Mexico D.F. is a city of extreme contrasts. In one of the most important financial centres in the Americas, thousands of families continue to live in slums, unable to meet basic needs such as food, sanitation, and adequate housing. Children from such families are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of education, having to work, or falling into a life of crime.
In one of the world’s megacities, not all inhabitants feel the benefits of urban life
A little girl in a big city (photo: SOS archives)
Mexico City, capital of the country and of Mexico State, has a population of approximately 8.9 million. With around 19.5 million inhabitants, the entire urban agglomeration of Mexico City is the second-largest in the Western hemisphere after Sao Paulo, and the ninth-largest in the world.
Mexico City, or D.F. (Distrito Federal) as it is known by locals, is a city of great social divides. While in the northern, central and western areas of the city, modern high-rise buildings characterise the cityscape, in other areas thousands of people live in slums. The city saw rapid growth between 1960 and 1980, when its population more than doubled. Countless migrants from rural areas came to the capital in search of work, and the city government could not keep up with providing housing and infrastructure, so numerous large shantytowns started to form.
To this day, it is estimated that thousands of internal migrants arrive in Mexico City each day, which has caused the city to expand well beyond its borders and into Mexico State. Countless social and structural problems continue to affect the lives of the inhabitants of one of the world’s most densely-populated metropolitan regions.
Closing the gap between the wealthy and the disadvantaged is still a major challenge for Mexico
On paper, migrating to the capital may seem like it will bring greater opportunities: better educational opportunities for children than in rural areas, and employment for parents and young people. However, people from impoverished rural areas often lack the necessary skills and training to find formal employment. This means they have to scrape a living in the informal sector, where there is no job security and wages are much lower. Children from such families are often excluded from the educational opportunities the city has to offer.
Much progress has been made in the last decades as regards the situation of children in Mexico. In line with the 2012 UNICEF report on the state of the world’s children, Mexico has pledged to intensify efforts to promote the well-being of children and teenagers. The report shows that almost half of the world’s children now live in urban environments. In the world’s largest cities, there are wide disparities in their access to education, nutrition, and health care.
What we do in Mexico City
Siblings at the SOS Children’s Village Mexico (photo: F. Kemps)
SOS Children’s Villages began its work in Mexico City in 1971.
Care in families: Children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents can find a loving home in one of the SOS families. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters and are cared for by their SOS mother. They attend local nurseries and schools and are therefore very much integrated into the community.
Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that they can return to live with their families. Whenever this happens we work towards supporting them during the period of change and adjustment.
Support for young people: When young people feel ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme makes shared accommodation available. The young adults live together and are supported by qualified counsellors as they learn to shoulder responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.