Millions of children live below the poverty line in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, but there was very little reporting about this reality while members of the G20 group visited the city over the weekend.
About 40% of all children live in families that survive with just over $500 a month, the minimum amount needed to purchase basic food items.
Unfortunately, lack of money is the least important problem for millions of children in Argentina. Cash takes a back seat in someone’s life when their water is contaminated, their blood is polluted with lead and illegal drugs are sold everywhere.
Millions of children lack education, healthy food, and decent housing.
It is important to note that half of these children are adolescents with very few opportunities to study or work, so they end up turning into drug dealers in their own neighborhoods.
Unlike other measurements of so-called multidimensional poverty -suffering several shortcomings out of a list of serious conditions-, the UN Agency for Children in Argentina considers that suffering only one of the multiple possible deprivations makes children poor.
They explain that in these areas of Argentina rights are not substitutable because of the dire conditions in which millions of children and their families live.
A child who goes to school, but lives in a house in poor condition is still poor, UNICEF explains. This does not mean that the organization does not calculate the amount and intensity of the deficiencies suffered by a child, “It is not the same suffering from one deficiency than five.”
There are many of those measurable and other invisible conditions all over Argentina, but there is one that especially worries the inhabitants outside Buenos Aires: health.
Children have lead in the blood
A 2014 report revealed that 27% of children under six years had levels greater than five micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. About 5% had more than 10 micrograms.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that any presence of lead, however minimal, is a risk.
“Even blood concentrations that do not exceed 5μg / dl – a level that until recently was considered safe – can be associated with a decrease in the child’s intelligence, as well as behavioral problems and learning difficulties,” the agency warns.
The treatment and follow-up of detected cases od lead poisoning made some progress, according to the competent entity, which, has not published results on what percentage of children suffer from this problem today.
Lead is poured into the environment by companies that operate in the region. Other chemicals are also dumped with impunity. Garbage dumps on which the city sits, are full of chemicals whose fumes are taken everywhere by air currents.
Pollution in the air and the water affect academic performance. Children began to repeat first, second and third grades and had visible maturational delays.
While government institutions have left these children behind, efforts by private organization now focus on providing food and non-formal education to about 600 children ages zero to 18 years,
Children with parents in exclusion have all the odds to inherit such a situation. It’s not just about the fact that they do not die of hunger, but of the conditions they have later in life.
Misery, as described before is not new. Many governments have come and gone without addressing extreme povery. In fact millions of children have been added to the list of people who live in extreme poverty for at least three decades.
Although it seems incredible, the Argentinian government makes cuts in health, education and other social programs while the number of children in extreme poverty increases dramatically.
With poverty, addiction, domestic violence and prostitution also increase. Despite all of this, millions of children seem to be a tiny drop in the ocean.
Not going to school is becoming habitual when the kids have to work to supplement the family budget.
If the parents have a job, the children will have childhood, but the lack of employment often adds to job insecurity, which is the root of all problems and children will suffer the same difficulties as their parents.
The fight against child poverty in Argentina is fought on as many fronts as deprivations exist. In the outskirts of Buenos Aires, poverty is more than empty wallets.
It has to do with overcrowding, living in violent neighborhoods and not having water or sanitation.
The situation has to be reversed with more State presence, more communal dining rooms, and more capacity for professional training.
There is a strong demand for communal dining rooms and snack bars that, in turn, ask for food for the population they help.
There is also a sub-execution of the budget line for public food aid.
According to official data, 35% of these resources for fiscal year 2018 have not been used for their purpose. Undoubtedly, the allocation mechanism must be improved.
As a country committed to the UN 2030 Agenda, Argentina must meet the goal of achieving, a considerable reduction in the number of men, women and children of all ages who live in poverty.
The starting point, at least as it regards the situation of childhood poverty, puts a titanic task ahead the South American nation.