Cartagena is located along the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Cartagena was decleared a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site in 1984, and is considered the "jewel" of the Colombian Caribbean. Cartagena is a popular tourist destination in Colombia, and the tropical climate of the region adds to its appeal.


Coastal Region

  • The environment in which many children live in Colombia's coastal region poses significant risks to their health and well-being on a daily basis. Boy holding a soccer ball
  • Thanks to caring sponsors and a program that is Christ-centered, children have the opportunity to experience God's love firsthand. Kids praying
  • The Compassion curriculum enables tutors to provide the learning activities children need to overcome poverty and achieve a brighter future. Children drawing and painting
  • Homes of poor families are typically makeshift dwellings made of whatever scrap materials can be found. A boy standing in front of his home
  • At their centers, children have the opportunity to have fun while developing important social skills, such playing fairly and taking turns. Children playing a game at the child development center
  • For 40 years, Compassion has been ministering to children in need in Colombia. Children gathered together
  • Umbrellas in this region are used for protection from the sun rather than rainfall, which is scarce. A woman with an umbrella




Roman Catholic


A Glimpse of Poverty in Colombia's Coastal Region

For impoverished children in this region, life presents many obstacles to growing up healthy and happy.

A group of children
  • Water is scarce and its quality is typically not suitable for consumption.
  • Since most families do not boil their water to make it safe, the region’s children constantly suffer from waterborne diseases, especially intestinal parasites.
  • Children also suffer from malnutrition.
  • Parents do not have an understanding about the foods their children need for healthy development.
  • Families often eat what they can afford, primarily starchy plantains prepared in different ways.
  • Without a balanced diet of protein, vegetables, fruit and dairy items, children’s healthy physical and mental development is at risk.
In the Coastal Region of Colombia

Geography & Climate

Colombia has lowland coastal regions along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Compassion’s child development centers are located on the Caribbean coast in and around the cities of Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Cartagena and Urabá.

  • The temperature averages between 77 and 89 degrees and may go over 100.
  • The humidity is around 90 percent year-round.
  • The rainy months on the coast are April to May and October to November.
  • November through February tends to be windy, although cool breezes provide relief from the high temperatures.
  • Colombia’s coast is rarely affected by hurricanes.
  • Flooding sometimes occurs during the rainy months, which can prove disastrous to poor families who live in fragile, makeshift homes.


  • Unemployment and poverty are rampant. Many parents make less than $1 a day, barely enough to keep their families alive.
  • The wealthy live in luxurious homes and work in state-of-the-art office complexes.
  • The poor are forced to make do with shelters built from discarded materials. They lack such basic amenities as running water and sewage systems.
Children at Home

Over the past decade, to escape drug-related violence, many families from the Colombian countryside have moved to cities like Cartagena.

Children at home

Without any financial means, they have built homes out of scrap materials in undesirable, unsafe locations such as swamps, which are particularly vulnerable to flooding during the rainy months.

Homes in these poor neighborhoods typically are built on stilts and are painted bright colors.

Issues and Concerns

In the Caribbean coastal region of Colombia, children and communities in general suffer from the lack of potable water and adequate sanitary services.

  • This region lacks a proper sewer system.
  • In the remote coastal populations, water has to be extracted from wells because running water is not available to many homes.
  • Many homes of sponsored children lack sanitary services.
  • Families must use latrines and improvised rooms, where they shower with water they collect in buckets.

The country office has requested funds from Compassion’s Complementary Interventions program to provide bathrooms for some child development centers because many of them need improved sanitation facilities.

Local Needs and Challenges

Clean water and sanitation

The poor live in the shadows of modern buildings, fancy hotels and luxurious homes, yet they do not have access to potable water or adequate sewage systems.


Malaria and waterborne illnesses are constant threats.


Unemployment has ravaged the region.

Drug trafficking

As seaports and tourist destinations, coastal cities are centers of drug commerce and are often dangerous communities for children.