Since 1975, Compassion has partnered with local churches in Bolivia to lift children out of poverty in Jesus’ name. Today, more than 88,800 children are benefiting from Compassion’s support and care at 235 child development centers across the country. Every one of these children receives the nutrition, access to health care and educational support they need to beat poverty and grow into fulfilled, self-sufficient adults.
Over the last decade, prudent economic management has resulted in strong growth and a decrease in income inequality in Bolivia. However, the country remains one of the least developed in Latin America. A staggering 45 percent of the population is living in poverty, and 21 percent is living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 per day.
Food insecurity is widespread, particularly in rural areas, and one in five Bolivians does not have enough food to eat. Chronic malnutrition affects 18 percent of children under 5, often stunting their growth and causing irreversible damage. These children face many developmental challenges, not least a reduced ability to concentrate in school. To help address this problem, Compassion-registered children receive two nutritious snacks and a balanced meal on the days they attend their local child development center.
The first six years of primary school are compulsory and nominally free, though the cost of textbooks, uniforms and transport makes school unaffordable for many Bolivians living in poverty. Public schools are underfunded and overcrowded, and teachers often lack the proper training. The school day is split into two shifts to accommodate more students, resulting in a condensed curriculum and few opportunities for individual attention. The majority of Bolivian children never attend secondary school.
Child labor is an accepted part of life in some indigenous Bolivian cultures, and the government permits children as young as 10 years old to be self-employed under certain circumstances. More than 350,000 children are engaged in child labor, mostly in the agricultural sector but also in dangerous occupations such as mining and heavy construction.
Nearly three-quarters of rural families have no access to an improved sanitation facility, and one in four does not have a reliable source of safe drinking water. This results in widespread waterborne illnesses, such as bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A. Malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses also pose a serious threat to children’s health.
Compassion is striving to create the conditions in which every child in Bolivia benefits from a good education, in which every child has enough to eat, and in which every child has access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Our child development centers provide an essential base for these efforts. They are staffed by workers who are dedicated to improving children’s lives in Jesus’ name and to reaching out to those most in need.
- More than 5 million people are living in poverty in Bolivia.
- 20 percent of children between the ages of 7 and 14 are engaged in child labor.
- Unemployment stands at around 7.5 percent, and underemployment is widespread.
- Just 35 percent of children progress to secondary school.
- 60 percent of children under 5 have anemia.
Sources: UN World Food Programme; US Department of Labor; The World Factbook; UNICEF; WHO.