Highest Rural Poverty Rate in the World
Mano a Mano was started by the Velasquez family because of their personal connection, but Bolivia also has the highest rural poverty rate in the entire world – 94% of rural Bolivians live below the subsistence level. Although Bolivia has seen economic growth over the past few years and improvements in basic indicators, many of these advancements have taken place in urban regions of the country. Working in these rural areas can be very challenging; many of the communities we work in are anywhere from 8,000-14,000 feet above sea level in the Andes Mountains, with poor roads and difficult weather. For many organizations these circumstances present too much of a challenge to work in, and oftentimes these communities are ignored.
The impact of this poverty falls especially hard on Bolivia’s mothers and children. Of 100,000 live births, 650 women will lose their lives (the highest maternal death rate in Latin America). In the rural Cochabamba provinces, the location of most of Mano a Mano’s clinics, 3 of every 10 children die by age one. Most of these deaths result from preventable gastrointestinal infections and diseases for which effective vaccinations are available.
Lack of Infrastructure
About 65% of the population has no geographic access to medical care. Many others do not receive care because they simply cannot pay for it. Medical supplies and equipment are prohibitively expensive, with non-profit and government-operated health programs often lacking the most basic items. The lack of supplies seriously compromises their capacity to provide care for those who have no ability to pay. Mano a Mano’s medical supply distribution and community clinic programs address these serious issues.
The fertile highland valleys in which most Mano a Mano community clinics are located could produce abundant crops of corn, potatoes, and fresh vegetables. Sadly, flooding during the rainy season often destroys crops and undermines the foundations of adobe homes. In turn, lack of means to retain water for use during the dry season results in stunted crop growth and, during especially dry years, near total crop failure, and insufficient water to sustain livestock. Farmers plant few, if any, vegetable crops during the dry season because they must carry water to them from distant water sources.
Many rural communities lack access to roads. Without decent transportation it is difficult to transport their produce to market or travel to a school, clinic, or nearby town. Building a road can cut transportation times from multiple days into just a few hours.
Improving basic needs – water, education, health, sanitation, roads – can have a huge impact in improving the lives of entire communities at a minimal cost.