A Glimpse of Poverty in Colombia's Andean Region
In the poor communities of Colombia’s Andean region, jobs are scarce. The lack of adequate income means that malnutrition is common among children.
Child abuse is a major issue.
- Parents who were neglected or abused when they were children continue the cycle with their own kids.
- Extreme physical punishment of children is considered normal.
- Lax child protection laws and an underground tourist industry that caters to child predators add to the danger.
Another serious problem is lack of access to safe water.
- Public water systems are few and unreliable.
- Many families depend on rainwater for consumption and hygiene use.
- During dry months, families use water from unsafe sources, such as streams and unprotected wells.
- Children frequently suffer from waterborne illnesses, such as intestinal parasites and skin rashes.
- Children are often assigned the task of collecting water for their families. They spend hours walking long distances, carrying heavy containers, just to collect water that can threaten their health – or even their lives.
In the Andean Region of Colombia
Geography & Climate
The Andes Mountain range is home to Colombia’s three largest cities: Cali, Medellin, and the capital city of Bogotá.
- The climate is mild, with an average daytime temperature of 57 degrees.
- Part of the “Ring of Fire,” the Andean region is subject to occasional volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
- The dry season is December through March, which is the warmest month of the year.
- In the rainy months of April and May, and September through November weather conditions can change drastically, even in a single day.
- The great Andes mountain range in Colombia crosses the country from north to south with peaks that top 18,000 feet.
- The region’s highest peaks, Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Simon Bolívar, tower at 18,946 feet.
Children at Home
The homes of families living in the Andean cities are typically made of cement blocks. However, in the impoverished slums, people use whatever scrap material they can find to build makeshift shelters, which provide little protection from the elements. Often, they put newspaper in the walls for insulation.
In the warmer cities, such as Cali, homes are commonly built on stilts.
Issues and Concerns
- With the dismantling of drug cartels in Colombia’s Andean cities, many former “employees” of these cartels have found themselves unemployed, adding to the region’s already high unemployment and underemployment rates.
- Many people also migrate to the cities from the countryside, hoping to find work and a better way of life. Unable to find jobs, they end up in city slums, where the environment is particularly unsafe and unhealthy for children.
- Homes of poor families in the Colombian Andes are fragile dwellings made of whatever scrap materials can be found. These homes provide families with little protection from the elements.
Local Needs and Challenges
The lack of potable water creates tremendous hardships in the poverty-stricken areas of the Colombian Andes.
Many people and even some Compassion centers in the region have to wait as long as three days for water to be delivered.
They must find a way to keep the water sanitary between deliveries, which can be difficult in a slum setting.
That lack of potable water combined with deplorable living conditions cause frequent outbreaks of sickness and disease.
Schools and Education
In Colombia, first grade through secondary school typically takes 11 years.
- The best schools are private, which poor families cannot afford.
- Public schools are overcrowded, with around 40 students per classroom, as opposed to 15 students in private school classes.
- Public schools provide poor quality education.
- In the city schools, children are at risk of falling prey to drug and alcohol addiction or involvement in gangs.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion centers provide real solutions to the issues of poverty faced by assisted children and families in this region. They are taught, for example, how to conserve, store and treat water to make it safe to drink.
To combat malnutrition, each center provides a balanced lunch and snack to the children on program activity days.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- When children are found to be malnourished, they receive breakfast and lunch at the center, as well as dietary supplements, five days a week until they are back on track in their physical development.
- Parents attend training every month where they learn about dietary problems that cause malnutrition.
- Parents learn how to prepare balanced meals on a small budget.
- Thanks to this education, the health of many children is improving!