mountains of the west of the country was sought, however, despite the approval of the Parliament (with opposition majority), President Juan Carlos Varela vetoed the past December 15 this project.

"The president has just challenged the indigenous peoples of Panama, and the Naso people are willing to sacrifice their lives on the streets to defend their region", said the maximum leader of the Naso people, King Reynaldo Alexis Santana.

The creation of the region is a historical claim of the Naso, who have been ruled for centuries by a sort of assembly monarchy and who claim to be the only people in Latin America with a king. The president of the National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples of Panama (Coonapip), Marcelo Guerra, indicated before the situation that each ethnic group has "the right to have a territory and they are studying protest actions".

The 7 ethnic groups (Emberá, Wounaan, Guna, Ngäbe, Buglé, Naso and Bri-Bri) make up 11% of the total population of Panama, however, their situations are unfortunate with 96.7% of poverty and chronic malnutrition in 72% in children under 5 years old.



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Panama growth leads, inequality remains


Viaible contrast in Panama City

Posted 21/07/2019

Inequality  in Panama with one of the highest ranks only behind Brazil and Honduras in the whole of Latin America says a newly released report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Between 2004 and 2018, the country had an average annual growth of 7%, compared to 3.3% in Latin America. As a result of this economic dynamism, Panama is today one of the three countries with the highest per capita income along with Chile and Uruguay.

The report “Inequality in Panama: its territorial character and the role of public investments” says that the high inequality and its persistence are closely related to the "strong territorial imbalances" that exist in the country.

The document states that reducing inequality in the country is possible if "greater productive activity" is generated outside the Canal watershed . Among other things, this requires an investment in infrastructure that improves the connectivity of the rest of the provinces with the canal area.

According to the IDB consultants, infrastructure in Panama is good when compared to the rest of Latin America, but the analysis inside the country, highlight the very marked "territorial differences

It is not only a problem of social justice, but also of economic performance, since the potential of future activities of the Panamanian economy, such as "tourism" or "quality agro-industry", are located in territories other than the capital of the province of Panama, where most of the economic investments are concentrated.

To reach these conclusions, IDB experts used several indicators as a reference, most of them related to budget investment.

For example, they specify that the 10 provinces of the country absorbed between 2013 and 2017 the greater part of the general budget of the State (98%).  

At the other extreme are the indigenous comarcas -three formally recognized-: 1.7% of the budget was allocated during the same period, that is, an average amount of $87 million per year.

In other words, the budget allocated to the provinces is 58 times greater than that assigned to the districts.

The biggest beneficiary was Panama, with an average of 68.5% of the budget, that is, $3.621 billion. That means that for every dollar assigned to investments in the province of Panama, three cents were allocated in the indigenous districts. After Panama, the following in order of importance were Chiriquí (8%), Colón (5%) and Veraguas (5%).

The sector with the greatest imbalance, is transport  explained by the large infrastructure works developed in the city of Panama. For every dollar per capita received in the provinces, the inhabitants of the clmarcas received about 4 cents.

This is related to projects such as the Metro lines or the investment in the Metro Bus, which correspond specifically to the province of Panama.

Severo Sousa , president of the National Council for Private Enterprise (CONEP) , said he agreed that by improving connectivity in populations outside the Canal watershed, can help reduce poverty and inequality in those areas, since in the extent to which they remain isolated it  is impossible for them to develop.



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Of course most of the money is going to be spent in Panama City.  The greater metropolitan area of Panama City is about 1.5 million out of the 4 million total population of the country.  That will never change, nor should it.

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Posted (edited)

Corruption has a lot to do with it. When dollars are handled by crooks outside and inside of Panama City you see the results. For example, form 080 (deputado expenditures) and the bus buy back program. One look at road conditions and schools is tell all on the tax base stealing. The poor will suffer until some form of transparency is kept on the front burner and class warfare is engaged more. Increase wages and stop working people for $15 a day. Track taxes at cash registers closely. I know plenty of stores that sell a little cheaper if NO factura is ask for. That in itself is a serious tax base problem country wide. We will see what NITO does. He made a lot of promises and so did Varela. There are a lot of foreigners stealing work illegally in Panama. Some are in Boquete. You do NOT have to work here to pay taxes. People need to have sufficent funds to live off of here and not take work from Panamanians. Just a few observations from living in David and Boquete.

I still love it here.

Edited by Hil

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OPINION: Study without hunger dream

Posted 17/11/2019

In Panama, there are 400,000 undernourished people, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The vast majority is in the indigenous regions. These indicators have stagnated since 2015, and it shows in aspects such as poor school performance.

Hunger is robbing us of a generation of infants and children in rural areas. But this condition also affects the cities of the country. While in the regions 60% of children under five years of age have growth delays, in urban areas of Panama that figure is almost 20%. It is unjustifiable that in the country of the Metro lines of $2 billion each, there is even one child hungry. The current government has promised to launch a “study without hunger” program. We are late as a society to implement this initiative, which should be one of the highest priorities of government action. The hunger of our children condemns us all- LA PRENSA, Nov 17



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Wealthy Panama’s continuing hunger shame


Posted 17/11/2019

Panama has between 400,000 hungry people, according to the most recent report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Documents of the agency show that in  2015 in the country there were between 385.000  and 400.000 people who went to bed hungry which shows a stalemate in Panama in reducing people who are undernourished (insufficient food).

In the document entitled “The state of food security for 2015”, the agency stated that in 25 years the undernourishment in the country went from 26.4% to 9.5%.

The report highlights that the 9.5% that were still hungry represented 385,000 people, mostly concentrated in indigenous regions and rural areas.

The food reality of the country raised in 2015 has not changed in recent years, as the report “The panorama of food and nutrition security 2019”, released last week, shows that there are 400,00 undernourished people, that is, 10% of the population.

On November 1 the Ministry of Health (Minsa) confirmed the death of a child of 18 months due to severe malnutrition.

The infant, residing in the district of Barú, province of Chiriquí, came from an indigenous family with severe economic and housing deficiencies.

The report of "Poverty and Inequality in Panama" of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and the World Bank, shows that Barú is the 35th poorest district in the country, with poverty of 37.6%. The total population of the district is 57,924, of which 21,761 are poor.

Israel Ríos, FAO Nutrition Officer, said that Panama has presented stagnation in hunger figures, but the worst indicators remain in the regions, since 60% of children under five in this area have delays in growth, while in cities it is 19%.

"Also, if we look at children of school age, 30% of those living in the regions suffer from malnutrition problems, when they are 10% nationally,"  he said.

The Public Health specialist, Jorge Luis Prosperi,  said the stagnation in the country in the reduction of people suffering from hunger is due to the fact that it has not been a real and effective priority in the agenda of the last two governments.

"The previous governments managed a committed discourse, but maintained an economic model that shows growth, but the truth is that it has generated wealth for a few, hiding the macro indicators of the great inequality."

The Ministry of Social Development (Mides) carries out, along with other institutions, various projects to reduce poverty, the main cause of undernourishment in the country.

The main project is the so-called "Hive, Panama free of poverty and hunger, the sixth border", which aims to impact and transform the quality of life of at least 777,000 Panamanians living in multidimensional poverty and have been left behind, in 63 districts of the country.

When the project was approved, President Laurentino Cortizo said that the project s the result of an articulated work among all the ministries and institutions that have put all their resources for the benefit of the most vulnerable sectors, excluded from social development.

The FAO document shows that in Latin America and the Caribbean there are 42.5 million people who go to sleep hungry, without having ingested the minimum calories for their daily activity. They are 4.5 million more than just four years ago.

It is a scandalous figure that increasingly moves the region of the Sustainable Development Goal - Hunger Zero - that seeks to end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 and ensure access for all people, especially children, to a sufficient and nutritious diet throughout the year


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Panama third in Latin America inequality gap


Posted 29/11/2019

Poverty levels have been reduced as Panama’s economy continues to grow but, it remains the third most unequal country in the region, behind Brazil and Colombia, according to the Gini index or coefficient.

This means that the country's wealth is concentrated in a tiny sector of society, according to the Gini, which is the measure most used to evaluate the degree of concentration of wealth in the population.

Of the 15 countries in the region evaluated, the lowest inequality values are recorded in Argentina (0.396), Uruguay (0.391) and El Salvador (0.405), while the highest are in Brazil (0.540), Colombia (0.520) and Panama (0.498), according to the index.



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OPINION: More impunity, more poverty


Posted 29/11/2019

Latin America is the most unequal region in the world. Although, according to a study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), between 2002 and 2018, regional inequality decreased by 13.6% in the Gini index, this trend was not enough to reverse the Latin American reality In Panama, inequality was reduced between 2014 and 2018, but we are still the third most unequal country, among the 15 studied. Our reality marks the growth of the gap between those who earn more and those who receive less income. According to ECLAC, the countries that were most successful in dealing with inequality, such as Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, did so thanks to the fact that they allocated more than 14% of their gross domestic product (GDP), to social policies. In 2018, Panama allocated 8.8% of GDP for these purposes. If less resources are allocated, and negligently managed, or corruption and impunity is facilitated, the result is more poverty, more hunger, and more disease. The resulting inequality is a product of the weakness of the institutions, and the success of impunity. -LA PRENSA Nov. 29.



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