A Glimpse of Poverty in Bolivia’s Valley Region
The people of Bolivia’s verdant valley region face a host of challenges invisible to visitors who flock here for the paradise-like climate and dramatic scenery. Issues include:
- water shortages, social unrest, and some of the highest poverty rates in South America
- a punishing drought
- rising food prices which force families to cut back even more
- expensive propane used for cooking; many families have switched to firewood
- widespread malnutrition
In the Valley Region of Bolivia
Geography & Climate
The valley region of Bolivia is in the central part of the country sandwiched between the Andean Mountains and the Amazon jungle. Area cities are surrounded by plantation lands and hills.
This narrow swatch of fertile land in central Bolivia is Bolivia’s prized region. It produces abundant crops of citrus fruits, coffee beans, wheat, barley and maize.
- Tarija, Bolivia’s southernmost state, holds large natural gas reserves and is home to more than 20 different indigenous tribes.
- Cochabamba, one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in Bolivia, is taxed by an influx of Andean highlands migrants and cannot provide even basic services to the poor.
- Many houses in the hills receive water only a few hours every two or three days.
- A large percentage of the underemployed supplement their incomes by participating in illegal coca harvesting, used for producing cocaine.
Children at Home
Many Compassion-assisted children in this region live in the hills on the outskirts of cities. Their homes are usually poorly constructed of adobe and without running water, electricity or sanitation.
Many families must buy water from a truck. The average house has one room shared by six or more family members, and no kitchen.
Issues and Concerns
- Hunger is an issue for many families.
- Nearly 30 percent of children under 3 are malnourished.
- Children in the valley region are especially susceptible to tuberculosis and Chagas disease, an infection that can cause fatal brain-swelling in infants and is passed from mother to child during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Local Needs and Challenges
In hilly areas, water trucks can’t reach the houses, and families have to carry water home in buckets.
Homes are crowded; often entire families share one small room.
One of every two marriages ends in divorce in the valley region. Many children do not live with their parents, who have moved to different cities or other countries to find jobs.
Broken families are common, and many children are raised by their mothers alone.
Gang activity is on the rise as youths look for someone to take care of them and meet their needs.
Schools and Education
In Bolivia, where the academic calendar year runs from February to November, children between ages of 6 and 14 are required to attend school.
- In the rural valley region only 40 percent of children attend school beyond the third grade.
- With no school buses, children must walk great and often unsafe distances to attend school.
- Until recently, lessons also were taught solely in Spanish, to the exclusion of indigenous children who speak Aymará or Quechua.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
In the valley region, Compassion provides numerous safe havens for children to learn and grow. They are introduced to a better way of living – and they are given hope for a brighter future. Most important, children learn about God’s love for them and that He has a plan for their lives.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In cities such as Cochabamba and Sucre, Compassion-assisted centers are a place of safety and security for registered children. At the centers, children learn or receive:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- practical lessons in health and nutrition
- tutoring that is not possible in their overcrowded schools
- that God loves them and has a plan for their lives