Latin America’s poorest need new programmes – World Bank

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rapid growth in Latin America over the past decade still left one in five residents of the region living on less than $4 a day, the World Bank said in a report yesterday.

The report, “Left Behind,” for the first time studies those caught in chronic poverty from 2004 to 2012 in Latin America, separating them from “downwardly mobile” people who became poor after earning higher incomes in the past.

Better understanding of people stuck living on such low incomes helps target aid programmes, and is even more important now that the region’s poverty reduction efforts are slowing with weaker economic growth, the report’s authors said.

The World Bank predicts Latin America’s GDP growth will decrease to 1.7 per cent this year, from a high of 6 per cent in 2010.

And the United Nations said in a report this year that poverty reduction has stalled across the region, barely budging since 2012.

Of the 130 million people classified as chronically poor, many live in urban areas where they are harder to reach, even though past poverty reduction efforts focused on rural areas, according to the authors.

Chronic poverty rates also vary widely across the region, from 50 per cent in Guatemala to just 7.8 per cent in Uruguay.

Some of the poorest people are concentrated in particular regions in a country, like in Brazil’s Ceara state, which has double the chronic poverty rate of the country as a whole.

The World Bank study finds people stay poor not just because of a lack of education, health services or basic sanitation, but that psychology may also come into play.

For example, a tuberculosis treatment and prevention programme in Peru failed in some of Lima’s shantytowns until the government introduced a component that included psychological counselling for depression.

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