The largest city in Bolivia, Santa Cruz is situated on the Pirai River in the eastern lowlands. It is home to 1, 9 million inhabitants, and 2.2 million people live in the metropolitan area.
Located in the Amazon basin, Santa Cruz benefits from a tropical climate. Fuelled by profits from its fields, oil and gas deposits, Santa Cruz is one of Bolivia's richest towns and the most important business centre in the country. But it’s also a city where the divide between the rich and those living in poverty is particularly stark.
Since 1994, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Santa Cruz. And since 2012, in this particular district of Santa Cruz.
Half of the population living in the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz still live with poor access to sanitation. Rapid population growth has made it difficult for the government to provide sanitation through sewerage networks. That’s why 182,000 households still rely on on-site sanitation – mainly septic tanks. Some of them are forced to pour the overflows of sewage in the street, generating sludge and dirty water that become sources of pollution.
This lack of sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases and the spread of epidemics; it reduces the well-being and the social and economic development of parents and their children.
Income inequality continues to affect the Bolivian population, a gap that is particularly noticeable in a fast-growing city such as Santa Cruz.
Across the country, the bottom 20% of households have access to a share of only 4% of the national income, while 62% of this income is concentrated in the hands of the top 20% of the population.
This income inequality shows that the economic growth and the exploitation of natural resources only benefit a small elite class and have not improved living conditions for many communities.