Child Poverty in El Salvador
In a country just shy of 6.5 million people, half of the population’s children and teenagers survive off less than $1.25 a day. It is not uncommon for impoverished young children in El Salvador to not attend school regularly and child labor is still an issue to this day. El Salvador currently has one of the top crime rates in the world making homelessness much riskier for young teens and children than in other parts of the world. Here is some information about the situation of child poverty in El Salvador.

A Lifetime of Struggle

El Salvador’s poverty issue affects a large amount of the population, but children and teens make up a significant portion. In fact, four out of 10 El Salvadorans live in poverty.

Malnutrition greatly affects homeless children and 14% of children in the country experience growth stunting. Without proper food or shelter, many do not attend school because they simply cannot get there or afford it. Almost 25% of school-aged children do not attend school and roughly 10% work as child laborers. Inadequate education leads to a lack of opportunities within the country cementing these children in the cycle of poverty.

Dangers on the Streets

Children who live on the streets in El Salvador face more than malnutrition and illness. The country’s extreme crime rate makes many places unsafe. Children and teenagers are targets of the country’s violent gangs. In 2009, 241 children aged 13-17 experienced murder by June and 271 had injuries. The government has made attempts to protect the children that gangs target but the violence has not ended. Homeless children in El Salvador frequently do not have protection or means of escape.

How Education Falls Short

Like neighboring countries, El Salvador has made education reforms in order to combat the high dropout rate and educational gaps, but it has not necessarily helped impoverished families. In fact, more than 30% of children cannot afford to attend secondary education. Instead, they must work to help their family survive. In rural areas, that number doubles with children starting work at age 6 on average. Families in this position survive off of $1 a day if they are lucky.

Minors between the ages of 5 and 17 make up 1.8 million individuals working in El Salvador. The conditions are dangerous, but impoverished families often do not have a choice. It is either starve and send their children to school or eat for the day and send them to work. Child poverty in El Salvador begins at a young age and the cycle is exceedingly hard to break.

Dangerous Diseases Threaten Poor Children

Accessing health care is rare even with El Salvador battling rising cases of HIV/AIDS. Children are at high risk due to how easy it is for the disease to transmit from a mother to a newborn or young child. Currently, there are 29,000 children and adults with the disease, but more than half of the cases are undeclared especially within rural populations. Treatment is only available in the capital and provided by third parties. Without money to afford treatment or even travel, impoverished children who experience disease do not often have a chance to obtain treatment.

A variety of charities are aiming to help reduce child poverty in El Salvador. Save the Children is a nonprofit that has teams all over the world helping children in need. Its team in El Salvador has protected more than 14,000 children from violence and helped almost 130,000 moms and newborns with vital health and care to successfully lower the infant death rate. By creating preschool programs, the organization has helped hundreds get a headstart in their education. It provides details about its efforts on its website

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr