Skip to Main Navigation
FEATURE STORY August 3, 2020

Everyone Equal: Making Inclusive Growth a Priority for Afro-descendants


Jessica Belmont / World Bank


  • Afro-descendants are often overlooked and unrecognized in Latin America, which is one of the regions worst hit by COVID-19. While there is little data on the impact on different groups, experts believe minorities like Afro-descendants likely suffer more during such crises.
  • The World Bank strives to identify the underlying drivers of the exclusion of Afro-descendants and offers solutions that suit all situations and encourage policies that target several sectors and account for intersecting disadvantages.

This story is part of a series that focuses on the importance of social inclusion and the need for a concerted global effort to ensure everyone can lead equal, dignified, and empowered lives. It will highlight the challenges, opportunities, voices and experiences from marginalized ethnic communities. Follow #EveryoneEqual for updates on new stories

Yimene Calderón’s Garífuna community, descendants of indigenous Arawak-Caribs and African captives, from Honduras, grapple with a persistent lack of opportunities. There is discrimination in the job market and steep challenges with the pursuit of formal education. Their living conditions have improved in the last decade, but they still face gaps in access to essential services, including health, education and employment.  The community has few medical centers, which often lack medical supplies, doctors and bilingual support. As a result, the Garífuna are more likely to live in slums and chronic poverty.

We have 90% unemployment, jobs are really scarce,” said Calderón, who is the executive director of the Ethnic Community Development Organization (ODECO). For many, informal jobs like street vending is the only recourse. “There are really few people with a regular salary; on cash transfers, you can imagine how difficult it can be to build a family with this,” she told the World Bank.

Calderón and other Garífuna are some of the 130 million Afro-descendants living in Latin America. From Afro-indigenous communities like the Garífuna of Central America, to the pardos of Brazil, Afro-descendants have historically been excluded on the basis of their racial identity and typically stigmatized and stereotyped. Those like Calderón are also overrepresented among the poor, a phenomenon that is common in the region.