This post is a part of Blog Action Day 2008 on poverty.
The difference between roughly 17% and 30% is over 4.5 million people and it is the difference between what Argentina officially reports as the number of poor in the country and the general wisdom of the non-governmental economists. As often in this country, it depends on who you ask. INDEC, the governmental body on statistics is no longer reporting the percentage of poor as the inflation rate grows. The numbers INDEC puts out in regards to inflation are also highly suspect and since the two are intertwined it is impossible to have a true reflection of poverty in Argentina.
The optimistic numbers by the government body conflict with reality on the ground, according to an article in La Nación. The government assists with 1700 comedores, neighborhood locales where residents can go to eat and often get food to take home. La Nación also points out the infant fatality rate for causes related to malnutrition, in compared to the same period last year, rose by 117 children under the age of 5. That is 1734 children in total for the reported semester.
But what matters to most, who are living in poverty here, is not 17 or 30, but more importantly 150 and 4. $150 pesos (@$50USD) is what Gloria Rodriguez, 44, makes per month. She works at Comedor Los Pibes in La Boca and puts in four hours a day, five days a week sewing or other duties for the comedor. This is preferable to the 14 hour days, six days a week she worked cleaning to earn $220 pesos, but it certainly does not provide and she, with three of her younger children and her elderly mother live in Villa 31.
The comedor where Rodriguez goes assists around 130 families and upwards of 1,500 people. Los Pibes began 12 years ago as a regular comedor, providing lunches and extra food. It is now better described as a social organization, with multiple functions: to provide lunch for those that work there and food they can bring home to their families, to teach basic skills such as cooking, sewing, English and computers, to be politically active, and to build cooperative living apartments for 33 families.
Julian Gomez, 73, a resident in La Boca has been going to the comedor since it opened its doors. He migrated from Formosa, located in the north of Argentina and in the area known as the poverty belt, when he was 13 years old. Four children, nine grandchildren and forty-five years later when asked if poverty was worse now, all he answered was “cada vez más.”
What’s the difference between 17% and 30%? Depends on who you ask.