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The impact of COVID on children on the streets of Bolivia

Updates • Bolivia • Jul 2020

  • Recent reports state there are only 750 ventilators available for a population of approximately 11 million

  • Prior to the pandemic, over 80% of Bolivians did not have access to stable or secure employment

  • Numbers of children in poverty are likely to rise by 22% in Latin America (UNICEF)

Lynne Morris, Toybox CEO, comments: “The economic and social fall out from this global crisis will be long-lasting, and is likely to impact vulnerable children the most. The latest research by UNICEF anticipates that the numbers of children in poverty are likely to rise by 22% in Latin America.

“As one of the poorest countries in the region, the majority of the Bolivian population depends on the informal economy. Prior to the pandemic, over 80% of Bolivians didn’t have access to stable or secure employment and many of the street children and families our partner, Alalay, works with are dependent on casual work, living a hand-to-mouth existence.

“With shops, restaurants, markets and drop-in centres across the country closed, and ways of earning an income deteriorating, we know the vulnerability of these children and young people is ever-increasing and, as a result, more and more are going to sleep hungry.

“We also know that there are minimal levels of essential medical equipment and recent reports state there are only 750 ventilators available for a population of approximately 11 million.

“Before the country’s lockdown, our partner distributed hygiene kits to children on the streets and ran public demonstrations on effective handwashing. Alalay has been working hard to place children with extended families and, where this has not been possible, finding them places in shelters where they can access food and healthcare.

“During Bolivia’s strict lockdown, street-connected children were hustled off the streets and into temporary shelters.  Some returned to extended family members, often going back to the very situation that drove them onto the streets in the first place. The team here at Toybox, and our partners, are hugely concerned about the impact of Covid 19 on street-connected children, not just because of the virus itself, but the additional threats caused by the lockdown; a reduced supply of food and water, access to any kind of medical care and support, and concerns around their safety from potential predators.

“Street children no longer have the much needed escape of school, and their desperation to survive on the streets could very well lead them down a path of drugs, exploitation and to become involved in crime.”

“Alalay has found the restrictions have meant that keeping in contact with street children has been very challenging.  Street-connected children are entirely dependent on the streets for food and water, and a place to stay. Hunger is an immediate and daily challenge. Alalay is continuing to provide food to vulnerable children and youth in shelters, and supplying food vouchers so they can choose and cook their own meals. Many of the children are currently living in a temporary government shelter.” 

“Bolivia has been in lockdown for a number of weeks, but measures are now being eased including opening on state institutions, public transport and some businesses. As lockdown measures are eased this week, our partner is again pushing to ensure children who are without a birth certificate or ID document, without which accessing essential health services is extremely difficult. Our partner has expressed concerns that the easing of lockdown measures will lead to a spike in the number of people infected as people return to crowded markets and public transport.”

“A big part of the work that our charity undertakes in Latin America is to work with partners there to implement long term measures to encourage children to leave the streets, to look forwards, and build a future. One of our biggest projects is birth registration.

“In the last five years, we’ve been able to register 5,500 children in Latin America. It might seem like a piece of paper, but children without a birth certificate can’t continue their education, access medical care and support services, or even legal working opportunities, because they have no identity. Toybox helps to remove this barrier, following the particular countries’ process to trace midwives, nurses, extended family members and whomever else we need to, to provide a birth certificate for children.”

To find out more about Toybox and its latest coronavirus report

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