Arica is a port city in Northern Chile with a population of 230,000. It shares a border with Peru. The city is also home to valleys that are highly fertile. The Azapa Valley contributes significantly to the agricultural industry in Chile, mainly with the production of olives and fruit. Since the 1800s, the port in Arica has been key to trade in the region.
Like any border town, Arica faces many challenges. For example, drug and human trafficking mark the lives of many of its inhabitants.
Since 1988, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Arica.
Although child labour is illegal in Chile, hundreds of children between the ages of 5 and 14 have been found working in various sectors. While a majority work in agriculture or construction like livestock rearing or bricklaying, some have been found in one of the worst forms of child labour: drug trafficking.
Children in Arica are found selling and transporting drugs on the border with Peru. Children from low-income families have succumbed to engaging in drug trafficking activities, with many ending up as substances abusers themselves.
Families living in Arica have suffered for more than 30 years from toxic waste dumps in the area. The improper disposal of toxic waste, that is high in arsenic, has seeped into the local drinking water systems.
An estimated 12,000 people have been affected by the waste, with many lives lost and several reporting long-term side effects such as respiratory problems, miscarriages, infertility and birth defects.