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Drastic Discrimination Against Indigenous And African-Descended Children In Latin America

By Dialogo
April 22, 2009

Children belonging to the largest minorities in Latin America, aboriginal and of African ancestry, are the main victims of racial discrimination, with an average of five to seven fewer years of schooling than the overall population, and exceptionally high levels of poverty and chronic malnutrition. This was stated by the director of UNICEF in Latin America, Nils Kastberg, a participant in the World Conference against Racism to be held this week in Geneva. "There is a clear pattern of discrimination against these groups," said the representative of UNICEF, who regretted that the succession of democratic governments in the region has been unable in recent decades to reverse the situation. Of the 150 million people of African ancestry (many of them in Brazil) and between 40 and 50 million indigenous people, half are children who suffer from economic, social, and cultural discrimination," Kastberg stressed. To illustrate his statement, he said that both minorities are over-represented among the 71,000 to 75,000 children under five who die each year in Mexico and Brazil, “two countries which consider other issues to be more important,” for being the most highly populated. In terms of poverty, “indigenous and African-descended children and are twice as poor compared to others,” and those countries hold the largest number of said groups, where levels of child malnutrition are highest. Kastberg said that in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay the rate of chronic malnutrition exceeds 25%, while in Guatemala it reaches 41%. Also, in this respect, children belonging to minorities are worse off. In the World Conference Against Racism, Kastberg regretted that "nobody talks about half the world's population (children, adolescents and youths), who do not vote;" therefore, he plans to address this issue in a speech that is scheduled tomorrow at this forum.
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