A Glimpse of Poverty in the Philippines' Urban Region
The Philippines’ urban centers, such as Quezon City and Manila, are home to millions of desperately poor families.
- In crowded slums, children typically live in a dark, humid, unsanitary environment where gang members, drug dealers and prostitutes also reside.
- In Manila, more than 20 percent of the population survives on less than U.S.$1 per day.
- Most families don’t have their own toilets, and they are forced to illegally tap electricity to add a little comfort to their homes.
- Most families don’t have a stove, cooking utensils or fuel to cook with.
- Other than street foods, inexpensive, ready-to-cook noodles and junk food are also consumed. Although families save money on such foods, they sacrifice their children’s health.
- Some homes are so crowded that entire families sleep side-by-side on wooden floors. Others are forced to sleep in shifts inside their tiny living spaces.
In the Urban Region of the Philippines
Geography & Climate
Throughout the Philippines, the weather is hot and humid year-round.
- During the dry seasons, there are few ways to make a living, and malnourishment rises during these long months.
- The rainy season is June through November, when life-threatening typhoons can occur.
Parents moving their families to urban areas of the Philippines have not found the jobs and riches they had hoped for. Instead, they bring their children into a world of poverty, complete with gangs, violence and drugs.
Until recently, poverty was a problem primarily in rural areas scattered throughout the Philippines. But in the last decade as more families have moved to the city to find work, poverty has increased in urban areas, most noticeably in Manila.
Children at Home
Typical houses in urban Philippines are constructed of cement and have corrugated tin roofs. Many Compassion children live in small, congested homes with one or two rooms, in crammed squatter communities.
Some families still don’t have ready access to a safe and steady supply of water, but most families have access to electricity.
Issues and Concerns
Families who relocate to the cities are looking for opportunity. However, the reality falls far from their hopes and expectations.
- More than 30 percent of those living in urban areas settle in informal slums.
- These ramshackle cities exist in low-lying floodplains, along riverbanks, and near highways, railroads or dumpsites.
- The growing urban population has increased the demand for basic social services and increased competition for limited employment.
- In Manila, one out of 10 adults is unemployed.
Local Needs and Challenges
Because of poverty, children in the Philippines’ urban centers often suffer malnutrition, as well as illness and injury from unsafe living conditions.
- Many urban children do not attend school and are vulnerable to the negative influences that surround them.
- At an early age, children often become involved in gangs, prostitution and other dangerous activities.
- Many Compassion-assisted children confess that if they had not become a part of the program, they likely would have followed the same path.
Schools and Education
The typical school year in Manila runs from June through March.
- Children must attend either a morning or afternoon shift because the number of students is far greater than the number of teachers.
- Classrooms are overcrowded, and children rarely receive one-on-one attention.
- Elementary school lasts six years, and secondary, or high school, is four years.
- Most families in metro Manila put a high premium on education.
- The region has the highest basic literacy rate in the country at 97 percent.
- While public primary and secondary education is free, most Compassion-assisted children need support for school uniforms, textbooks and transportation expenses.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Eighty of Compassion Philippines child development centers are in urban areas. In Manila alone, Compassion ministers to more than 5,000 children in desperate poverty.
At the centers, children come each week to learn practical lessons in health and nutrition.
Compassion centers serve as a haven where they can go anytime to be safe, accepted and enjoy learning and just being kids. It is not uncommon to see sponsored children, especially youth, hanging out at their center on non-program activity days to escape the harsh realities of their living situations.
What Compassion Sponsorship Provides
Registered children receive:
- regular nutritious meals and snacks
- health checkups and medical care as needed
- the support needed to attend school
- Lessons in hygiene habits such as frequent hand washing and brushing teeth
- Their first toothbrush
Most important, assisted children learn that God loves them and has a plan for their lives. They are encouraged and equipped to work toward a future free from poverty and a life of squalor in the slums.