LIMA, Peru—From the early 2000s to 2012, the portion of the population living in poverty in Peru decreased from one half to one third. Although such growth is encouraging, glaring inequalities still prevent the benefits of rapid economic growth from indiscriminately reaching everyone.
What Are the Issues?
About half of those in rural Peru reside in poverty. In addition, 20 percent of those in the Sierras live off of less than $1.90 a day. Families outside the city suffer from food insecurity and lack of dependable energy sources. As a result, rural families have a life expectancy up to 20 years lower than those born in Lima.
These living conditions affect the women and children the worst. Due to domestic responsibilities, 30 percent of women do not have access to personal income. The women who do work make 30 percent less than men. Meanwhile, 500,000 children across the country suffer from chronic malnourishment. Additionally, almost half of the children under the age of three suffer from anemia.
Many city dwellers also struggle. In the various shantytowns that surround Lima, poor families have no access to running water and must depend on trucks to occasionally fill personal water tanks. The cost is steep: Peruvians in these slums pay up to three times as much for this water than they would in the city.
A BBC article portrays one of these poor areas up against a tall wall topped with barbed wire. The wall serves to keep slum dwellers out from the adjacent rich neighborhoods. It also acts as an effective symbol of the wealth inequality that plagues Peru.
What Is Being Done?
Since most malnutrition in Peru links to a lack of education, the World Food Programme teaches low income Peruvians the anatomy of a healthy meal at schools and communities. Using the UN’s developmental goals as a guideline, the WFP aims to eradicate hunger in Peru by 2030.
The World Food Programme’s methods include improving rations, studying eating patterns in schools, and introducing healthier foods to school meals.
The government of Peru works with the World Bank on two separate programs. One of these programs focuses partially on improving public education. The World Bank lent Peru $1.25 billion to support these goals, and pledged to continue its support of future social and economic reform in Peru.
These World Bank-funded projects also aim to increase exports and fortify businesses. According to the World Bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, the best way to reduce income inequality and poverty in Peru is to strive for economic growth.
Evidence supporting President Kim’s advice can be seen in Peru’s growing quinoa industry. Despite initial claims that the popularity of quinoa made this Peruvian staple unaffordable for the farmers that cultivate it, recent studies found that quinoa sales made many rural Peruvians financially better off. Striving for more diversified markets may slowly chip away at the looming income gap that creates so much poverty in Peru.
– Emiliano Perez