The Dominican Republic is a country of 10.7 million people located on the second largest island in the Caribbean region neighbouring with Haiti. The largest city and also the capital is Santo Domingo.
Poverty is higher in rural areas, which means many people move to cities in search of a better life. Almost 84% of the total population live in urban areas, and the number is growing. As cities cannot keep up with the urban growth, many families end up living in urban slums.
Children and young people who grow up here lack access to safe housing and sanitation, medical care and education.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in the Dominican Republic since 1979.
Around 1 in 10 children is forced to work in the Dominican Republic. Many children are obliged to support their struggling families with income. They often work in extremely hazardous conditions in agriculture, domestic work, construction, street work and even scavenging in landfills.
Working in these extremely dangerous environments can affect children mentally and physically. The increase in tourism, human and drug trafficking all contribute to children being exploited for commercial gains.
Around 40% of children do not finish primary school in the Dominican Republic. Even though school is free, many children can’t afford to go there because they can’t pay for the uniform or basic school materials. Families need more support so that their children can stay in school.
Those that are able to attend receive a very low level of academic education.
In addition, 1 in 4 teenage girls drop out of school due to pregnancy.
Over 40% of people live in poverty, with over 10% living in extreme poverty.
In some case, when families cannot access support, children lose the care of their families.
Many end up fending for themselves: the National Council for Children and Adolescents supports 18,000 children who have no home. The main two reasons why children are do not have a home is because families cannot care for them, or because they leave due to violence in the home.