Cause Themes

Latin America has a large variety of development challenges and over 300,000 different causes to match them!

The below are some overarching themes that exist in Latin America where philanthropic support is needed.

Click on the theme for an overview of the current situation in Latin America.

Animal Welfare in Latin America

Venezuela Street Dogs

Venezuela Street Dogs

Animal Sanctuary - Costa Rica

Animal Sanctuary - Costa Rica

Animal Welfare gained attention in Latin America throughout the 2000s, not for ethical reasons, but rather because of its impact on product quality, trade, and consumer perception (Broom 2012).

In many latin american countries, animal welfare doesn't feature highly on society or government agendas, especially when poverty and human survival are more pressing priorities. For this reason, you will see countless street dogs and unregulated hunting of endangered species especially in poorer countries.

The only exception you may see is in certain regions that rely on the fair treatment of animals and the environment for economic purposes. For example, Costa Rica relies heavily on "Ecotourism", where tourists visit the country to experience virgin rainforests and see exotic animals. This has resulted in higher local awareness of animal welfare and conservation issues.

Philanthropy Program Ideas that address Animal Welfare issues:

  • Street dog and cat rescue centre construction / support
  • Local community awareness raising
  • National Parks support (eg ranger trainings and provisions)
  • Strengthening hunting regulation
  • Endangered species sanctuary support

Education in Latin America


35 million children between ages 3 - 18 do not go to school at all (the equivalent to the population of Colombia) (UN Fast Facts)

There is undisputed evidence regarding the association between poverty and educational attainment.

Although most children enter first grade in Latin America, they enroll in schools of lower quality, and are likely to drop out after completing a few grades.

As you can see from the graph above, Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Latin America, almost 20% of adults are illiterate.

In order to reduce poverty in Latin America, we must understand how education fosters opportunities and increases social mobility.

Philanthropy program ideas that address Education include:

  • Financial and material support to vulnerable groups to access education
  • Scholarships support
  • Literacy programs
  • Teacher trainings and support
  • School building

Environment and Conservation


Latin America is a biodiversity powerhouse and the largest food-exporting region on the planet; yet its deforestation rate is triple that the rest of the world. More than 80% of its tropical species have been lost in the past 40 years (Nature Conservancy n.d).

The challenge for Latin America is to reconcile the demands of growth with the need to protect and manage its habitats and resources in order to achieve sustainable development, while facing global environmental threats such as climate change.

The region’s most pressing environmental problems include: 

  • Soil degradation due to erosion and pollution
  • Forest loss
  • Decline of biodiversity due to habitat loss
  • Deterioration of watersheds and watercourses related to increases in the demand for water
  • Deterioration and overexploitation of coastal and marine resources
  • An increase in the demand for basic services—water, sewer, power, waste collection—and translates into an ever-increasing ecological footprint (Guilermo Castro 2015)

Philanthropy program ideas that address the environment include:

  • Conservation / Environment awareness and education programs
  • Community / Beach / River / Community clean ups
  • Structural programs - sanitation, water, waste collection systems
  • Green and Clean energy investment (eg solar, wind etc)
  • Vulnerable Area Protection (eg local government support in National parks)

Health in Latin America


In terms of how much households spend from their own pockets (Fig 6 right), on average in OECD countries, people spend 23% as a share of National Health Expenditure whereas the Latin America average is a sizeable 48%.

The countries whose households pay the most out of pocket for healthcare are:

  • Guatemala (4.9%)
  • Dominican Republic (4.6%)
  • Nicaragua (4.5%)

Latin America has a high variation of health profiles among its population.

As you can see from Figure 2:

  • On average, Latin American governments spend 3.5% on health care compared to an average of 8.2% average of OECD countries
  • The lowest health expenditures include:
    • Venezuela (1.8%)
    • Guatemala (2.0%)
    • Bolivia (2.1%)


Philanthropy program ideas that address health include:

  • Dental or Medical clinics
  • Health Centre construction projects
  • Health awareness campaigns (eg HIV, sexual health, healthy eating, sanitation)
  • Health screenings support 
  • Food and health products provision

Human Rights in Latin America

The Human Rights situation in Latin America varies from country to country.

The one common violation found in most of the continent is impunity - the lack of punishment and often investigation to those responsible for committing human rights abuses.


Examples of Human Rights Abuses:

Venezuela - Severe shortages of medicines and food have intensified since 2014, and weak government responses have undermined Venezuelans’ rights to health and food. Protesters have been arbitrarily detained and subject to abuse by security forces (HRW World Report 2017).

Mexico -  as of August 2016,  the whereabouts of more than 27,000 people who had gone missing since 2006 remain unknown (HRW World Report 2017)

Brazil - Chronic human rights problems plague Brazil’s criminal justice system, including unlawful police killings, prison overcrowding, and torture and ill-treatment of detainees (HRW World Report 2017).

Colombia - Violence associated with the conflict has forcibly displaced more than 6.8 million Colombians, generating the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), after Syria (HRW World Report 2017).

Peru - Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated that almost 70,000 people died or were subject to enforced disappearance during the country’s armed conflict between 1980 and 2000 (HRW World Report 2017).

Philanthropy program ideas that address human rights include:

  • Community and minority group empowerment programs
  • Human Rights education to vulnerable groups 
  • Local Governance strengthening
  • Activist and Human Rights Defenders support and training
  • Awareness raising efforts through local media training

Crime in Latin America


There is a direct connection between poverty rates, crime rates and and drug seizures (see above)

In 2013, nearly 1 in 3 murders globally took place in Latin America – where just 8% of the world population live. (Murray 2014)


Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world with 90.4 murders per 100,000 people . The global average is below 6 murders per 100,000 people. (UNODC 2013)

According to a World Bank 2017 report, policies not specifically designed to prevent criminality have substantial crime prevention benefits (e.g early childhood development, education, and poverty reduction programs).

Philanthropy program ideas that tackle crime include:

  • Investments in education
  • Behavioural and soft skills programs
  • Targeted poverty reduction efforts.
  • Early childhood initiatives which reduce the likelihood of running away from home, arrest or conviction. 

Community Development in Latin America


36% of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.


Even countries achieving significant economic growth have not reduced the incidence of poverty.

In Argentina, for example, economic growth more than doubled yet, unemployment also doubled and about 1/4 of the population has lived with unmet basic needs since 1991.

According to the World Bank, the percentage living below the poverty line in Latin America has stagnated since 1980. 

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic  of life expectancyeducation, and per capita income indicators. It ranks countries out of 188 with 1 being in the lowest poverty and 188 in highest poverty.  

According to the UNDP the countries with the lowest HDI in Latin America as of 2015 are:


Philanthropy Program Ideas that tackle Poverty include:

  • Microcredit schemes
  • Skills trainings for vulnerable groups
  • Education support (eg fees, materials provision)
  • Productivity improvement assistance (eg increasing industry output with new infrastracture, tools and strategies)
  • Empowerment of vulnerable groups (eg women, disabled etc)

Women & Girls

women dignity.png

 Latin Americans were the least likely in the world in 2012 and 2013 to say women in their countries are treated with respect and dignity (see above table) (Gallup 2014)


Latin America has 10 of the 15 most unequal countries in the world (Latin American Human Development Report 2010) and new forms of violence against women have emerged; femicide has become more prevalent.

Latin America has the 2nd highest rate of adolescent pregnancies in the world (UN Fast Facts)


Between 17% - 53% of women in Latin America are victims of violence which is worsened because 92% of reported crimes go unpunished. (Godoy 2013)

Philanthropy program ideas that benefit Women and Girls

  • Empowerment programs 
  • Employment and skills trainings
  • Awareness raising regarding women's rights and equality (for males and females)
  • Legal aid and assistance
  • Sexual health and pregnancy support 

Youth & Children in Latin America


20% of the population in Latin America are between 15 and 24 years old (UN DESA 2013)


Over 25% of all immigrants from Latin America (5.5 million Latin American youth) reside in the U.S (ECLAC & OIJ 2008).


Unemployment for the 15-29 year olds in Latin America is 3 times higher than for the population between 30-64 years of age (UN Fast Facts)

An average of 39% of Latin American youth lives in poverty.  (UN Fast Facts)


2 most common types of violence in Latin America amongst youth are gang/drug-related violence and school-based violence.  Young people are the most visible culprits but are far more often the victims. (UN Fast Facts)

Deaths by violent acts and homicide in the 15- 24 age group accounts for 43% of the total mortality  (UNFPA 2013)

Philanthropy Program ideas that help Children and Youth

  • Education and training assistance
  • Scholarship programs
  • After school programs (eg Sport, Music etc)
  • Orphanage support
  • Child Protection support (eg Street kids / at risk)