poverty in Santiago










Santiago, Chile is a magnetic city that draws many people in because of the city’s alluring cultural life. Chile’s industry is mostly congregated in the Greater Santiago region.

Cultural Importance in Santiago

The industries consist of textiles, shoes, clothes, food products, copper mining and metallurgy have made this region prosperous. As a result, there has been a rise of a growing financial district known for its stock exchange and banking.

Even though Santiago is often viewed as an industrial hub, many in this prosperous city are left with little and struggle to survive. To recognize the needs of Santiago, here are 10 key facts about poverty in Santiago.

10 Key Facts About Poverty in Santiago

  1. Poverty rates are on the rise. Recent studies have shown a rise in the city’s poverty levels. Although Santiago remains below the national poverty rate of 15.2 percent, poverty in Santiago increased by about 1 percent between 2007 and 2010. Poverty levels grew by 1.4 percent, while the gap between the rich and poor dropped by 5.1 percent.
  2. Low-income families receive healthcare. Primary healthcare centers provide an array of services and are an essential part of the healthcare network. Preventative services are incentivized and the populations are divided into sectors to have a regular source of care. However, PHCs do not have sufficient resources.
  3. Water is commodified. Millions of people are left without water and warning for several days. Privatization of water was established in 1981 under General Pinochet. Grievances with the commodification of water has been exacerbated by the growing loom of climate change and the ultimate disappearance of the glaciers.
  4. Health education is lacking. Health education is lacking and many of the city’s poorest residents develop preventable diseases as a result. Addison Williams, an aid volunteer, noted the inadequate health education and stated the resulting conditions present. Preventable diseases that often plague animals are common among the children that play on the street. The CDC reported that Chagas disease is a great risk for those living in “poor-quality housing.” Although no vaccines or drugs can prevent the infection, better housing conditions, bed nets, and residual-action insecticides are effective preventative measures.
  5. Government implemented ‘Operation Site’ to alleviate housing inequalities. The population of Santiago doubled between 1940 and 1960, resulting in a housing crisis. The Ministry of Housing was established in 1965, and soon began to implement ‘Operation Site,’ which offered land to the residents. The system did not have clear guidelines, nor clear initiatives. Some families were given a wooden house, while others were given electricity and running water but no house. Today, the consequences of ‘Operation Site’ remain unclear and debated. Opponents say that the poor were social segregated. However, the results have been largely beneficial for those living in the government-sponsored spots.
  6. The poorest families live in a campomento. A campomento, or shanty town, exists because of abrupt growth in urban areas. In the campomento, poverty in Santiago is evident and the city’s poorest residents have found a home. The communities are often surrounded by trash and homes are constructed from remaining wood and doors that had been disposed of prior. Roofs are fabricated by metal scrapped sheets found within the dumps. There are no floors. Instead the residents of the campomento use rugs to cover the dirt.
  7. Santiago’s rich and poor are divided. The wealthiest part of the city, northeastern Santiago, is a stark contrast to the poorest areas in the south and northwestern parts. Centers of culture are congregated at the center of the city. Shopping malls and new cultural buildings are being placed in already high-income parts of the city. In the south, where poverty in Santiago is evident, important buildings, like high schools, are being underdeveloped. Instead, these regions are known for landfills and jails. Luis Valenzuela, Universidad Católica’s Observatory of Cities executive director, believes that parks could be used as a tool to improve low-income areas.
  8. The average salary is $861. The industrial and financial center of Chile, Santiago generates 45 percent of the country’s GDP. Job prospects have been high, and the economy has seen growth; however, the average salary is just $861.
  9. Average education for Heads of Household is nine years. In some of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Santiago, such as Lo Espejo, only one out of five youths have access to higher education. Moreover, the average family’s head of household has only reached nine years of education. Many students do not place much of an importance on education; instead, many often turn to illegal activities. Andrew Ireland, worked for a semester in Centro Abierto Santa Adriana (CASA). The organization has sought to keep children enrolled in school. CASA has provided a place for community children to stay during the day when they were not at school. The organization has proven successful in offering a safe place to study and for the children to stay out of trouble.
  10. UNESCO Santiago attended an Assessment for Global Learning. A World Bank Symposium compiled an array of experts to develop tools and approaches to monitor learning. UNESCO Santiago was in attendance, a clear indication that change in Santiago’s education is necessary. The symposium dealt with various questions about measuring learning and how governments can utilize these tools.

Aid groups, such as the Chilean Red Cross have implemented tactics to improve healthcare in Santiago. They are trained to respond to epidemic controls, as well as promoting healthcare education and preventing diseases. Among the highest of the International Federation of Red Cross’s goals is fostering community empowerment.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr