child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to health care, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of impoverished Costa Ricans are younger than 35 years old and children younger than age 18 make up the largest group of the impoverished. Additionally, many of the children facing child poverty in Costa Rica are Indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

4 Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory. Free primary level education gives many children access to the education system. However, many children who come from impoverished families or rural areas miss out on education because they need to work to provide for their families. In 2020, 316 primary-aged children were not attending school and about 4% of lower secondary school-aged children were out of school. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, agricultural work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in impoverished regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.
  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. In 2011, Costa Rica noted 36,000 orphans. Due to lacking family structures or dysfunctional families, many vulnerable children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.
  3. Low child mortality rates. Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system and has also made strides in child mortality. In 2020, the mortality rate of children younger than 5 stood at 7.9 per 1,000 lives births, according to World Bank data, down from 96 in 1960. Child mortality rates are higher among children who are born into families living below the poverty line, Indigenous families or rural families.
  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, Costa Rica noted about 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, according to Humanium, though organizations believe many more cases go unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure have serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica.

The organization provides Costa Rican children with daycare, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. SOS Children’s Villages takes in children whose parents cannot take care of them. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people faced unemployment in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can reduce.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr