The Church offers a new X-ray of chronic poverty in the Pope’s native Argentina
ROME — Six out of ten people in Argentina have been poor at some point in the past decade, according to an annual study by the Catholic Church in Pope Francis’ native country. Thirty percent of Argentines have known nothing but poverty.
The report was presented this week by Caritas and the Social Debt Observatory of the Argentine Pontifical University (ODSA), ahead of the traditional annual collection this weekend in parishes and online to raise funds to support the Caritas integral human development and food aid programs throughout the country. .
None of the three national governments since 2010, successively led by Cristina Kirchner, Mauricio Macri and Alberto Fernández, has been able to solve the hard core of poverty that has consolidated in the country.
Since its creation in 2008 by the Catholic University, the Observatory has become the most reliable source of social registers. According to its findings, Argentina has a poverty rate of 43.8% (18 million people) and one citizen in ten “suffers from hunger on a daily basis”.
Over the past decade, indigence has doubled from 4.2% (2011) to 8.8% (2021).
Caritas and ODSA have prepared the document “X-ray of poverty in Argentina: it is urgent to close the gap! », which analyzes the Observatory’s studies since 2010 and also looks at labor market issues. Only 42% of the working population, he found, have access to decent work and 58% have precarious employment, destitute employment or are unemployed.
“There are 5,687 slums or popular neighborhoods in our country,” said Gustavo Carrara, Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires. “Thousands of families with very limited access to basic services is the hard core of poverty. There are neighborhoods of workers who have desires: land to have housing and a job to support their families. Land, housing and work are the desires of all Argentines.
“In recent years, the gap has widened and the number of poor and destitute has increased,” he said. “This is the real gap in Argentina, and it cannot continue to happen. Our country will not be happy if this gap is not reduced”.
Carrara is the vice-president of Caritas Argentina and is known to many as the “bishop of the slums”, as he is one of the dozens of priests who live and minister in the slums of the former diocese of Pope Francis.
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The report supports the words of the bishop: in 2011, 25.9% of the population lived below the poverty line and 4.2% in extreme poverty. Today, those two numbers have jumped to 43.8% and 8.8%, respectively. The social situation has worsened among children under 18, among whom poverty has reached 64%.
The United Nations defines extreme poverty or indigence as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, clean water, sanitation, health, shelter, education and information”.
Agustín Salvia, director of the ODSA and sociologist, said that “an important part of society cannot achieve its dreams and many cannot even meet their basic needs”.
One of the biggest problems, he said, is that for 30% of Argentines, poverty is structural and generational. And a further 40% of the population has been unable to meet their basic needs at some point in the past decades.
With an annual inflation rate of 58%, the eighth highest in the world – only countries in conflict or under dictatorial regimes such as Venezuela, Sudan, Lebanon and Syria have a higher rate – poverty is still expected increase.
“We have not been able to find the coordinates of a state policy capable of providing answers to employment and human development needs,” said Salvia. “Four out of ten Argentines are poor, both in terms of income and in the exercise of fundamental social rights, such as education, health, housing and habitat.”
The only solutions to the challenges will require different actors to come together to develop policies that respond to pressing problems while keeping a long-term perspective in terms of education, access to health care, employment and “structural reforms”. that tackle structural poverty”.
Now is not the time to “just” reflect on poverty, but to really change the reality of the millions of people who suffer from hunger, a disease that affects 40% of children, according to Nicolás Meyer, executive director of Caritas Argentina. of this Latin American country. , rich in raw materials, especially food.
“The current system generates poverty and exclusion, but at the same time there are many experiences of work and improvement,” Mayer said. “We must grow in dignified and decent jobs that reduce the social gap.”
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