LIMA – Roughly 300,000 Peruvians emerged from extreme poverty last year thanks to government social programs, the country’s minister of Development and Social Inclusion said in an interview with Efe.
President Ollanta Humala’s administration set a goal of reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty from 6.3 percent to 5 percent by 2016, but the figure has already fallen to 4.7 percent, Paola Bustamante said.
Peru’s 7.2 million poor people and the 1.4 million residents classified as indigent together represent almost 24 percent of the Andean nation’s population.
“Around 300,000 of the people who have emerged from extreme poverty are directly connected with the intervention of Juntos (Together) and Pension 65,” Bustamante said, referring to two of the government’s major social programs.
Juntos provides 825,000 families with 200 soles ($68) every two months, though the benefit is conditional on mothers’ taking their children for regular medical checkups and keeping the kids in school.
Under Pension 65, some 450,000 indigent seniors receive 250 soles ($85) every two months.
“We have already reduced extreme poverty as a function of the goal we had set, but we will continue working to make that number go on falling,” the minister said.
Among the other programs her department administers are one that delivers meals to 3.1 million school children and an initiative enabling 59,000 families to improve their homes and farms.
“We are reaching approximately 3.5-4 million people in the country with the social programs,” Bustamante said.
The ministry’s recent focus has been on reducing chronic child malnutrition, a condition that affected 17.5 percent of Peru’s youngsters at the beginning of 2014.
“While (child malnutrition) declines every year, we have set ourselves an ambitious objectives of reducing it to 10 percent in 2016,” Bustamante said.
“In the second half this year we have already brought it down to 14.1 percent, that signifies that it is a priority of this administration to take concrete measures and actions to reduce chronic child malnutrition,” she said.
Peru’s 2015 budget includes a 25 percent increase in spending on social programs and provision of basic services, to $1.5 billion.
“We are working to generate opportunities, which implies that everybody has access to services such as education and health, and basic services such as water, sewer, electrification and connectivity,” the minister said.