LIMA, Peru — According to recent reports, Peru has made great progress fighting poverty and improving national health.
The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica (INEI) reports that Peru’s poverty levels have fallen almost 2 percent between 2012 and 2013, dropping from 25.8 percent to 23.9 percent. This development has lifted almost half a million Peruvians up from beneath the poverty line. Similar improvements have been seen consistently over the last five years, during which time a total 2.5 million Peruvians have made the transition upward. Although 7.3 million Peruvians still live in poverty, this number has decreased drastically, and trends say the number will continue to drop.
Rural areas face a greater struggle with poverty than urban areas. As is common in other countries, urban areas are the first to benefit from economic improvements and technological developments. In Lima, Peru’s capital and the nation’s center for development, poverty has fallen to 12.8 percent in 2013, down from 14.5 percent as recently as 2012. Nationwide, Peru’s urban areas average a poverty level of 16.1 percent, whereas in rural areas, an average 48 percent of citizens live below the line. In the rural sierra, the most impoverished part of the country, 52.9 percent of the population continues to live in a state of poverty. Though this number is distressing, it represents progress. Poverty in this area is down almost 6 percent in a single year, having fallen from 58.8 percent in 2012.
Along with this progress fighting poverty comes the growth of Peru’s middle class. According to the Ministery of Economy and Finance, the median income for Peruvians has risen by 36.7 percent between 2004 and 2012. During the same period, the middle class swelled from 26 percent to 50 percent. In 2012, the GNI per capita of Peru stood at $6,060, ranking Peru as an upper-middle income nation, according to the World Bank.
Peru’s new middle class is contributing to the rise of consumer spending. In 2012 alone, commercial sales exceeded $5.3 billion, representing a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Super-sized shopping centers are multiplying to meet demands.
Additional indicators of prosperity are appearing all over Peru. For instance, Peru’s life expectancy has seen a surge in recent years. Girls born in Peru in 1990 had a life expectancy of 73 years, while boys could expect to live an average of 69 years. In 2012, the average life expectancy has risen to 79 years for both sexes, an average increase of eight years after only two decades of development. This places Peru ahead of the worldwide average life expectancy in 2012 (73 for girls and 68 for boys), bringing the whole country closer in line with their own nation’s upper-middle class and with the trends of Latin America as a whole.
Conditions for women are improving as well. In addition to gains in life expectancy, women have seen improvements in employment, education and maternal healthcare, all evidenced by statistics. Between 2001 and 2013, the number of women employed in the private sector has nearly doubled. Furthermore, the percentage of women holding degrees from non-university higher education institutions has reached 13.2 percent, up from 10.1 percent in 2001. The number of women with university degrees has seen greater growth, rising from 8.9 percent to 15.9 percent during the same period. Another important change for women in Peru is the rise in the number of hospital-based births. In 2001, less than 58 percent of children born in Peru were delivered in hospitals, but by 2013, that number has risen to almost 89 percent.
As well as continuing to make progress fighting poverty and improving opportunities for its citizens, Peru faces an outstanding battle with malnutrition and anemia. These conditions are all too frequent in Peru and result from compound health issues, including but not limited to poor diet, infectious diseases, low family incomes and a lack of vaccines.
Prime Minister Rene Cornejo recently unveiled the government’s three-year mission to reduce rates of malnutrition and anemia in Peru. By 2017, the government hopes to cut malnutrition from a rate of 17 percent down to 10 percent. Anemia, Cornejo says, is to be reduced from 46.4 percent all the way to 20 percent. Having shown itself capable of rapid development in other areas, Peru may be able to meet the goals of this plan.