The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum)

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Within countries, the heterogeneity is even greater and children who live in extreme poverty are more vulnerable, with illiterate mothers of indigenous origin in the rural areas of Central America and the Andean countries. Nonetheless, in terms of size, the population with undernutrition is growing rapidly in outlying sectors of the large cities.

Another feature of the nutritional status of the regional population is the progressive increase in excess weight and obesity, which until a few years ago was considered the exclusive problem of high-income countries. Health security. Infant mortality under the age of five. During the first decade of this century the mortality rate of this segment of the population decreased as access to potable water in almost all of the countries of the region increased.

In addition, infant malnutrition affects more than one-fifth of children under the age of five in seven countries Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. In sum, the population in 10 of 18 countries of the region suffers one or more shortcomings that range from the most basic to full physical development UNDP-OAS, The countries with the greatest risk of infant mortality are those with lower incomes, the highest percentage of illiterate women, less access to potable water and basic sanitary conditions and with lower public expenditure in health.

These factors are the main causes of the high rates of infant mortality in the region, explain the regional variability and clearly show that infant mortality in the region is the result of shortcomings or low investment in social and environmental programs and policies that, added to the low public expenditure, make for an even more unequal social situation.

There is, therefore, a perverse condition in many of the countries with a high rate of infant mortality: to the unresolved social problems is added a low expenditure in health that results in a health policy that does not invest in disease prevention or in the promotion of health and much less in extending the coverage of primary health-care services ECLAC, Maternal health. Maternal health and the morbidity associated with its determining factors are very serious public health problems that reveal some of the deepest inequalities in living conditions.

They reflect the state of health of women of child-bearing age and the quality of care to which they have access, such as birth control, pre-natal control, qualified care at birth and emergency obstetrical service, the lack of which may lead to death and health problems that could be avoided by adequate pre-natal control and quality care during and after delivery or subsequent complications ECLAC, The maternal mortality rates of the countries of the region are very diverse as are the trends: they are better in some countries and markedly worse in others.

The others have ratios that range from 56 in Mexico to the extreme of in Haiti. It is a very unflattering picture compared to developed regions where the rates are lower than 10 deaths per , live births. A very important special problem is the high percentage of adolescent pregnancies. Adolescents have greater difficulties than adult women to assert their productive and reproductive roles and they lack adequate opportunities to exercise their reproductive rights.

In addition, adolescent pregnancies are both a cause and an important result of socio-economic, ethnic, generational and gender inequalities. It is important to note that preventing unwanted pregnancies alone could avoid about one-fourth of maternal deaths, including those caused by clandestine abortions UN, , cited by ECLAC, In , the regional prevalence of HIV in the adult population 15 to 49 years of age was estimated at 0.

In , the estimated total of new HIV infections was , In , there were , new infections, which raised the number of persons living with HIV to an estimated two million.

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The epidemic has not yet been slowed or even reversed. On the contrary, the risk of a greater expansion of the infection, including among women, youth and indigenous persons, continues ECLAC, The incidence of malaria in Latin America and the Caribbean is very much inferior to that of the most affected regions of the world. The incidence of tuberculosis has been decreasing since the s and it is expected that this trend will continue until In , the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean reported , new cases, , of which were smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis, an unfavorable diagnosis for the affected person and for the general population due to the high risk of death and of it spreading if it is not treated WHO, Tuberculosis affects people in their productive years, with serious economic repercussions for families and society ECLAC, Other threats to health.

There have been serious events in the area of public health in the region in and such as the AH1N1 flu epidemic, the devastating earthquake of January in Haiti and the cholera epidemic that affected that country. According to data of WHO , the Haitian Ministry of Health reported that there have been 18, cases of hospitalized cholera and 1, deaths due to this epidemic in the country. This includes 1, hospitalized cases in the North Department.

The official mortality rate for hospitalized cases in that zone is around 7. Environmental security. These situations are nearly irreversible and affect productivity in major parts of the region, with significant social and economic consequences. Agriculture is a particularly sensitive issue in this connection, since it directly affects food security.

Hydrobiological resources. On the other hand, the growth of fishing and industrial aquaculture, habitat changes and increasing pollution has meant a heavy pressure on hydrobiological resources, which is reflected in the reduction of some of the important commercial fish populations.

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The combination of intensive fishing with other environmental factors could accelerate the depletion of some fisheries. One possibility is the displacement of fish to colder zones with the consequent increase in availability there with a concomitant scarcity in the traditional fishing grounds ECLAC, Water resources. Another important environmental factor is water resources. Despite a relative abundance, the region has important problems related to the availability of water at different times and places. The distribution of water is very unequal and subject to many pressures, among which are increasing contamination, degradation of capture basins and exhaustion or unsustainable use of aquifers as a result of demographic growth, socio-economic development and growing interference of society in the hydrological cycle.

Effective management of water resources has acquired a greater importance in light of growing human impacts and the probable effects of climate change on the distribution and intensity of precipitation, the rise in the sea level, the variation of temperature patterns and their effects on the glaciers ECLAC, Land and soil degradation.

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Another problem is the degradation of the land and the soils of Latin America and the Caribbean, that is, the loss of productive capacity in the soils that affects human activities and ecological functions, compromising the future potential of ecosystems to supply goods and services. Land degradation in arid, semi-arid and sub-humid zones is due to the erosion caused by deforestation and excessive overgrazing, over-exploitation of the soil, failure to rotate crops or monoculture and improper practices of intensive irrigation.

These pressures appear to have been intensified by the effects of climate change. Air pollution. Another problem is air pollution, which annually causes an estimated 2. Exposure to the types and concentrations of contaminants that are usually found in urban areas has been related to increased risk of mortality and morbidity linked to certain health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Urban sustainability. There are more than million persons living in unacceptable conditions in the region ECLAC, , which leads to overcrowding, migration of the rural population to cities and saturation of the basic services. Migration between cities and the natural urban growth are the greatest factors, although climate change may cause a greater than foreseen increase. In this scenario, according to ECLAC, urban sustainability in the region faces challenges that go further than the slums and shortcomings in providing basic services directly affecting the poor, such as access to health and education.


Mass transit continues to be inefficient and insufficient, which means high costs of mobility for the poor and has resulted in a large and growing number of private vehicles that slows urban traffic circulation. There is no adequate and acceptable management of solid wastes in the large cities of the region. The direct and indirect social and environments costs that result from this situation are significant and affect the marginal zones disproportionately.

Most Latin American and Caribbean cities have at least the minimum surface per capita of green areas recommended by the WHO, which is nine square meters per habitant and an urban design that includes green spaces within a 15 minutes walk of the residential areas. Extreme events and natural disasters.

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As a result of climate change, extreme events and natural disaster catastrophes have increased in number and intensity in the region. The changes in extreme climate events are of special concern in the Caribbean, where meterological disasters like floods, droughts and tropical hurricanes affected more people between and than anywhere else in the world. In the past three decades, the Caribbean has suffered direct and indirect losses on the order of between million and three billion dollars due to natural disasters ECLAC, In two devastating earthquakes hit the region, the first in Haiti in January and the other in Chile in February, which caused great human and material losses and a slow and costly recovery, particularly in Haiti because of its high rate of poverty.

There is a high risk of the occurrence of natural disasters as the region is vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, heavy rains that lead to flooding and landslides, tropical storms, hurricanes, forest fires and drought. The risk of impact of natural disasters increases because of dwellings built in urban seismic zones, on mountain slopes with a high risk of landslides or on the flood plains of rivers. Climate change has an impact on all of the countries, bringing with it a radicalization of climatic phenomena, especially floods, hurricanes and droughts.

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  • Personal security. Threats to personal security include, inter alia , physical violence, crime, terrorism, domestic violence, child labor see, What is human security? This topic also includes criminal activity, organized crime, in short, any situation that threatens personal security. Citizen security is a specific modality of human security UNDP , specifically of personal security. The definitions are complementary and enrich human security in its dimension of personal security. Personal insecurity is first on the list of concerns of most of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The magnitude of the problem may be seen in the high and growing rate of homicides in the region. A legacy of armed conflicts —the great availability of firearms- contributes to this epidemic. Juvenile gangs, another indirect legacy of the armed conflicts in Central America, have also led to the very high rates of homicides in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

    Increasingly, the international drug production and trade have generated a new phenomenon, narco-violence, that has shaken Colombia, Mexico and several countries of Central America. The region with the highest levels of criminal violence in the world. Each year some million persons in Latin America and the Caribbean —a third of the population- are victims, directly or in the nuclear family, of some criminal activity. During the first decade of this century, more than 1. Homicides are the most acute and the most visible consequence of the problem.

    These gangs have a significant impact on the levels of violence in the region, as well as an increasing participation in aiding organized crime. With neither the power nor the resources of other social groups to transform their realities, the victims of insecurity do not attract the attention of the mass media nor are they a priority of the national political agendas. Organized crime. The region is the main producer of cocaine in the world and its participation in the production of opiates and synthetic drugs is increasing.

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    As producers, transit and storage locations and money launderers, points of access to the US market or consumer markets, the Latin American countries participate in an illicit commerce that mobilizes tens of thousands of millions of dollars each year. In several Latin American societies there is evidence that institutional weakness has allowed violence that manifests itself in the struggle between rival gangs for the control of the routes to the United States and Europe.

    Also required are efforts in the area of public health to limit consumption and to treat addicts. Most importantly, there must be a vigorous political dimension that shows that it is a problem that far exceeds the capacities of the domestic jurisdictions and thus requires a true hemispheric and global dialogue. Children and youth. The report on Human Development in Central America affirms that the insecurity of the Central American youth is truly dramatic: the probability that a young person in Latin America will be a murder victim is thirty times greater than that of European youth and seventy times greater than that of a young person in countries such as Greece, Hungary, England, Austria, Japan or Ireland UNDP, On the other hand, in spite of the lack of data on security of children, the report on Central America refers to six of its most worrisome expressions: a the homicides of under-age people and their participation in criminal activities; b abuses by authorities; c abuses in the home; d sexual abuses; e exploitation in the workplace and f commercial sexual exploitation UNDP, Violence against women.

    Citizen insecurity is not the same for both sexes since men and women participate in crime in different ways and are exposed to different risks UNDP, :. The most recent data of the countries that have conducted surveys that incorporate a question on the topic of violence, as is the case of Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and the Dominican Republic, show that sexual violence affects between 5. Within every country, the number of women who are victims of emotional violence is much higher. Human and political cost. In the case of Central America, these costs 1.

    The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum) The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum)
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    The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum) The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum)
    The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum) The Quality of Life in Latin American Cities (Latin American Development Forum)
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