El Alto, La Paz

Child from El Alto, Bolivia

Bolivia has turned a corner recently after a popular uprising put socialist President Evo Morales into power. Even so, millions of its citizens are in desperate poverty. 

SOS Children's Villages works into El Alto to help children get a step up in life.

Booming population

El Alto used to be a suburb of La Paz but has become one of Bolivia's biggest cities in its own right. At a height of 4000 metres, it has a population of over 900,000, the majority of whom are indigenous Ayamara. Most of the residents have moved here after 1985 after government policy encouraged urbanisation.

Crime is sky high, traffic and pollution are out of control. The city was not planned and lacks basic sanitation or services such as education and healthcare. It is one of the poorest cities in Bolivia and as such was at the heart of the uprising which put current President, Evo Morales into power.

Youngest city

In demographic terms, El Alto is Bolivia's youngest city. 77% of its population is under 24. Most of the residents work in casual trades, for instance selling merchandise and homemade food on the streets. Lacking a regular income such precarious lifestyles do not always guarantee food for the family every day. Children suffer malnutrition in some cases, from not being able to what their developing bodies and brains need.

Children often work to support the family, selling sweets as well as shining shoes for a living as soon as they are old enough. Not being schooled and being able to have what we might regard a normal childhood, impacts on their development and ability to get on in life.

Many young girls end up single mothers and this continues the cycle of poverty. Intervening at this stage is important to give young people the chance at life they deserve.

How we support children in El Alto

Mother and child Bolivia

SOS Children's Villages arrived in El Alto in 2003. We have set up social centres to help strengthen families by giving guidance to parents as to how to earn more money to sustain their livelihoods. We also provide a day-care centre for toddlers and a child-minding programme. These allow parents to go out and earn a living for their families, enabling them to work together to make ends meet.

Some children are still unable to live with their families, for example those that have been orphaned. In these circumstances, children can live in an our Children's Village in an SOS family. Affectionately cared for by their SOS Mothers, the children attend school in the community and are given the chance they might once never have had.

Once the children are old enough, we offer access to the SOS youth programme to help them pursue vocational training or further education while living in accommodation supplied by us. Qualified youth counsellors supply the young people with the guidance and support they need in getting ahead in the world.

Too many children in El Alto grow up without the support they need to thrive. Our Children's Village gives hope and a safe home to the most vulnerable. Will you sponsor one of these children today?



Did you know? An SOS mother will often work for SOS Children for many years, caring for several generations of children.