A new report on interpersonal violence around the world shows that low- and middle-income countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have the highest homicide rates of any developing region, as well as the highest proportion of homicides committed with firearms.
“The Global Status Report on Violence Prevention 2014”, released on Wednesday, is published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Program, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Among other findings, the report estimates that 165,617 deaths in developing countries of Latin America and the Caribbean were due to homicide, and three-quarters of these were carried out with firearms (data for 2012).
This translates into 28.5 homicides per 100,000 population, more than four times the global homicide rate (6.7 per 100,000) and more than twice the rate of developing countries in Africa, which have the world’s second-highest regional homicide rate (10.9 per 100,000), according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
“As a group, developing countries in the Americas share the dubious distinction of having the highest rate of lethal interpersonal violence in the world,” said Dr. Marcelo Korc, PAHO’s Advisor on Sustainable Development and Human Security.
“Many of our member countries are taking steps to address this violence, but it remains a huge challenge to implement effective prevention and treatment programs to lower these rates and reduce the tremendous suffering they represent,” he added.
Among other findings about the region, the new report shows that the highest WHO-estimated homicide rates were in Honduras (103.9 per 100,000), Venezuela (57.6 per 100,000), Jamaica (45.1), and Belize (44.7).
The lowest homicide rates were in Canada (1.8 per 100,000), Antigua and Barbuda (4.4) and Chile (4.6).
It says that the highest estimated rates of homicide by firearms were in Venezuela (90 percent), Guatemala (86 percent), Honduras (84 percent), Colombia and Panama (80 percent), and El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago (77 percent).
The report says firearms are also predominantly used in intimate partner homicides in the Americas, including the Caribbean; and that, both globally and in the Americas, 30 percent of ever-partnered women report having experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, at some point in their lives.
PAHO said while all countries in the Americas have laws regulating firearms, less than two-thirds have special firearms control programs, such as gun buy-backs or firearms collection and destruction programs.
To reduce levels of violence, the report recommends 18 “best buy” programs, including programs to reduce the availability and harmful use of alcohol; and laws and programs to reduce access to firearms; school-based programs to teach children and adolescents “life-skills” such as non-violent conflict resolution.
Other programs comprise efforts to change gender norms that are supportive of violence against women; programs to improve parenting in families at risk of violence; and public information campaigns to prevent elder abuse.
Twenty one of 35 member-countries in the Americas participated in the report.