San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Latin American Social Gap Stymies Development

Latin America and the Caribbean region continue to grapple with the widest socioeconomic gap in the world, according to a group of economic experts who met this week in Chile.

During a conference on Wednesday at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC) in the capital city of Santiago, experts warned that the region is off course to reach goals set out in the Cairo Action Program. The program is an agreement – signed in Cairo, Egypt, 1994 by 179 countries – designed to improve and develop the health and education of people around the world.

“Despite significant achievements, we shouldn’t be complacent. There are still unacceptable levels of social inequality and segmentation in our region, especially in the area of employment,” said ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena.

Approximately 180 million Latin Americans live in poverty, she said. “Latin America has a lot to celebrate, but the greatest challenge continues to be how to reduce the disparities,” said Mari Simonen, deputy executive director of the United Nations Population Fund. “We just have five years to accelerate the achievement of the Cairo Action Program,” Simonen said.

The group discussed more grim statistics. The region’s maternal mortality rate, which U.N. agencies gauge as an indicator for human development, remains high at 200 for every 100,000 in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Perú.

In July, a study released by the Costa Rican Demographic Association showed that this country’s maternal mortality rate, while much lower than those of the countries cited above, is climbing. Whereas 18 out of 100,000 Costa Rican women died during childbirth in 1995, that number has risen to 30 in every 100,000 in recent years.

–EFE and Tico Times


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