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At a glance: Panama


Click for a detailed map (PDF)

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.

Although the 2006 Human Development Report Index places Panama with the high human development nations, national studies show that the wealthiest 20 per cent of the population has an annual family income 32 times that of the poorest 20 per cent. According to the World Bank, Panama is among the countries with the highest levels of economic inequality in the world. Around the world, children are the ones most affected by such inequalities.

Issues facing children in Panama

  • According to official surveys, over 50 per cent of children under 5 live in conditions of poverty, and nearly 30 per cent in conditions of extreme poverty. Most of these children come from indigenous areas.
  • Panama is one of the two Central American countries that have experienced a rise in chronic malnutrition of children under 5 in the last six years. Malnutrition affects about 19 per cent of this population. The problem is more serious among children living in areas with a predominantly indigenous population: more than half of all these children suffer from underweight. 
  • The prevalence of HIV among the population of 15-49 years of age is 0.9 per cent. Some estimates suggest that prevalence among pregnant women is about 0.7 per cent and mother-to-child transmission may be up to 4 per cent. 
  • Challenges to be met in the area of education include the need to extend available pre-school education from one to two years, and the need to support completion of the basic education cycle, which according to Panamanian law includes at least three years of high school.

Activities and results for children

  • Significant milestones have been achieved in education. The literacy rate among the population aged 15-24 is over 96 per cent, with the rate for women being equal to the rate for men. 
  • Universal primary school education is considered to have been achieved, but there remain questions about the quality of education and the efficiency of the resource management in the educational system.
  • With the support of UNICEF and the UN, the Government is trying to reduce extreme poverty and has adopted a Social Protection policy that includes food bonuses and cash for extremely poor families, who live mostly in areas with a predominantly indigenous population. The bonuses and cash are conditional on parents registering themselves and their children in the National Registry, seeking appropriate prenatal care, having their children vaccinated and ensuring they attend school. 
  • A new national education policy emphasizing inclusivity has been adopted and is being implemented in the school system. 
  • UNICEF is supporting the government in implementing an HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, focusing especially on children. 
  • Civil society and non-profit organizations are becoming more actively involved in issues related to children’s and women’s rights.  
  • Thanks in part to UNICEF support, Panama has now essentially eliminated iodine deficiency disorder among its population.



Basic Indicators

Under-5 mortality rank


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 1990


Under-5 mortality rate (U5MR), 2012


U5MR by sex 2012, male


U5MR by sex 2012, female


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 1990


Infant mortality rate (under 1), 2012


Neonatal mortality rate 2012


Total population (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of births (thousands) 2012


Annual no. of under-5 deaths (thousands) 2012


GNI per capita (US$) 2012


Life expectancy at birth (years) 2012


Total adult literacy rate (%) 2008-2012*


Primary school net enrolment ratio (%) 2008-2011*


Definitions and data sources [popup]

Source: The State of the World's Children

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