Paraguay is the third poorest country in South America after Bolivia and Guyana, according to WorldAtlas.com.
Perhaps owing to its relatively remote location, Paraguay receives much less attention from medical mission groups than other countries that are closer to the United States. In fact, when IMAHelps organized its first medical mission to Paraguay in 2017 with nearly 100 volunteers, Paraguayan officials told us that it had been 14 years since a major medical mission team had come to their country.
The landlocked country is the world’s fourth largest exporter of soybeans and the sixth largest exporter of beef. It’s also home to the world’s largest hydroelectric project, the Itaipú Dam, which it jointly owns with Brazil. But despite dramatic improvements in the country’s economic output in recent years, many of Paraguay’s nearly 7 million people continue to suffer from extreme poverty.
“In 2015, approximately 7.4 percent of the population in Paraguay was living on less than 3.20 U.S. dollars per day, down from 21.6 percent of the population in 2006,” according to statista.com.
Poverty is widespread, however, especially in the rural areas of Paraguay and in the shantytowns near urban areas. Paraguay is also a country with dramatic differences between rich and poor. “Measured by land distribution, Paraguay is the most unequal society in South America,” the New Internationalist notes in its country profile for Paraguay.
Paraguay’s infant mortality rate is 18.7 deaths per thousand births, according to the latest published reports, which is just over three times that of the United States with 5.82 deaths per thousand births.
Paraguay has two official languages, Spanish and Guaraní, the indigenous language of southern South America. “After being suppressed under the Stroessner dictatorship, Guaraní is now an official language alongside Spanish,” according to the New Internationalist country profile for Paraguay, adding, “90% of the population speaks Guaraní making Paraguay the only country in the Americas where the majority of the population speaks a single indigenous language.”
IMAHelps volunteers have found the Paraguayan people to be among the nicest people we have met in our many medical missions across the Americas.