The latest Human Development Index report prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that five of the six Central American nations rate very poorly in areas such as life expectancy, education and per capita income.
Of the 162 countries included in the human development index, only Costa Rica, in position number 41, is ranked as a nation with "high human development''. The list is headed by Norway, Australia and Canada.
Worsening the dilemma, a series of natural disasters -earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts - has hit Central America in recent years. In addition to the tragic loss of life, thousands of people were left facing starvation and awaiting an economic boom that has not showed up.
Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America in late 1998, killed 26,000 people and left a swathe of destruction and losses of millions of dollars. Experts say that this natural calamity alone set back the development of Nicaragua and Honduras by 30 years.
On the list, Panama is in position number 52 and El Salvador in 95th place, Nicaragua in position 106, Honduras in 107th and Guatemala in 108th spot. The rest of the countries on the list are in Africa and the Middle East, where poverty reaches dramatic proportions.
According to experts, Central America's backwardness is a direct consequence of low cultural levels due to a lack of access to basic education for a great majority of citizens, particularly in rural and indigenous communities.