Indigenous Children: Worst Situation in Latin America

SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA (24 September 2003) -- Indigenous children face the worst conditions concerning education and health in Latin America, according to a report presented during the Fifth Ibero-American Conference of Ministers and Officials Responsible for Children and Teenagers.

The report is included in a document on the demands and rights of native children, presented at the meeting by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Noting that indigenous communities have greater educational backwardness and native girls have the highest school dropout rate, the report states that educational systems are historically indifferent to diversity.
Concerning health, the infant and maternal mortality rates are higher in nations with a larger indigenous population. The report points out that Latin American indigenous peoples have been generally ignored when it comes to health care. UNICEF reports that the countries with the highest native population have the highest poverty rates.

It cites the case of Panama, where 95 per cent of the indigenous are poor, compared to 37 per cent of the rest of the population. In the case of Guatemala, 87 per cent of the natives are poor, compared to 54 percent among the remainder of the population. The UNICEF study also shows that eight out of 10 -- or 80 per cent -- of the indigenous population in Mexico are relegated to poverty. Furthermore, it said that indigenous children and adolescents suffer from what it calls a double "invisibility" -- the virtual denial of their existence because they are young and poor.

The UNICEF report released at the Ibero-American Conference on Children -- held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia -- calls for greater understanding of the socio-cultural context of native children and their families. And it calls on all people around the world to fight against racism and discrimination.

Radio Havana

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