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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                               

Republic of Bolivia

Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Following a disastrous economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates in the 1990s. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans - subsequently abandoned - to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Bolivia

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Bolivia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


SOS Children in South America: Family Strengthening and Street Children

SOS Children's Villages

[accessed 6 April 2011]

STREET CHILDREN IN BOLIVIA - In La Paz the capital of Bolivia, there are nearly ten thousand children living on the streets, neglected and with no one to look after them.  For these children daily life is a continuous fight for survival – a battle against starvation, disease and misery.  Some scrape together tiny amounts of money from any casual work they can find, but most resort to crime.  The situation is made worse by a police force which regard the children as exploitation rather than to be helped.

Local doctor helps 'street children' find new home

Mira Vale, Correspondent, GateHouse News Service, Lincoln, Jun 26, 2008

[accessed 6 April 2011]

[accessed 22 November 2016]

Huang finally got his wish when he met a boy who had once lived on the streets of La Paz.  The boy took him around the city at night so he could meet the children.  "[Meeting and helping the street children] was challenging and disturbing," Huang said.  "On the street, there were kids sleeping in their own fecal matter, in their own urine, in sewers, getting beaten by police and other kids."

He was able to meet the children only in the middle of the night because most of them must stay awake until sunrise, sniffing paint thinner to keep warm.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 23 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - In urban areas, children shine shoes, sell goods, and assist transport operators.  Children also work as small-scale miners, and have been used to sell and traffic drugs.  Some children are known to work as indentured domestic laborers and prostitutes.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - In August 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will provide funds for agricultural commodities for school meals in Bolivia.[553]  The WFP’s strategies in its 2003-2007 country plan for Bolivia were integrated into Bolivia’s poverty reduction strategy to provide food aid to schools and shelters for street children, as well as stabilizing primary school attendance rates, decreasing dropout rates and increasing grade promotion, particularly among street children and girls.  The target numbers for the program are 42,000 primary school students and 7,000 street children.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 7 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Public schooling was provided up to age 17 or grade 8; the law requires all children to complete at least 5 years of primary school; primary education was free and universal. Enforcement of the education law was lax, particularly in rural areas, where more than half of the primary schools offered only three of eight grades. An estimated 50 percent of children completed primary school, and an estimated 26 percent graduated from high school

Physical and psychological abuse in the home was a serious problem. Corporal punishment and verbal abuse were common in schools. Children from 11 to 16 years of age may be detained indefinitely in children's centers for suspected offenses or for their own protection on the orders of a social worker. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that approximately 13 thousand children lived in institutions where their basic rights were not respected. There also were many children living on the streets of major cities.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] Urban children sold goods, shined shoes, and assisted transport operators.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2005

[accessed 23 January 2011]

[65] The Committee expresses concern at the rise in the number of street children in the State party.

Nun helps Bolivia's street kids build future from past of addiction

Barbara J. Fraser, Catholic News Service CNS, EL ALTO Bolivia, Mar-6-2009

[accessed 6 April 2011]!msg/soc.retirement/n2XAVYXLCoo/iqcRPLAOYRcJ

[accessed 22 November 2016]

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Daniel Escalante remembers the exact day he came in from the cold: March 16, 2000. He was living in and around the cemetery in La Paz, more than two miles high in the Andes Mountains, where temperatures plunge as soon as the sun goes down. By day, Escalante and his teenage friends would do odd jobs or shine shoes to earn a few cents to buy a watered-down bottle of alcohol to drink or glue to sniff. Then two of the boys died, one of a liver ailment and one from the cold. "That had a big impact on me. I decided I didn't want to die that way," said Escalante, 26. "I have buried friends since I was 10 years old."

As Escalante remembers it, they rode to the end of the bus line, then walked and walked across the empty landscape until at last they reached a plot of land that Sister Doris' community had purchased. And there, brick by brick, they started building a home. El Alto's Light of Hope Center is now a beacon for boys living on the streets in La Paz, but Sister Doris knows that its hold on them is tenuous. The center is home to 18 boys, with beds for about a dozen more. Some stay for awhile, then succumb to the lure of the streets. "It's not easy for them to give up alcohol and sniffing glue," Sister Doris said. "Some fall by the wayside."   Like the prodigal son, however, they are welcomed back. And some come home to die.

Bolivia's shoeshine outcasts pin hopes on Morales

Simon Gardner, Reuters, La Paz, Aug 9, 2008

[accessed 6 April 2011]

His dark eyes glinting from behind a black woolen ski mask to hide his identity, 22-year-old shoeshiner Abel Alvarez is praying Bolivian President Evo Morales wins a recall vote.  At the bottom of the ladder in South America's poorest country, former street urchin Alvarez and fellow shoeshiners as young as seven pepper the streets of La Paz, and complain they are shunned as untouchables.  They wear masks so classmates cannot recognize them as they earn 35-50 bolivianos ($5-$7) on a good day shining shoes -- the underclass in a land where some 60 percent of the population of about 10 million is poor.

BOLIVIA: Dying, to Help Others Live

Franz Chávez, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, LA PAZ, Jan 31, 2008

[accessed 6 April 2011]

[accessed 22 November 2016]

Yovana and Óscar, two adolescents who were brought in off the street, remember when the young Italian man would push through the brush surrounding the spot where they slept under a bridge in a La Paz neighbourhood, ignoring their hostility while offering hot milk and bread.  The two youngsters admitted that they at first treated the kind young blond man with distrust, but said they eventually accepted his invitation to abandon the violent world of drugs and alcohol that they inhabited.

Their time on the streets left them with scars on their arms from the self-harm they used to engage in, an increasingly common behaviour among troubled youngsters, who cut themselves, according to experts, to seek a kind of relief from unbearable psychological or emotional situations.  Óscar openly described to IPS his past on the streets, when he panhandled and robbed to survive. He said he had "several specialties" when it came to stealing.  But with a newborn baby in their arms, the young couple now envision a better future for themselves. Yovana remembers Bertozzi’s advice: "Change for the sake of your little son; the doors of this home will always be open for your recovery."  "He was a father to the poor and to the children on the streets," said Hernaiz.

Councillor seeks help for Bolivian street children

Sandy McKenzie, Evening Gazette, Jan 4 2008

[accessed 8 Aug  2013

Cllr Michna and Janet now want to raise more cash for the project. It works with other bodies to help the 3,000 children living on La Paz’s streets.  The children, aged six to 15 years, spend their days shining shoes or begging for money.  At night, they find what shelter they can. Many have small houses made of corrugated steel or cardboard.  For those children choosing to remain on the streets the project offers help with medical care, food, clothing, social support and education.  For the children who agree to come off the streets the project runs residential units.

Teatro Trono: Youth Theater in Bolivia

Benjamin Dangl, "The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia" (AK Press, 2007)

[accessed 30 December 2014]

At Teatro Trono, located in El Alto, a sprawling city neighboring La Paz, homeless children are the actors, and the plays deal head on with Bolivia’s harsh reality.

Their book, El mañana es hoy, contains stories of Teatro Trono told by the actors. Chila, whose family’s alcoholism forced him into homelessness at age nine, said the street was his home. There he united with his friends and shared food, spoils from robberies, and drugs until he found Trono. "We have reconstructed a family [for street children]," Nogales says. "Now many of them are teachers here." Though the theater started out working with homeless children, Trono now works more on prevention rather than rehabilitation, with outreach efforts that seek to stop children from becoming drug addicts.

Bolivian leader opens his doors

Reuters, 13 February 2008

[accessed 6 April 2011]

[accessed 22 November 2016]

Bolivian street children got the best World Cup ticket in town on Friday, invited by football-crazy President Evo Morales to watch the opening match on television at the presidential palace.

Abandoned Street Children Turn To Drugs

Christian B. Schaeffler, Editor-in-Chief, Adventist Press Service APD, December 31, 1998

[accessed 6 April 2011]

The economic realities of stark poverty are forcing children out of their homes onto Bolivia's city streets, reports ADRA Works, the quarterly publication of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Silver Spring, Maryland.  Drugs help them get through their dark days-or so they think. Children sleep on the streets and steal to buy food.  They often turn to alcohol and drugs to ease their loneliness.

New KHouse Opens in Bolivia

Kid Link, December  12, 2002 – Source:

[accessed 6 April 2011]

Two blue, mobile containers, filled with computers and connected to the Internet, opened their doors to street kids and schools of La Paz.  Estimates claim the city has 50.000 street kids.

Bolivia LIFE Center

Life Outreach International, Bolivia LIFE Center

[accessed 6 April 2011]

With poor health conditions, serious diseases, unsafe drinking water, malnutrition, and inadequate housing, many of Bolivia's children face a bleak future. Many of the orphans and abandoned children or "throwaways" have absolutely no future. In the dark streets of Cochabamba, Bolivia, hundreds of children hide in cardboard boxes, covering themselves with strips of plastic tarp, old blankets, or anything else they can find to stay warm.

Programa Sarantenani, Bolivia

[accessed 6 April 2011]

There are approximately 400 children ranging in ages from six to 18 who live on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia with the streets being their only means of subsisting.  It is for these children, who have been totally abandoned by society that the Saranteñani program has been established.  Both a social movement and a community of street children and youth, the program strives to raise the status of children as agents for change. Mainly centered in La Paz, it is a pioneer program involving children and teens helping one another. The program has been in place for six years, supported by strong community participation.

Description And Activities Of Amanecer

[accessed 19 September 2011]

Amanecer was started by a catholic order, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in 1981. They were motivated by the increasing number of abandoned children living on the streets of the city as a result of poor economic conditions.  Many recently unemployed miners were moving to the city in a generally vain attempt to find work. They live in basic conditions in slums on the edge of the city with high rates of alcoholism and domestic abuse. Their children suffered the most with many being abandoned and others running away from abusive situations.

Volunteers helping street children - Bruce Bolivia - S.O.S. Bolivia

[accessed 6 April 2011]

[accessed 22 November 2016]

HOW OUR PROJECT WORKS - We go into the poorest communities where :the highest concentrations of out-of-school children can be found: and we recruit them. When we have enough, we either open our own school or else gain the use of a classroom in a local state school: and there we begin the rehabilitation and education of these children.

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