Santiago de los Caballeros (Santiago) is the Dominican Republic’s second largest city with a population of 1.2 million. Traditionally, people in the city have worked in the headquarters of big companies or financial institutions, or in the production of its famous cigars, rum and coffee.
However, tourism has become increasingly important. And this brings its own risks to vulnerable children and young people.
Since 2003, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Santiago de los Caballeros.
A recently released study by International Justice Mission revealed that 1 in 10 individuals in Dominican’s commercial sexual exploitation are children.
Human trafficking in the Dominican Republic take place in the open – on street corners, in parks, on beaches where pimps and sex traffickers are selling vulnerable children.
The Dominican Republic is also a hotspot for sex tourists looking to purchase girls and teens.
Around 18% of people in Santiago de los Caballeros live in poverty. Women and children are most affected by this poverty.
Although the economy is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, its effect and the high inflation are still felt by many families. In fact, in 2021, there was in increase in the number of households needing urgent support.
Many families depend on irregular and badly-paid work in the informal economy. They struggle to make ends meet and access basic services like housing, education and health.