Uruguay, located on the southeastern coast of South America, has a population of 3.4 million. About 80% of the population lives in urban areas, with the majority living close to, or in, the capital city, Montevideo. It is one of the few countries in South America where the entire population has access to clean water.
Over the last few years, heavy rainfalls and tornados have caused serious flooding in several areas across the country, particularly rural areas. This has forced families to evacuate their homes, and damaged basic infrastructure such as water pipes, sewage systems and power lines.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Uruguay since 1959.
Many young children drop out of school and can be found working. Around 8% of children are forced to work in Uruguay. Their working conditions are in unhygienic environments, and often cause great risks to their health.
The child labour laws that are in place in Uruguay have set certain parameters in place, such as the minimum age for employment at 15 years. However, more needs to be done to protect and prevent young children from seeking out work for survival or to assist their families.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth unemployment levels were 5 times higher than for adults in the labour market. Witnessing these growing unemployment rates during the pandemic, among educated young adults, is influencing children to believe formal education as insufficient to secure a job.
With those employed, nearly 48% identified that their jobs did not provide social security. The quality of jobs available to young adults must be improved to change the attitudes of young learners.
Uruguay is facing an increase in HIV rates. The prevalence of HIV has grown from 0.2% in 2001 to 0.4% in 2020, growing at an average annual rate of 4.39%.
Around 25% of new cases are caused by injected drug use, with almost half of these reported among young adults (15-24 years).
In addition, HIV infections among pregnant women and newborns are worryingly high in Uruguay in comparison to other South American countries.