A Glimpse of Poverty in Bolivia's Rural High Plateau
The indigenous Aymara and Quechua people who live in the rural high plateau region of Bolivia, more commonly known as the Altiplano, are among the most impoverished people in the world. Ninety-five percent of the families in the region live in extreme poverty.
Basic needs on the Altiplano:
- sewage services
- drinkable water (children have to walk up to a mile to collect water from springs or rivers)
In the Rural High Plateau Region of Bolivia
Geography & Climate
- Rural Bolivians live against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains and economic uncertainty.
- The region’s climate is cold and harsh.
- They live in precarious one-room adobe buildings.
About three-fourths of the rural population in Bolivia lives on less than U.S.$1.50 a day.
Farming of potatoes, barley and quinoa sustains most families in rural areas, but the soil quality is poor, which results in less food for families and more children suffering from malnutrition.
Children at Home
Children in the Bolivian highlands live in houses made of adobe without plumbing or electricity, clean drinking water or basic sanitation.
Houses on the sprawling high plateau are spaced far apart and — to the uneducated eye — are spacious. In reality, multiple families typically live under one roof.
Few families have more than two beds, although most families have six or more members.
Families share homes with their animals in the winter.
Issues and Concerns
- Many children are chronically malnourished.
- Most family dwellings are disease-ridden.
- Children are victims of chronic gastrointestinal diseases.
- Cold viruses are common.
- Severe pneumonia often isn’t treated properly.
Local Needs and Challenges
Public buses, the primary mode of transportation in the rural highlands, don’t necessarily make daily stops. The fortunate have bicycles; others walk.
Some children walk great distances to their Compassion-assisted child development center, in unsafe conditions.
Extreme seasonal changes
When the region floods, most of the children can’t get to their center.
The lack of potable water is an urgent concern. People are forced to drink from streams and bad wells. The result is frequent outbreaks of illness and disease.
The closest medical facility is more than 30 miles away, causing minor illnesses to turn serious.
Schools and Education
In Bolivia’s Altiplano, getting an education is a challenge. Children, by law, are required to attend school February through November. But the region’s sky-high dropout and illiteracy rates tell a different story.
- Schools are scarce and falling apart.
- Most have no windows, lights, restrooms, water or heat.
- Children must make hourlong walks to attend school.
Because families in this area are so poor, many parents simply do not allow their children to go to school as they are needed more urgently at home to work the fields or provide child care for younger siblings.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Child development centers provide registered children with a place to learn, grow and study.
Children whose families have never been able to offer them clean water, health care or an education now have access to these necessities. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In the Altiplano, Compassion partners with local churches to bring help and hope to registered children in need in Bolivia, providing them with:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- education of parents on specific health treatments and basic health care