Monday, June 14, 2010
Children in El Salvador
Last week La Prensa Grafica, one of the major newspapers here, ran a sad graphic. It showed a World Bank index of the opportunities offered to children in health, education, and housing among the different countries of Latin America. Chile led the list, followed by Uruguay, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Argentina. These countries cover 90% or more of the basic needs of children. Down at the bottom are four Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and - at the bottom - Honduras, where only 50 to 60% of those basic needs are covered.
A report on child labor was also released this week from the Ministry of the Economy here, which concluded that about 10% of Salvadoran children between 5 and 17 work, many of them on family farms or in family businesses. There's a good report on this in Tim's El Salvador blog, and a link to the original study.
Statistics tell a grim story, but there's another story, just as important. I visited a family today that we'd met in our February clinics in San Juan Opico. As so often here, this family with four children between the ages of 11 and 4 is headed by a single mother (the father walked out two years ago and hasn't been heard of since) who works in the informal economy, reselling used clothes, to try to put food on the table. They live in great poverty in a borrowed house made of tin sheeting propped together. But the mother sends all of her children to school (except the four year old - he'll go next year). She knows that education is the only hope for her children to escape the net of poverty, and she's determined that they will be educated.