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.
- 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.
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.
As seaports and tourist destinations, coastal cities are centers of drug commerce and are often dangerous communities for children.
Schools and Education
In the Caribbean coastal cities, 89 percent of children ages 6 to 10 attend elementary school. In secondary school, that percentage drops to 83 percent.
- The best schools are private, which poor families cannot afford.
- Public schools are overcrowded, with around 40 students per classroom, as opposed to 15 students in private school classes.
- Overcrowded public schools make it difficult for children to receive a quality education.
- Public schools provide poor quality education.
- In the city schools, children are at risk of falling prey to drug and alcohol addiction or involvement in gangs.
At the Compassion Child Development Center
Compassion serves children in Colombia's coastal region through local, church-based child development centers. Children have the opportunity to develop their talents and abilities.
To address malnutrition, the centers provide balanced meals on program activity days to give each child the nutrients necessary for healthy development.
Malnutrition calculators and growth tables are used by each center, enabling them to intervene to improve the health and quality of life of the children.
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 on good hygiene habits to prevent spread of disease
- Bible study