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Extreme poverty rises again in Latin America

Extreme poverty in Latin America hit its highest level for nine years in 2017, according to a report by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) published on Tuesday.

Poverty remained stable at 30.2 percent of the population —184 million people— but extreme poverty increased from 9.9 percent in 2016 to 10.2 percent, or 62 million people, it said.

“The proportion of people living in extreme poverty continues to increase, continuing the trend begun in 2015,” ECLAC said while presenting its annual report in Santiago.

“While the region made great progress during the previous decade and the middle of the current one, since 2015 things have regressed, in particular when it comes to extreme poverty,” added ECLAC executive secretary Alicia Barcena, during a press conference.

According to ECLAC, a United Nations body based in the Chilean capital, poverty should decrease to 29.6 percent —182 million people— in 2018 while extreme poverty will remain stable at 10.2 percent.

It noted that inequality has reduced in Latin America since the early 2000s, pointing in particular to “important” social security measures taken in recent years to contain unfair distribution of wealth.

However, “Latin America and the Caribbean remains the most unequal region in the world with significant levels of poverty including many sectors, even if they have risen out of poverty and extreme poverty, that are still vulnerable to economic cycles,” the report said.

ECLAC considers people in extreme poverty to be those who cannot afford basic foodstuffs.

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