A Glimpse of Poverty in Peru’s Coastal Region
Poor families living in coastal Peru’s urban centers, such as the capital city of Lima, live in small houses built of whatever materials can be found.
- It is common to see homes with plastic or woven mat walls, dirt floors and leaky tin roofs.
- Although schools and medical facilities are accessible, they are usually of poor quality.
- Gang violence is a real threat to children in urban slums.
- The divide between the wealthy and poor in urban centers is staggering. Upper and middle-class neighborhoods have had running water, sewage systems, electricity and paved roads for decades. Few such amenities are available to the poorest of the poor.
In rural areas of the coastal region, people live on small family farms, without easy access to schools or medical centers.
- The lack of clean water is a serious issue here, where people rely on open wells or rivers, which are prone to contamination.
- As a result, there is a high rate of child mortality and disease in the rural areas.
- The lack of opportunities here has resulted in increased migration to cities by rural youths seeking a better life.
In the Coastal Region of Peru
Geography & Climate
- The fertile valleys of the north produce cotton, sugarcane, rice and tropical fruits.
- The groves of the south produce olives and grapes.
- Earthquakes are a common occurrence on the Peruvian coast, which is situated in one of the world’s most seismically active regions.
- The Peruvian coast is still dealing with the aftermath of a devastating 2007 earthquake. The 8.0-magnitude quake, centered near the port city of Chincha Alta, 95 miles southeast of Lima, killed more than 500, injured 1,100, and left tens of thousands homeless.
- More than half of Peru’s 30 million people live on the Pacific Ocean corridor.
- The coastal cities of Trujillo, Arequipa and Lima, in particular are magnets for the rural poor.
- The growing population has spurred an increased demand for social services and competition for limited employment.
- Employment opportunities in agriculture and other industries bring a steady flow of migrants from the jungle and the highlands.
- Rapidly growing pueblos jovenes or “young towns,” vast slums that stretch for miles on rockslide-prone hills on the capital city of Lima’s perimeter, have become home for millions of indigenous Quechua and Aymara peasants.
Children at Home
Many Compassion-assisted children in this region live in flimsy houses in squatter settlements on rocky hills. Their homes are usually built with whatever materials can be salvaged: cardboard, plywood, cinder block, and sometimes plastic.
Rockslides are a constant peril. Typical chores for children in these communities involve babysitting siblings while parents look for work, and hauling water in jugs up the steep slopes.
Issues and Concerns
- Families who leave the Andean highlands and Amazon jungles for the urban coast abandon their traditional way of life to become taxi drivers, maids, street vendors and huachiman, or night guards in the city.
- Others struggle to earn the equivalent of about $1 a day by performing backbreaking labor.
- Many indigenous families retreat each night to shacks in crowded squatter settlements.
- These settlements, on abandoned land outside city limits, usually lack police protection and basic city services like clean, running water.
- Children commonly suffer from waterborne illnesses and malnutrition.
Local Needs and Challenges
Poverty is all but invisible to the wealthy people of coastal Peru. They choose to ignore the suffering all around them.
- Housing for the poor in the urban centers of coastal Peru is abysmal.
- Hundreds of thousands of families live in squalor in overcrowded slums.
- Their only protection from the elements is whatever material they can piece together to create four walls and a roof.
- The employment opportunities that drew most of the people to the urban centers in the first place have long since vanished and the brutal cycle of poverty continues unabated.
Schools and Education
There are no shortages of schools on the Peruvian coast. Almost all children attend either public or private elementary school.
Public education is free, and 93 percent of all adults can read and write. For the poverty-stricken, however, a “free” public education can be cost-prohibitive.
The minimal registration fees required by public schools, combined with costs for uniforms, books, school supplies and bus fares, make it impossible for many children to attend.
About 17 percent of young people either never attend or drop out of high school.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
In Peru’s coastal communities, Compassion-assisted child development centers are a place of help and hope.
They provide registered children a safe haven to learn and thrive beyond the crowded slums and city streets.
Centers in urban settings also provide after-school programs to engage children in positive pursuits and keep them away from negative influences, such as drug abuse and gang activity.
In rural areas, families learn about improved farming techniques to increase their productivity and better meet their needs.
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 centers provide classroom instruction for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.
- In both rural and urban areas, workshops are conducted to teach mothers of assisted children about good nutrition at low cost, as well as how to make handicrafts to sell and help their families’ economic situation.
- Children are learning that God loves them and has a plan for their lives.
- Center staff raise parents’ awareness about the importance of their children’s education.