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FOCALPoint July-August 2011

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UNFPA report highlights need for more midwives

High food prices may benefit some, hurt others

One quarter of Latin American youth are at risk of criminality and violence

FOCAL Views: Moving beyond peacekeeping

The architecture of security needs be redesigned to address transnational crime efficiently.


Cartoon excerpt: A man wearing a shirt with a maple leaf on it stands at a saloon door.Go to this month's editorial cartoon





Canadians largely indifferent to Latin America and the Caribbean
Victor Armony and Jack Jedwab
While the government promotes engagement in the Americas, Canadians show little interest in the region.

Vera Lúcia Barrouin Crivano, Under Secretary General for Policy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil

Les frontières ouvertes de l'Amérique latine | EN
Fernando A. Chinchilla
Le crime organisé sème la violence aux frontières et met en péril les acquis démocratiques.


Colombia: Wide-ranging threats to Indigenous Peoples and African-descendents
Maurice Bryan
Despite legal protections, these populations struggle to access rights, and their leaders' lives are on the line.

L'humanitaire canadien dans les Amériques : à la recherche d'une identité | EN
François Audet
L'aide allouée à la région révèle un manque d'objectifs concrets pour la prévention et la réduction des risques.


UNFPA report highlights need for more midwives

Training more midwives could save 3.6 million lives worldwide, but many developing countries, including several in Latin America and the Caribbean, fall short of targets.

That was the conclusion of a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report released in June which surveyed midwifery services in 58 developing countries. The State of the World’s Midwifery 2011, the first ever such report, found that 38 countries need a total of 112,000 more midwives in order to achieve 95 per cent coverage of births by skilled attendants by 2015, as mandated by Millennium Development Goal 5.

The report included four Latin American countries: Haiti, which falls in the same category of need as many African countries; Bolivia and Nicaragua, which have achieved 66 per cent and 74 per cent coverage of births by skilled health personnel, respectively; and Guyana, where the maternal mortality rate of 270 per 100,000 live births is almost as high as Haiti’s (300) despite 83 per cent coverage of births by skilled attendants.

While maternal mortality in all four countries is below 1990 levels, the decline was not uniform: in Guyana, mortality rates dropped to a low of 120 in the year 2000 before spiking over the past decade.

The report emphasized the need for governments to recognize midwifery as a profession and promote it as a career option, and for schools to review curricula to ensure competence.

High food prices may benefit some, hurt others

Volatile food prices are both an opportunity and a challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean, a series of meetings in Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador in June 2011 concluded. Members from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) met with representatives from the public and private sectors.

Discussions highlighted the possibility that high food prices could provide an opportunity for economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean. Increasing the supply of food from the region at higher prices could help fuel the agricultural sector in food-exporting countries.

The talks emphasized that food-importing countries suffer when food prices are high, and people with the lowest incomes in all countries would continue to be the most vulnerable, since a higher proportion of their income goes to purchasing food.

The countries and agencies at the meetings agreed that market transparency, innovation, investment, and environmentally sustainable agriculture will be essential in reinforcing rural development and mitigating inflated food prices. Topics for further discussion include the strengthening of social safety nets and family farming, as well as the creation of monitoring and alert mechanisms on food price trends.

One quarter of Latin American youth are at risk of criminality and violence

Of the 150 million people aged 15 to 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 38 million are not in school and do not have stable employment, according to José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS). This puts one quarter of the region's youth at great risk of criminality and violence.

Insulza spoke June 28 to a USAID-sponsored conference in Washington on youth development and crime prevention.

"Young people 10 to 24 years of age represent 30 per cent of the population of the region, and almost 32 per cent of them are involved in some type of risky behavior," said Arturo Valenzuela, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America.

Risky behaviour includes dropping out of school, sexual activity at a young age, drug use and criminality. Seventeen per cent of youth in Latin America are unemployed, compared to a global average of 8.5 per cent. The region has a 60 per cent school dropout rate.

This risky behaviour reduces economic growth by two per cent annually, according to the World Bank. According to Valenzuela, violence costs the region 1.4 per cent of its GDP annually.

In Latin America, Insulza said, youth and children are now responsible for nine out of every 10 gun-related homicides, and a Latin American youth is 30 times more likely to be the victim of homicide than a European youth.


Cartoon: Representatives from Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, and Guatemala in the "Peacekeepers' Saloon" in Port-au-Prince look over to the naive-looking Canadian who has just entered the bar.

"Who's the little guy?"

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