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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 22:05 GMT 23:05 UK
Poverty blights Latin American development
A favela - or shanty town - in Rio de Janeiro
Up to 50 million Brazilians live in poverty
At the troubled G8 summit in Genoa last week, world leaders pledged to tackle global poverty. The richest nations propose that an increase in free trade is the best way to help the world's poor.

El Salvadorean President Francisco Flores was the only Latin American head of state invited to participate in a G8 meeting on the fight against poverty.

The San Salvador La Prensa Grafica newspaper reported that the leaders praised El Salvador's achievements in human development.

Eradicating hunger is not a matter of the amount of money, but how it is distributed
Marcelo Neri

President Flores said they also pledged to increase trade with developing nations, in order to create more jobs.

"A well-paid job is what can get a person out of poverty," he added.

New approach

In Honduras, a state of emergency has been declared after most of this year's harvest was lost because of a severe drought.

One peasant leader told the La Prensa newspaper that "we not only need rain, but bank loans and education, so we don't waste what the land can provide us with."

But Andrew MacMillan - an expert at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation - says that a purposeful new approach to hunger eradication must be the first step in eliminating poverty.

"People who are hungry cannot study or work very well," he said.

Source of instability

Earlier this month the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, outlined his administration's plans to combat widespread poverty.

Mexico's President Vicente Fox
Tackling poverty is a high priority for the Mexican president

He said: "Poverty is still the greatest cause of grievances and shame for every man and woman. It is a source of instability on the world stage."

In Brazil, a report published by the independent Social Policy Centre argues that current government policies do not adequately address the fight against poverty.

Economist Marcelo Neri told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that there are up to 50 million Brazilians living in poverty.

Missing the target

He based this figure on those living on a monthly income of less than 80 reals (about $32), the amount needed to ensure the minimum food intake recommended by the World Health Organisation.

In contrast, the government claims there are only 20 million poverty-stricken Brazilians.

The Centre claims that uneven income distribution - leading to greater social inequality - is the key to the problem.

"Eradicating hunger is not a matter of the amount of money, but how it is distributed. Brazilian social policy does not reach the poor. It misses the target," Neri said.

Economists calculated that if every Brazilian above the poverty level contributed 10 reals (about $4) a month, hunger could be eradicated altogether.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

22 Jul 01 | Media reports
Central America alarmed at crop failure
21 Jul 01 | Americas
Central America 'faces food crisis'
20 Jul 01 | Business
G8 leaders focus on world poverty
18 Jul 01 | Business
World inequality
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