Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, Panama is a country synonymous with the Panama Canal that links the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Most of its 4 million inhabitants live in the centre of the country, around the Canal, with a large portion of the population also living in the west.
Panama is one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, but it also has one of the highest rates of inequality in the region and the world. Disparities persist based on wealth, geography, and ethnicity. Girls and women, Afro-descendants, and indigenous people are particularly affected
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Panamá since 1982.
Preschool education is compulsory in Panama, yet an estimated 40% of children aged 4 to 5 years do not attend it.
Limited availability of relevant, culturally adapted preschool education services is an explaining factor, just like the lack of staff training and support.
And while the attendance rate for children of primary school age is 97%, around 9% of those pupils are over-age – two years or older than the official age for their grade.
With the second worst income distribution in Latin America, about 25% of the population of Panama lives in poverty.
Throughout the country there are some communities that still lack sanitation and electricity infrastructures.
Some of the non-indigenous rural residents have left the rural areas and moved to find work in urban areas. However, the impact of poverty on the indigenous population remains very high.
Around 45% of Panama’s children between the ages of 1 to 14, have experienced physical punishment and/or psychological aggression by their caregivers. Indigenous girls and adolescents show greater vulnerability to violence.
While the long-term impacts of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are only beginning to emerge, 1 in 3 households did report conflicts during lockdown. The effects of the isolation caused by the pandemic and how it impacted violence against children will become clearer in years to come.