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  • Indigenous women walk through the streets of Panama City.

    Indigenous women walk through the streets of Panama City. | Photo: EFE

Published 18 October 2017

Indigenous people face the harshest poverty and living conditions in Panama.

Panama's Indigenous people are most affected by poverty levels and inequality, as well as a lack of potable water and low electricity coverage, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Latin America Sticks to Its Roots and Celebrates Indigenous Resistance

Indigenous people are more likely to live in poverty, have lower levels of satisfaction with their living conditions and rely on informal jobs, the report also found.

Lawyer Hector Huertas, who represents Indigenous communities, said there's no comprehensive state policy aimed at the development of Indigenous regions.

He added that these groups contribute about US$10 million a year to the country's economy, but receive less than 10 percent of this value. The majority of the money goes to private businesses. 

On top of that, only 10 percent of Indigenous women are considered "professionals." Huertas said this shows the need for legal reforms towards the management model of Indigenous-majority regions.

Still, the government says it allocates US$80 million for their development.

Panama's Deputy Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Feliciano Jimenez, said the government was working on four key points: access to water and sanitation, health, education and governance.

He said it's part of the government's Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Native People, which found that some of Panama's greatest challenges are the poor quality of education and high rates of dropout, aggravating inequalities and reducing competitiveness.

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