A Glimpse of Poverty in Ecuador's Highlands Region
Poor families in Ecuador’s highlands suffer from economic and social inequality.
- Children lack basic needs such as food, education and health care.
- Rather than attending school, many children are forced to work at a young age to help their families.
- Unskilled and uneducated, they are unable to obtain steady, good-paying jobs when they grow up, perpetuating the generational cycle of poverty.
- One or both parents often move to another area in search of employment, leaving children with relatives, who treat them as extra workers.
- Children are also frequently subjected to abuse and neglect.
- Poor indigenous or Afro-descendant children face discrimination daily.
In the Highlands Region of Ecuador
Geography & Climate
Extreme weather and periods of drought and flooding make life challenging here.
The Ecuadorian highlands, set between the coastal region on the west and the Amazon on the east, are home to some of the most breathtaking vistas in South America. Geographical features include:
- snow-capped mountains
- active volcanoes
- humid cloud forests
- fertile valleys
The people who live in the region in the valleys along the Andes mountain range make up 44 percent of Ecuador’s total population.
- Poverty and unemployment are rampant.
- Ninety percent of the people in the region earn their money through informal commerce, selling water in the streets, shining shoes, and other jobs that require long hours for little pay.
- In the valleys at the base of the volcanoes, farmers tend to livestock and crops of corn, beans, wheat and barley for themselves and for market.
Children at Home
Homes in the highlands region vary according to their location. Houses in the city are typically made of cement with zinc roofs. In rural areas, typical houses are made of adobe and stone with plain dirt floors to accommodate the livestock each family raises.
Many homes of poor families in the highlands are not fit for habitation. They have no electricity or running water, and families have to use makeshift latrines.
Issues and Concerns
The highlands region of Ecuador is called “Volcano Avenue.”
- Of the 32 volcanoes here, 13 can be active, and that activity greatly affects the lives of the region’s inhabitants.
- Ash clouds from active volcanoes cause significant losses in agriculture and livestock.
- The combination of cold weather, volcanic ash and dust from unpaved roads all contribute to respiratory illnesses that affect more than half of the children under 5.
- Villages in the paths of the volcanoes’ lava and ash clouds are often evacuated, and inhabitants find it difficult to support their families.
- Financial losses caused by the volcanic eruptions and the region’s cycles of drought and frost cause many people to migrate from the countryside to the city to look for work.
More than half the people of this region are underemployed, earning less than the average daily wage of $7. Migration and the difficulty of finding jobs that can sustain a family have boosted the delinquency rate here to levels higher than in any other region of the country.
Local Needs and Challenges
The lack of job opportunities in the Ecuadorian highlands has created a devastating domino effect.
- Parents are forced to relocate in order to find work.
- Many children have been abandoned by one or both of their parents.
- An entire generation of Ecuadorian children is growing up without supervision.
- The result has been an epidemic of abuse, delinquency, addiction and teen pregnancy.
- They struggle with low self-esteem.
- They lack motivation and are prone to selfishness and violence.
- They don’t know how to interact with others.
Schools and Education
The school year in the highlands region extends from September to June.
- About 8 percent of the population doesn’t receive any education.
- Students who do attend school have the highest rate of absence in high school, with more than one out of 10 students absent each day.
- More than three-fourths of children finish elementary school, but only a third of them continue on to high school and graduate.
- Urban areas have an average of one teacher for every 35 to 40 students.
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.
Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center. They also spend time writing to and praying for their sponsors.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
Child development centers in the highlands region of Ecuador provide registered children with a place to learn and grow.
- Children receive regular nutritious meals and snacks.
- They get health checkups and medical care as needed.
- They receive the support needed to attend school.
- Compassion-assisted children attend health classes, tutoring sessions and Bible studies at the center.
- The Compassion program provides children with clean clothes to wear.
- The curriculum helps them understand the importance of personal hygiene and a clean environment at home. The result has been a noticeable improvement in the children’s health.