Bloomberg Línea — Children and adolescents are the age group that is most exposed to monetary poverty in all Latin American countries, and especially in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico, according to the latest Social Panorama of Latin America and the Caribbean report published by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), and which is also confirmed by reports from the region’s countries and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
According to the most recent figures published by ECLAC, almost 45% of Latin Americans under 18 years of age live in conditions of monetary poverty, a percentage that exceeds the average for the region’s total population by 13 percentage points.
Likewise, of those 81 million young people in the region who are poor, 43% (35 million) live in extreme poverty.
The study takes into consideration data from 18 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Which are the poorest countries in Latin America?
Although in all the countries considered, poverty among people aged 18 and below is higher than the general average, there are some particularities in each country.
There are three countries in which half or more of those under 18 years of age live in poverty: Honduras (where 62% of children are poor), Mexico (51%) and Colombia (50%).
In Argentina, Bolivia and El Salvador, the percentage reaches or exceeds 40%.
In Brazil, the largest economy of the region and the most populated country in Latin America, 39% of children are poor.
Uruguay is the country with the lowest percentage of poor people, but at the same time it is the only country where the percentage of poor children is double the total average of poor people (5% of poor people in total, versus 10% of poor children).
In all countries, poverty rates in this group exceed the national average, with differences of between 1.2 and two-fold.
The gap between children and other age groups tends to be higher in countries with lower poverty rates, although this is not true in all cases.
In 2021, at the regional average, critical deprivation in materiality and basic services in housing affected 52% of children and adolescents living in income poverty, and overcrowding in this group reached a regional average of 55%.
Overcrowding and lack of access to the Internet affected 40% and 44%, respectively, of children and adolescents in households that were not in poverty but had low incomes, and 26% and 29% of this population in the lower-middle income stratum respectively.
The need for humanitarian aid
An article published by UNICEF on December 5 turned the spotlight on another of the most painful focal points when talking about children: the need for humanitarian aid.
According to UNICEF, given the increase in migratory flows, violence and climate risks, it is estimated that 16.5 million children and adolescents in Latin America and the Caribbean will need humanitarian aid in 2023.
In recent years, the region has experienced one of the world’s largest migration crises outside of conflict zones. This, coupled with increasing poverty exacerbated by the residual effects of the pandemic, the global economic downturn, the climate crisis and violence, means that the flow of children and adolescents in transit from South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean across the continent will continue to increase.
Between January and October 2022, nearly 32,000 children - 211,000 migrants in total - have crossed the Darien jungle between Colombia and Panama, exceeding the total number recorded in 2021 by 10%. It is also a region prone to natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and droughts. Nearly 1.5 million children and adolescents were affected by such emergencies throughout Latin America and the Caribbean in 2022.
Meanwhile, another UNICEF report, published in March last year, highlighted that households with children and adolescents are in a more precarious situation than those without children. Some 34% of households without children have savings for two weeks or less, 12 percentage points less than those with children.
The survey also showed that households with children are more likely than those without children to rely on informal employment as their main source of income.