Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in South America. Of the 9 million Bolivians, 23 percent live in extreme poverty, as measured by the United Nations. The rural population, which represents a third of the country, is the most affected. 95% of the rural population experience extreme poverty. This is the highest rate of rural extreme poverty in the world.
As in every underdeveloped country, the health related problems of Bolivia are extensive. They consist not only of the presence of illnesses and the lack of medical assistance, but also of the lack of health education and indirect factors such as malnutrition. Examples include the high child mortality and the maternal mortality rates caused both by illnesses and by the lack of skilled health personnel assisting the births. The lack of health education is exemplified in the high number of abortions among teenagers between 14 and 19 years old.
The Human Development Index (HDI) is a measure used by the United Nations Development Program (UNPD) which, based on life expectancy, adult illiteracy rates, education and the GNP per capita, paints a more realistic picture of the development state of the world's countries. According to this index, Bolivia is considered the least developed country in South America.
The map shows levels of Human Development in the American countries. Darker colors represent low levels of development.
The educational system in Bolivia cannot satisfy the demand, and public schools are lacking, especially in rural areas. Bolivia has the highest rate of illiteracy in South America. 13 out of every 100 people over the age of 15 do not know how to write their own name. There is an enormous shortage of schools in Bolivia, and many children must walk four hours to get to the closest school. As a result, Bolivia has the highest drop out rate, especially among girls, in all of South America
The few existing schools in rural areas do not have enough desks or chairs, and have latrines in deplorable conditions without running water. Finally, it is difficult to retain quality teachers as they come from the cities and live and work in each community during the week, usually in extremely poor conditions.
Only 6 percent of Bolivia's roads are paved, and the infrastructure is in a terrible state, often washing out main routes during the rainy season. Thirty-six percent of the population lives in remote rural communities and for many the only point of access is a long, dangerous road suitable only for animals. Runways suffer even worse conditions. Reaching every citizen in such a scarcely populated country, extending from deserts to dense jungles, is an extremely difficult task.
- Area: 1.098.580 km2
- Population: 10.227.299
- GDP (PPP) per capita: 4.700 USD
- Extreme poverty: 23,2%
- Illiteracy: 9,26%
- Life expectancy: 64 m / 67 f years
- Hospital beds: 10 (10.000 persons)
- Child mortality: 42.18 (1.000 births)
- Maternal mortality: 4,2 (1.000 births)
- Births attended by health personnel: 61%
- Roads: 62.479 km
- Paved roads: 3.749 km
- Runways: 1.009
- Paved runways: 16