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TThe rich culture of Bolivia and its abundant indigenous people are world-renowned, however, the Bolivian economy is also one of South America’s poorest. The relationship between ethnicity and poverty in Bolivia is strong. Indigenous groups are often marginalized and do not have easy access to education and health care because of geographic, cultural and economic barriers. Without access to basic services, illness among children under 5 is high. Many children must travel long distances to attend school, and during harvest season families require their children’s help, so school attendance is often low, which limits their formal education. Machoism in Bolivia also affects families, schools and society. The Bolivian people accept discriminative practices against women as common and normal, and this belief sometimes leads to violence within the family, school and community.

ChildFund has served children in Bolivia since 1979. Help make a difference and sponsor a child in Bolivia today.  

Healthy mothers have healthier babies, but many Bolivian women die in childbirth each year. ChildFund trains birth attendants and supports local health centers so that knowledgeable health practitioners can help avoid obstetric emergencies and provide life-saving assistance when they occur. Community health volunteers educate families on how to prevent the life-threatening illnesses that are the main causes of death of young children. Volunteers are also trained to recognize danger signs so that children can be referred to the formal health system in time for treatment. Malnutrition is also an issue, but ChildFund’s trainings and programs have reduced the incidence of developmental delays that result from poor nutrition.

ChildFund Bolivia’s early childhood development programs complement its malnutrition efforts by helping parents learn about their children’s early development, beginning with breastfeeding. Early Childhood Development centers, which are designed specifically for preschool-age children, teach parents about child development and rely on their participation to run the centers.

Once children enter formal education in Bolivia, they continue to benefit from ChildFund’s after-school programs in ChildFund-supported community centers that offer academic support, leadership training and other educational opportunities. ChildFund Bolivia recently conducted a violence-prevention project in the city of Oruro to tackle the issue of bullying in schools. The project worked closely with students, teachers and parents, offering a series of workshops on the impact of bullying, providing tools to help children learn communication skills, and collaborating to create safe classroom environments.

Bolivian youth have been taking a strong stance against violence in their communities. With the help of educational materials that guide them through a project-management process, youth have designed projects to help prevent violence in their neighborhoods and promote a culture of peace. Within their youth clubs, youth leaders participate in workshops that explore the subject of violence, and guided discussions to help them talk about their experiences. They also explore specific problems around violence in their communities in depth, and each club chooses a specific problem to work on.

The so-called Bolivia Water War took place in the arid city of Cochabamba in 2000. However, the water crisis is far from over. In 1999, the water supply of Cochabamba was privatized by city officials. An international consortium acquired the contract, agreeing to pay the large debt of the previous municipal water supplier and build a dam. Consequently, the cost of water rose dramatically and protests of outrage began in response to the water crisis.

The contract was overturned after months of protest, but many issues still remain. Water is so scarce in Cochabamba that growing food is nearly impossible, and parts of the city lack electricity and running water. The effects of climate change are exacerbating the water crisis as increased droughts put pressure on the agricultural economy.  As a result, the rural population is displaced to urban areas where water and sanitation infrastructure is already under much stress. The state of Bolivia’s infrastructure is so poor that only 27 percent of the population has adequate access to sanitation facilities, second-worst in the Americas region, after Haiti.

ChildFund partners with local Cochabamba group Obispo Anaya to provide families access to purified water as well as several educational initiatives to teach people about responsible water usage and conservation. Another focus of our partnership is improving access to sanitation facilities, especially when severe water scarcity makes proper sanitation difficult. While access to water and sanitation has improved significantly since the Bolivian Water War, many people still do not have adequate access to either. To help improve these conditions, please consider donating to our Essentials for Survival fund. 


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March 20 Day of the Sea
March 29 Children's Day
April 12 Labor Day/May Day
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Culture Bolivia in Focus
Short Fiction Fire From the Andes
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Non-Fiction Violence and Performance in Urban Bolivia
Music Traditional Music From Bolivia
Cookbook My Mother's Bolivian Kitchen

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