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At a glance: Paraguay

Amidst severe poverty, community centres aid families in Paraguay

© UNICEF Paraguay/2010/Cabrera
A mother and her five daughters in Bañado Sur, Paraguay.

By Ami Cabrera

BAÑADO SUR, Paraguay, 21 October 2010 – The Cateura Dump, in the Bañado Sur area along the Paraguay River, is the final dumping site for more than 1,500 tons of solid waste each day. Poor waste management has caused the country’s most essential water supply to become dangerously polluted and the environment contaminated.

Poverty and child labour

Seven neighbourhoods housing some 2,500 families surround the dump. Most of these families earn a living by separating garbage for the recycling industry.  Children are often the ones with the onerous and unsanitary chore of collecting and peddling the waste.

© UNICEF Paraguay/2010/Cabrera
A boy walks through a trash dump in the Bañado Sur area of Paraguay.

Poverty drives children into early labour. Lack of literacy and adequate education compounds the problem.

The UNICEF-supported Abrazo Programme was initiated by the Paraguay National Department for Children and Adolescent Affairs in an attempt to reduce child labour and better the lives of children in these communities. 

Providing meals

In the San Blas neighbourhood, a community kitchen provides lunch to over 90 children Monday through Friday.

© UNICEF Paraguay/2010/Cabrera
A Paraguayan woman prepares food.

Doña Elodia Vera is regarded as the ‘neighbourhood grandmother’.  She leads a group of mothers who are in charge of preparing the food supplied by the Social Welfare Institute. 

“Children often go to school and have nothing to eat when they come home,” said Ms. Vera. “Their parents are working and the children are hungry, but there is nothing on the table.  Here, they can at least have a healthy meal.”

One of the challenges facing this community group is flooding that occur on rainy days. “When it rains, the children have to walk through water that is sometimes up to their knees,” explained Ms. Vera.

Another issue to be resolved is the shortage of clean drinking water.

Community support

The Cateura Community, Cultural and Communication Centre is also part of the Abrazo Programme. The centre provides education reinforcement and a safe haven for children.

Doña Cristina Martínez had stopped sending her daughters Rocío, 7, and Brisa, 4, to school after the youngest one was sexually abused.  Unable to read or write, Ms. Martínez sought the help of a social worker from the centre.  The family received psycho-social counselling and emotional support. The social workers of the Abrazo Programme encouraged Ms. Martinez to send her girls back to school.

After morning classes, both girls come to the community centre while their mother works as a domestic labourer.

UNICEF and its partners recently filled and levelled the community centre’s playground to avoid flooding and installed of a new electric pump and water tank, as well as a chain link fence to make the space safe for children. 

Caring for a family

Evelyn, 6, attends the morning session for educational reinforcement at the Cateura Community, Cultural and Communication Centre.  Her mother, Doña Gladys Nayeli, supports the five of her eight daughters who still live at home by working in a small cafeteria. She earns $ 2 a day.

The girls go to the centre while their mother is working and to eat lunch at the community kitchen. Vanessa, 13, attends school in the afternoon and peddles thread and needles on the street afterwards to help support the family.

Raising eight daughters has not been easy, said Ms. Nayeli. “I lived in Capiatá with their father, but I separated from him seven years ago,” she said. “He did not help me at all and ran off with another woman. He has three other children with her.”

Today, one of Ms. Nayeli’s main concerns is to stay healthy and to be able to care for her girls.  “I still have young daughters who depend on me,” she said.



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