Located in South
America, Bolivia is a country facing tremendous challenges. With approximately
60 percent of the population living below the poverty line, access to even basic
amenities such as clean water can be sparse. For Bolivian children, these
struggles are even more pronounced. Around six out of every 10 children in
Bolivia live without access to education, health care and healthy food, and
approximately half of Bolivia's youth live in poverty. ChildFund has worked in
Bolivia since 1980, and we helped families deal with the impact of the country's
"water wars" that occurred in 2000 and still affect some today.
A Precious Commodity
The Bolivian water wars focused almost entirely
on the city of Cochabamba, located in one of the driest valleys in the country.
In 1999, city officials privatized water access. A consortium of international
companies was the only bidder for the contract, which involved providing access
to water in Cochabamba and other regions, as well as building a dam. The
consortium also agreed to pay a $30 million debt incurred by the municipal
agency that previously oversaw the country's water supply, driving user rates up
to $20 a month.
Outraged by the situation, thousands of Bolivians
marched through Cochabamba, demanding the decision be reversed. Many people were
injured during these protests, and at least one civilian was killed during a
violent clash with local law enforcement.
Although the government ultimately revoked the
consortium's contract and turned oversight of water access to a group of
community leaders, the situation in Cochabamba remains serious. The city is one
of the poorest in Bolivia, and growing food in Cochabamba is virtually
impossible due to the arid climate. To make matters worse, the area's
infrastructure is insufficient to meet the needs of local people, and some parts
of the city lack electricity, running water or even paved roads. For families
living in Cochabamba, water is a precious resource that is all too scarce.
Working in Partnership
Since coming to Bolivia in 1980, ChildFund has
worked with regional organizations to improve the lives of Bolivian children
and their families. One such group is our local partner in Cochabamba, Obispo
Anaya. Through this partnership, we have been able to provide families living in
Cochabamba with access to purified water. In addition, we have launched several
educational initiatives to help people learn about responsible water usage and
Another key focus of our partnership with Obispo
Anaya is improving access to adequate sanitation facilities. Because water is so
scarce in Cochabamba, proper sanitation is difficult to achieve. However, we
have worked to provide access to better sanitation and hygiene systems, which in
addition to improving the quality of life in Cochabamba, also helps reduce the
spread of preventable diseases and waterborne bacteria.
Our water programs in Cochabamba have made a real
impact on the lives of families in the region. For some, the cost of water was
proving to be a tremendous burden, but thanks to ChildFund and Obispo Anaya,
many families can now access safe, clean water without spending such a large
portion of their income.
"We don't need to buy bottled water anymore or
boil it," said Luisa, a
community leader with Obispo Anaya. "We used to spend much more money for
water. We still have to buy it from the water truck, but we spend less. They
have taught us how to better clean our house and avoid diseases, and how to use
water better and wash our hands, and I can see the difference, as my little
babies don't get sick anymore, as the elders did."
Conditions in Cochabamba have improved
substantially since the water wars of 2000, but many families still have limited
access to clean water and adequate sanitation systems. To help us continue to
bring hope to these families and their children, please consider making a
donation to our Essentials
for Survival fund. For just $15 per month — around 50 cents per day— you can
help ChildFund provide clean water and other essentials to families living in
some of the world's poorest countries.