NEWS RELEASE

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 16, 2006- The First Lady of Panama, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, will attend the Global Microcredit Summit to be held November 12-15, 2006 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. More than 2,000 delegates from 100 countries are expected to join her and President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in Halifax.

In her letter of acceptance, the First Lady spoke of “the importance of microcredit, especially in all of the Latin American countries.” The Global Summit will be a critical event for First Lady Fernández de Torrijos and President Zelaya to forward their efforts to improve the lives of their poorest citizens through microcredit. “Support for microenterprise,” Zelaya said, “is fundamental to the strengthening of democracy and governability. It is very important to generating employment, expanding productivity and competitiveness, and to reducing poverty.” Microcredit programs, which give the poor, especially women, small loans to help them start or expand tiny businesses, bring people the opportunity to move out of poverty with dignity.

Launched in 1997 with a goal of reaching 100 million of the world’s poorest families with small loans by the end of 2005, the Microcredit Summit Campaign will convene in Halifax to review its progress towards that goal and to launch Phase II of the Campaign with two new goals for 2015: 1) reaching 175 million of the world’s poorest families with microcredit and 2) helping 100 million of the world’s poorest families move above the $1 a day threshold.

Institutions that provide microloans, which can be as low as $30, try to avoid traditional barriers to borrowing such as lack of collateral and the illiteracy of potential clients. The borrowers form groups to help ensure high repayment success and are encouraged to start small savings accounts.

Women, especially the poorest women, comprise the majority of loan recipients. “Empowering women is critical to reducing world poverty,” said Microcredit Summit Campaign Director Sam Daley-Harris. “Some 29,000 children die each day from largely preventable malnutrition and disease-the equivalent of a major tsunami every 10 days-and more than 1 billion people live on less than US$1 a day.”

The Campaign’s latest report found that 92 million families around the world had received a microloan in 2004, the majority living on less than US$1 a day when they started with the program. The 388 microcredit programs reporting in 2005 from Latin America and the Caribbean reached a total 3.9 million clients with small loans, 1.4 million of whom were among the poorest. These poorest clients in the region represent 11.6% of the 12.1 million poorest families. Although microfinance is having an increasing impact in Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 10 million families have yet to be reached.

The final number of clients reached at the end of 2005 will be released at the Global Microcredit Summit in Halifax, where First Lady Fernández de Torrijos, President Zelaya and other Heads of State and Government will join the delegates in launching Phase II of the Campaign’s fight against global poverty.

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