Uruguay is generally thought of as South America’s politically most stable, liberal and affluent country. However, its economy suffered considerably from the economic meltdown which hit neighbouring Argentina in 2002.
Despite the fact that income inequalities are not as pronounced as in other Latin American countries, around 10% of its population live their lives in poverty.
Children living in poverty
The minority who are of African or mixed European-indigenous descent form a higher proportion of its poorest people. In rural Uruguay, one child in every four lives in poverty.
Florida is the name of both an administrative district covering an area of more than 3,800 sq miles, and a small town. The town is located around 100km north of Montevideo in the southern part of the country and has a population of over 33,000, which is more than half of the population of the district as a whole.
Florida is a predominantly rural area and, as in most of the country, livestock and agriculture provide the basis of its economy; around Florida, many farmers manage dairy herds. Life in the rural areas continues to be marked by fairly high levels of poverty and social exclusion. Many families in the area live without access to running water, electricity and adequate housing, and around 24% of all children in the district grow up in struggling families.
Early school drop-out and spreading child prostitution
Children in the area tend to drop out of school at an early age, as their families need the additional income they can generate. Across the country as a whole, 99% of children aged between six and 11 attend primary school. In rural areas, drop out levels are as high as 27%, and even higher amongst the poorest families
Child poverty is a growing problem, and many orphaned and abandoned children in and around the town of Florida live in very difficult circumstances. In recent years, child prostitution has become a major problem. This dreadful trade used to be an issue only in Montevideo, but has now spread into the interior. It is no longer unusual to find children begging in the streets to help support their parents.
Our work in Florida
Our third and largest in Uruguay, the SOS Children’s Village in Florida was established in 1989. SOS families provide homes for children and young people who have no parental care.
When they are ready to make the transition from childhood to independent adult life, they join our youth programme. They move into more independent accommodation, and are supported by our qualified staff as they learn to look after themselves, take on responsibility for their lives and make decisions about their future.
Helping local families stay together
Alongside our Children’s Village, we offer support and guidance to many struggling families in the wider community. Our community work is aimed at helping families to stay together and improve their income-generating activities. We offer access to education and nutrition, vocational training opportunities and access to medical care, counselling and psychiatric support where needed. Our day care centres provide a safe and caring environment where parents can leave their children while they work or improve their skills.
Our Children's Village provides care for some of Florida's most vulnerable children, while our community work bolsters families under pressure. We work in Florida so that more children can look forward to a bright future. You can help our vital work by sponsoring a child.