Health in Bolivia
In terms of key indicators, health in Bolivia ranks nearly last among the Western Hemisphere countries. Only Haiti scores consistently lower. Bolivia's child mortality rate of 69 per 1,000 live births is the worst in South America. Proper nourishment is a constant struggle for many Bolivians. Experts estimate that 7 percent of Bolivian children under the age of five and 23 percent of the entire population suffer from malnutrition. Another health factor in Bolivia is sanitation.
Bolivians living in rural areas lack proper sanitation and medical services, rendering many helpless against still potent diseases such as malaria (in tropical areas) and Chagas disease. Statistics indicate that only 20 percent of the rural population in Bolivia has access to safe water and sanitation. The prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in Bolivia appears to be low, around 0.1 percent of the population. Between 1984 and 2002, only 333 cases of AIDS were reported to United Nations officials. CIA World Factbook estimated this number for 2007 as being 8,100, with fewer than 500 deaths.
Major infectious diseases with high degree of risk are:
- food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
- vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever
- water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
The Bolivia section of country studies published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA mentions the following:
Bolivia's booming cocaine industry was also spawning serious health problems for Bolivian youth. In the 1980s, Bolivia became a drug-consuming country, as well as a principal exporter of cocaine. Addiction to coca paste, a cocaine by-product in the form of a cigarette called 'pitillo', was spreading rapidly among city youths. Pitillos were abundantly available in schools and at social gatherings. Other youths who worked as coca-leaf stompers (pisadores), dancing all night on kerosene and acid-soaked leaves, also commonly became addicted. The pitillo addict suffered from serious physical and psychological side-effects caused by highly toxic impurities contained in the unrefined coca paste. Coca-paste addiction statistics were unavailable, and drug treatment centers were practically nonexistent.
Malnutrition and foreign aid relief
A common health concern in Bolivia is malnutrition. Malnutrition can result from numerous factors, such as an inadequate supply of food and/or the lack of sufficient consumption of vital nutrients, such as vitamins and proteins. Malnutrition is widespread in Bolivia, as Bolivia is the second poorest country to Haiti in the Western Hemisphere and has two thirds of its population below the World Bank poverty benchmark of $2.00/day." To date, there has been substantial foreign food aid implemented in Bolivia, which include initiatives from the USAID, FHI (Food Health International), and the Global Food for Education Initiative. However, malnutrition is still a prominent problem in Bolivia. This foreign food aid offers an appreciable supply of food for the impoverished families in Bolivia but is primarily wheat grain, which holds limited nutritional value.
There have been initiatives led by FHI with their aid effort in Bolivia by implementing two programs aimed specifically at Health and Food Security, and Agricultural Intensification and Income Production. Although these two programs have the same initiative of improving the health of Bolivians, they are actually competing against each other. This is due to their different priorities. The health and food security team embrace a more healthy diet for the population while the agricultural team is working towards increasing the marketability of crops. As a result, these two programs have begun to pull the food aid policy in opposite directions.
This is further emphasized by the instance where the highly nutritional quinoa has been the target and focus for export to the developed world, with the incentive of economic development in Bolivia. However, this has caused inflation for quinoa for locals and as a result, the locals rarely consume quinoa, even though the vast majority know of its superior nutritional value."
As Bolivia continues to receive foreign food aid, it is becoming more urgent to reevaluate these foreign food aid policies. That is, we need to try to avoid taking away the nutritional staple food from developing countries and replacing them with less nutritional substitutes. Furthermore, it is of great importance to implement programs with a common cause and can cooperate with each other most effectively, and this will ultimately improve the dietary health of the population of Bolivia.
Bolivia's health care system is in the midst of reform, funded in part by international organizations such as the World Bank. The number of physicians practicing in Bolivia has doubled in recent years, to about 130 per 100,000 citizens, a comparable ratio for the region. Current priorities include providing basic health care to more women and children, expanding immunization, and tackling the problems of diarrhea and tuberculosis, which are leading causes of death among children. As a percentage of its national budget, Bolivia's health care expenditures are 4.3 percent, also on a par with regional norms. However, its annual per capita spending of US$145 is lower than in most South American countries.
Maternal and child health care
In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund released a report on the state of the world's midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Bolivia is 180. This is compared with 180.2 in 2008 and 439.3 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 54 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5's mortality is 43. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – improve maternal death. In Bolivia the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 11 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women 1 in 150.
- Bolivia country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (January 2006). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- Bolivia section of country studies published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA
- Brett, John A. 2010. The Political-Economics of Developing Markets versus Satisfying Food Needs. Food and Foodways 18 (1–2):28–42.
- "The State Of The World's Midwifery". United Nations Population Fund. June 2011.