A Glimpse of Poverty in Peru’s Amazon Region
The tribal people of the Peruvian rainforest are desperately poor.
- Three-quarters of the indigenous people live in poverty.
- More than half live in extreme poverty.
- Most children drop out of school to help support their families, usually as unskilled, temporary laborers.
- People in the cities and the jungles commonly drink from the river (soda is cheaper than clean water), bathe in the river, eat from the river and put their waste back in the river.
- As a result, children are routinely afflicted with parasites, dysentery, tooth decay and dengue fever.
In the Amazon Region of Peru
Geography & Climate
The Amazon rainforest is a jungle and river region in eastern Peru. It covers 63 percent of Peru yet contains only about a tenth of the country’s population.
- The region begins high in the eastern Andean cloud forests and descends with rushing rivers to the low, forested Amazonian plains. The torrential rivers unite to form the Amazon River.
- Iquitos, a noisy and colorful city with a population of more than 430,000, is the biggest Peruvian city in the Amazon.
- Belen, a river neighborhood of Iquitos, is a “floating” city. It can be reached by foot in the dry season (June to October) but is only accessible by boat in the wet season (November to May).
- Homes in this area are built on stilts or tethered to large poles and float upon the rising waters every year.
Life in the Amazon rainforest is tied closely to the rivers.
- Nomadic tribes who live in the region make their living hunting, fishing, and creating seed handcrafts to sell to tourists who travel by boat.
- Here, the Ashaninka, Shipibo, Aguaruna, Machiguenga, Huambisa and 50 other nomadic tribes have lived in relative isolation for centuries.
Children at Home
Children in the Peruvian jungle grow up in wooden homes with thatched roofs. Boats and canoes are the only modes of transport through the jungle waterways where they live.
In urban centers, children are more likely to live in an adobe or concrete home with five or six other family members. The homes of both the urban and rural poor typically lack electricity or running water.
Issues and Concerns
The people in the Peruvian rainforest live with a corruption that permeates daily life.
- Boats, the only means of transport among the winding tributaries of the Amazonian jungles, are often so overloaded with over-charged passengers, contraband and hidden drugs, they sometimes sink in fast-flowing rivers.
- Cocaine processing plants are overlooked.
- International oil-exploration and timber-production companies are growing unchecked, dislocating those who have lived on the land for generations.
- Children are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Many children work long hours in industrial operations and mineral mines for negligible wages.
- Although water is abundant, it is untreated and unsafe for consumption and hygiene use. As a result, water-related illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening, are common here.
Local Needs and Challenges
- The lack of medical care is a pressing concern in the Amazon rainforest. The few medical facilities in the region are poorly equipped and staffed, as are the schools.
- Unsanitary living conditions and malnourishment wreak havoc on the health of rainforest residents.
- Dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases are constant threats.
- The lack of education and employment opportunities are also major stumbling blocks.
Schools and Education
In the Amazon jungle, 75 percent of the children finish grade school, but only 30 percent finish high school.
Most drop out because they are needed to help support the family by working.
In recent years, however, education has become more available to isolated rainforest children.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Child development centers in Peru’s urban and rural rainforest communities provide registered children with a place to learn, grow and study.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
- 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.
- They also spend time writing and praying for their sponsors.
- For parents, Compassion centers provide workshops covering such topics as how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals from locally available foods and how to treat water for safe consumption and use.
- Income-generation projects, such as training in how to make handicraft items to sell in tourist centers, help parents better provide for their families.
- Center workers also conduct talks about good parenting skills and the importance of education for children’s future.