SOS Children's Village Zárate

On the outskirts of Lima, happy childhoods are rare. Tens of thousands of young children live in crippling poverty and their basic child rights are being trampled on. The socioeconomic conditions that many of them face seriously endanger their healthy physical and mental development.

Toddlers are now in good hands while their mum is at work. (photo: SOS archives)
Toddlers are now in good hands while their mum is at work. (photo: SOS archives)

Peru remains a country of extreme contrasts, especially in the capital. While a small proportion of limeños belong to the wealthy upper class, the bulk of Lima's population is struggling to survive in the shantytowns. Although the situation has improved over recent years, nearly 60 per cent of Peru's children continue to live in poverty.

For decades, people from rural areas have migrated to Lima in search of work, creating settlements on the hills surrounding the city. These shantytowns often have no electricity, access to drinking water, let alone decent housing infrastructure. Millions of children are deprived of a loving, affectionate family environment. A high number of them have lost parental care and many more are at risk of losing it.

Despite the fact that the Peruvian government has introduced a number of programmes to eradicate the worst forms of child labour, it remains a serious problem. All over the city, children can be seen washing car windshields at traffic lights, shining shoes or selling merchandise.

Children simply aren’t a priority at any level of government; rather, it is a commonly held view that children are merely small adults. Child labour is often viewed not only as economically necessary but also as socially acceptable. It is therefore necessary to provide support and education to parents and children in order to change fundamental attitudes concerning child rights.