A Glimpse of Poverty in Peru’s Andes Region
Children of the Peruvian highlands are born into lack.
- More than 75 percent of the indigenous Quechan, who account for most of the Andean population, live in extreme poverty.
- The Andean region of Peru is one of the poorest in South America.
- Children grow up against a backdrop of chronic illness, abbreviated schooling, arduous work and early pregnancy.
- The cause of their poverty is linked to the landscape. The many remote communities enveloped in the steep flanks of the Andes remain isolated from Peru’s working market economy and basic modern amenities.
- Homes here usually have adobe walls, dirt floors and tin roofs and rarely have electricity.
- Many people have no sanitation facilities and drink untreated water that comes directly from a river or pond.
In the Andes Region of Peru
Geography & Climate
Life in the Andes is dictated by its severe, forbidding geography.
- The Andes (or highlands) region of Peru is bordered on the west by the coastal region and on the east by the Amazon.
- The region is home to 32 percent of Peru’s population.
- The steep terrain makes travel extremely difficult.
- As a result, many Andean villages have been cut off from the modern world.
- Life in these villages has remained unchanged for centuries.
- Most highlands farming communities rest at the base of towering, unstable mountains and are replete with evidence of past avalanches and earthquakes.
- Isolated villages, unreachable by motorized vehicles, remain frozen in time. In remote Andean hamlets, without electricity, plumbing or appliances, days still are measured by the sun.
- Quechua culture places great importance on community and mutual help (ayni).
- Like their ancestors, the farmers of the Peruvian highlands invent and repair their own tools and prepare meals from grain they have harvested and animals they have raised and butchered.
Children at Home
Highlands children typically live in two-room adobe homes built just as they were a century ago. Houses have straw roofs and dirt floors but rarely have electricity, plumbing or windows. Toilets are usually a hole in the ground several yards from the house.
In the evenings, by the light of a kerosene lamp, families retire early — often by 7 p.m. — with parents and children sharing a room. The only other room in the house is for eating, gatherings, cooking and guinea pig cultivation. Guinea pigs are an important source of protein for poor families.
Issues and Concerns
The highest poverty rate in Peru is in the Andes region.
- This region’s difficult topography and lack of infrastructure hinder communication with the rest of the country.
- Most roads are unpaved, dusty in the dry months and muddy during the rainy season.
- Without a connection to the world outside their own small villages, families lack many of life’s necessities and opportunities.
- Most Andes region families have no access to improved water sources, which means they commonly suffer from waterborne illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening.
- The region’s few schools and medical facilities are poorly staffed and resourced.
Local Needs and Challenges
Travel in the Peruvian Andes can be a daunting challenge for Partnership Facilitators. To reach some Compassion centers in the northern Andes requires a treacherous 16-hour bus ride.
- The physical safety of our Compassion staff is frequently at risk.
- Long-term employment opportunities are scarce in the region.
- Many young people leave for the coast or the jungle as soon as they are old enough to seek work.
- As a result, the region has lost a sizable portion of its population.
Schools and Education
Public education, by law, is free. In reality, however, rural families cannot afford to spare an able-bodied child from farming or household chores.
In remote Andean towns, there are few schools and a tremendous lack of teachers.
These forces make it nearly impossible for children in the Peruvian highlands to earn more than a grade-school education.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Child development centers in the Peruvian highlands give registered children 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 at the center.
- For parents, Compassion centers provide workshops covering such topics as how to prepare low-cost, nutritionally balanced meals.
- Because families here rely on subsistence farming, workshops educate parents about improved farming techniques for increased productivity and crop diversity.
- In addition, center workers strive to raise parents’ awareness about the importance of education for their children’s future and discourage them from pressuring children to drop out and go to work.
- Children also learn about God’s love for them.