El Alto

SOS Children’s Villages supports individual children, young people and families so that they can thrive (photo: SOS Children’s Villages Bolivia).

Standing at 4,000 metres above sea level on the Altiplano highlands, El Alto is the highest major city in the world, and the second largest city in Bolivia with 944,000 inhabitants – the majority of them indigenous Aymara. The El Alto–La Paz area is one of the most populous urban areas of Bolivia, with a total population of 2.2 million. Once a dry plain and suburb of La Paz, El Alto is now a metropolis that grew too fast and is suffering from insufficient urban infrastructures, industrial pollution, and climate change.

Since 2002, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in El Alto.

Of child asthma cases caused by air pollution

Children are ill due to pollution

Around 27% of child asthma cases are due to environmental deterioration. In urban areas around all of Bolivia, and particularly in cities like El Alto, the air quality is negatively impacted by environmental pollution. Waste management and industrialization are two main causes – 23 per cent of waste is still disposed of by burning it across the country. The air quality limits set by the World Health Organization are often exceeded, which explains why 27 per cent of asthma cases in children under five years derive from environmental deterioration in nine urban municipalities, including El Alto.

Of the population does not have safe sanitation

Water sources are not safe

The Altiplano basin El Alto is built on is an arid location where water is scarce. The city depends on glacial meltwater and has been impacted by drought in recent years because of the shrinking glaciers. In El Alto, the effects of climate change create water insecurity by reducing the availability of drinking water and affecting groundwater, lakes and rivers. But environmental degradation is key on both an industrial or individual scale. For example, only half of the Bolivian population uses safely managed sanitation services where excretions are safely disposed of and treated. This water pollution is the case of many illnesses, especially in families living in poverty without access to safe water.

Your support makes a difference for children in El Alto

SOS Children’s Villages works with local partners and communities to offer a wide range of support that is adapted to the local context. We always work in the best interest of the children, young people and families.
Can stay together
Children and young people
Grow up in our care
Young people
Are supported on their way to independence
Brothers and sisters dancing together and having fun. Children who grow up in our care often form bonds that last a lifetime (photo: SOS Children’s Villages Bolivia).

How your support helps in El Alto

Strengthening families and communities
When parents face hardships, they can sometimes struggle to give children the care they need. SOS Children’s Villages works with local partners and communities. Each family needs different support so that they can stay together. This support can include workshops on parenting and children’s rights. We also run training so that parents can get the skills they need to get a job or start their own businesses. Likewise, we ensure that children can get medical help and go to school.
Caring for children who cannot live with their families
Some children cannot stay with their families, even with additional support. When this happens, they can find a new home in SOS Children’s Villages. Here the children can build safe and lasting relationships. All the children in our care have access to education and healthcare. Wherever possible, we work closely with the children’s family of origin. If children can return to live with their families, we help them adapt to this change.
Supporting young people to become independent
To help young people become confident and independent, our local team works closely with each young person to develop a plan for their future. We support young people and also help them prepare for the labour market and increase their employment prospects. For example, young people can attend workshops and trainings run by SOS Children’s Villages. They also improve their skills through taking part in different projects with local mentors and businesses.