In eastern El Salvador, San Miguel has a population of 518,000 inhabitants.
It is an important economic centre in the region in terms of agriculture and industry. Its growing service sector is partly supported by the money sent by the hundreds of thousands of migrants who live abroad.
But high levels of poverty remain, and the safety, health and education of children must be ensured so that they can look forward to a brighter future.
Since 1995, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in San Miguel.
The government of El Salvador dollarized the economy in 2001, partly because of the large amount of remittances received from workers living abroad. But today, 36% of the population continues to live in poverty. Families living in poverty do not have enough money to meet their basic needs and cannot guarantee proper housing, health care and nutrition for their children.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional challenges, as many people lost their jobs. Although the situation did improve, rising inflation and cost of living meant that many families continued to struggle.
In San Miguel, a region where agriculture is key to the local economy, it is customary for children to accompany their parents to work in the fields. But that intense work can hinder their physical and intellectual development.
Across the country, an estimated 88,300 children between the ages of 5 and 17 are working. 60% of those child labourers live in rural communities and, crucially, 34% do not attend school. Without accessing education, children and young people cannot hope to escape the cycle of poverty later on in life.