In recent years the government and NGOs have made huge efforts to improve the living conditions of the poorest, and children in particular, in Guayaquil. But the harsh reality thousands of families face is that of a fundamentally divided and unequal society.
What we do in Guayaquil
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Guayaquil since 2007. Today, the SOS Social Centre here provides a holistic and sustainable family strengthening programme that aims to alleviate hardship in the community. Its services include a childminding programme, which enables working parents or single mothers to leave their children in safe hands while they are out making a living. There is also a day-care centre for babies.
Educational events for adults can be organised at the social centre, depending on the needs of the community. Such events are organised by the community itself, with SOS Children’s Villages providing training and support.
For children in Guayaquil who are no longer able to live with their parents, 14 SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 98 children. In each family, they live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
In Ecuador’s “economic capital” large sectors of society are still marginalised
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s most populous city and one of the largest metropolitan areas in Latin America. The city itself has a population approaching three million and is located on the Pacific coast. It is an important commercial, financial, political and cultural centre.
Its port is one of the largest and most important in the entire region, with 70 per cent of Ecuador’s exports and over 80 per cent of imports passing through it. Guayaquil is also known as Ecuador’s most dangerous city, with some of the highest crime rates.
Guayaquil’s population is constantly fluctuating due to the many migrants who come to the city temporarily to work. They settle in one of the satellite towns or neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city. Some of these are located on the hills surrounding Guayaquil, making them very unsafe for their inhabitants due to insufficient precautions against landslides. Many of these houses also lack basic infrastructure such as running water, sanitation or electricity.
Children from dysfunctional families have no one to turn to for help
Although poverty has been on the decline overall, Guayaquil is still the city in Ecuador with the highest rates of people living in destitution, unable to meet basic needs such as an adequate diet. Such circumstances can result in dysfunctional families, violence or alcoholism in parents, making them unable to look after their children. Children may be sent out to sell merchandise or beg in the streets, or they may be abandoned entirely, leaving them homeless.
The so-called “gomeros” – children who are addicted to sniffing glue and wander the streets on their own, seemingly unaware of their surroundings – are a common sight in this city. In 2010 over 6,000 children were in such circumstances, according to police estimates. While efforts to improve their situation have indeed brought some improvement, many children are still highly at risk.
Our approach to improving the situation of children in Guayaquil is twofold: first, families need support so that children are not abandoned. Secondly, children whose parents are unable to look after them need to be provided with a safe, nurturing home.