Homelessness in Bolivia
Bolivia is a country located in South America. It borders Brazil, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and Argentina, and has no access to the oceans surrounding South America. About half of the land in this country is occupied by the Andes Mountains and consists of dry land. Typically, people overlook Bolivia in comparison to more popular countries in South America like Chile, Peru and Brazil. Bolivia is most recognized for its breathtaking sand flats, however, homelessness in Bolivia is rampant. Few acknowledge that more than 35% of Bolivia’s population lives in poverty and over 6% deal with unemployment.

7 Facts About Homelessness in Bolivia

  1. Child homelessness in Bolivia is concerning. Every year, about 800,000 children in Bolivia are abandoned, neglected and left homeless. These kids turn to crime and child labor opportunities just to earn some money to keep them alive. Even as countries worldwide try to end child labor, it is still legal for children as young as 10 years old to work in Bolivia. An estimated 850,000 Bolivian children work selling food and clothes at outdoor markets, mining silver or harvesting sugar cane. These children are either living in extreme poverty, are homeless or both.
  2. Life expectancy links to homelessness in Bolivia. The life expectancy in Bolivia is about 70 years. This number is remarkably low. The average global life expectancy is about 72.6 years. That means that Bolivians are dying much earlier than the majority of the world. This may link closely to the poverty rate and the amount of homelessness in the country, as many of these people do not have access to clean water, sanitation and nutritious food. They are malnourished and do not have the resources to receive medical attention, which results in their shortened life.
  3. Bolivia’s landslide increased the already large population of homeless people in the country. On Apr. 30, 2019, a massive landslide hit Bolivia’s capital. This landslide destroyed 66 houses and over 85 families were left homeless. The government promised these families that they would provide them shelter, but many still reside in tents. So far, little has been done to help these people, which is extremely troubling given that Bolivia is particularly vulnerable to natural hazards like droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides and volcanoes.
  4. Homeless Bolivians turn to drugs. In most situations, when people live in extreme poverty or live without shelter, they turn to violence, and Bolivia is no exception. These people sleep on the street and steal money to buy food. They lead a lonely life so they look to alcohol and drugs to ease their pain. They get high on cheap drugs such as paco, a cocaine base and glue.
  5. Bolivian women living on the streets endure extreme violence. Bolivian women suffer from violence and assault in general, but being homeless and vulnerable makes it much easier for predators to attack. In 2018, 76 cases of femicide occurred from January to August, and 128 cases occurred in the whole year. This means that 128 innocent women were killed just because they were female. Latin American countries hold the highest rates of femicide in the world, and women on the streets are especially at risk.
  6. Homeless shelters and services attempt to help Bolivians living on the streets. About 58% of Bolivian families live in inadequate living conditions and do not have access to basic sanitation. The government plans to build 25,000 houses every year for the next ten years but so far, there has been no headway on this mission. Homeless shelters that are already in effect, however, offer a home to children and services that they cannot find on the street, such as sanitation and access to water.
  7. Bolivia’s government is making strides and attempts to reduce the number of people living in poverty and without shelter. The AIF, Arco Iris Foundation, is operating under the core goal of fighting poor and homeless children. The main way they try to help these children is by giving them leadership roles in the community. By being in these roles, the children receive social and financial assistance, training and support to lift them and their families out of poverty.

Despite being a beautiful country, homelessness in Bolivia is widespread and contributes to issues such as poor sanitation and water quality. More has to be done in this country and the region it is located in to help save people living in poverty and on the streets. Bolivia has a long way to go before everyone — males, females, children, homeless and people living in poverty — can be truly safe and lead a good life.

Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr