Santiago del Estero

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Argentina with a population of over 39 million covers almost the entire southern half of South America.  It possesses some of the world’s tallest mountains, expansive deserts and impressive waterfalls.  The fertile plains of the Pampas are found in the northern part of the country, with the flat–to–rolling plateau of Patagonia in the southern area, and the rugged Andes mountain range along its western border.  The country benefits from rich natural resources, an export-oriented agricultural sector and a diversified industrial base. But in more recent years the country has suffered problems of inflation, external debt, capital flight and budget deficits.

Santiago del Estero, one of 23 provinces in Argentina, is located 800 miles northwest of the federal capital Buenos Aires.  The province, founded in 1553, is slightly bigger than the area of England. Its population is about 900,000, two thirds of which are urban dwellers. Just over half of the population lives below the poverty line and 25% below the destitution line.  In the very rural areas destitution is more acute.

According to the United Nations Human Development Index the human development programme for the province of Santiago del Estero is virtually the worst in Argentina.  The index considers nutrition, health, housing, and education. In many parts of the province malnutrition is a common occurrence causing poor health and other complications.  Homes, especially in the rural communities, are simply shacks made of mud-coated straw walls and roofs, many of them without clean water and electricity.  About half of all school age children receive an education but the vast majority of these attend a morning or afternoon session only.  The statistical facts – seemingly endless – illustrate that such poor people have little or no chance of escaping from the poverty pit.

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