A Glimpse of Poverty in Tropical Bolivia
For all of its rich natural resources, the Bolivian tropics region is a place of abject poverty. The primary area where Compassion works in the tropical region of Bolivia is Santa Cruz. The Department of Santa Cruz comprises 15 provinces, and Compassion has partner churches in seven of them.
Living conditions are dire for most all Compassion-assisted children in tropical rural and urban Bolivia.
- Children growing up in these areas face a host of obstacles to their healthy development.
- Lack of proper sewage systems and clean bathrooms cause a large number of gastrointestinal diseases.
- Gang violence and gang growth is a major problem in these poverty-stricken areas.
- According to a study of 803 sponsored children in November 2012, nearly one-fourth indicated that they were once part of or were currently part of a gang.
- These gangs give a false sense of belonging to their members and affect the holistic development of children, causing the cycle of poverty to continue.
In Tropical Bolivia
Geography & Climate
- This region, the largest in the country, is 1,400 feet above sea level.
- It has humid and hot weather most of the year and is a flat area with much vegetation and many rivers.
- It is one of the most developed regions in the country.
- Forty percent of the Earth’s known wildlife lives in the rivers, grasslands and jungles of tropical Bolivia.
This region produces much of Bolivia’s food supply, and boasts a wealth of natural resources, including mineral reserves and oil and natural gas deposits.
Children at Home
Children in the Bolivian tropics grow up in crowded houses made of wood planks, with palm branches for roofs.
A typical home has dirt floors, no windows, and a single room that serves as a sleeping area for families with as many as 12 members. Cooking is done outside over a wood fire.
Few homes have running water or sanitation, so families walk to nearby rivers for basic needs.
Issues and Concerns
- Many families survive on as little as $50 a month working as farmhands, bricklayer assistants or street vendors.
- Children will often work alongside their parents or stay home to care for younger siblings.
- In some of the most poverty-stricken areas of the tropical eastern lowlands, 9 percent of the children die before age 5 from preventable diseases.
Local Needs and Challenges
Domestic violence is major a problem here. Rates of violence, abuse, gang activity and delinquency are all very high. Alcohol is sold freely in several places, which adds fuel to these fires. Youths mature quickly and there are many teenage mothers.
Humidity and hot weather are the cause of serious problems because they promote skin diseases. Roughly 45 percent of the children in this area are sick with skin problems, including funguses. Asthma and colds are also common, humidity-related illnesses.
Other common health concerns include:
- respiratory diseases
- skin infections
- dengue fever
- waterborne illnesses
Schools and Education
In Bolivia, where the academic calendar year runs from February to November, children between ages 6 and 14 are required to attend school.
In the rural tropics, where schools are few and far between, dropout rates and illiteracy are higher than the national average.
Until the recent introduction of government-mandated bilingual education, lessons were often taught only in Spanish at the exclusion of indigenous children who speak Aymará or Quechua.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion-assisted child development centers in tropical rural and urban Bolivia provide registered children with a safe place to learn, grow and study. The registered children also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
In tropical Bolivia, 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
- safe water for drinking
- tutoring sessions
- Bible studies