In central El Salvador, Santa Tecla is home to 122,000 – 213,000 in the metropolitan area. It is only 15 kilometres away from San Salvador, the country’s capital city, and is situated at the foot of the San Salvador Volcano.
El Salvador is densely populated with a particular concentration around its capital – 74 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. In Santa Tecla, a heavily urbanized area, many residents are internal migrants who moved here from other areas of the country in search of a better life. However, many continue to face social and economic challenges in Santa Tecla.
Since 1982, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Santa Tecla.
In El Salvador, 52% of children under the age of 14 have experience physical and/or psychological violence by their caregivers.
Violent discipline is a violation of children’s rights – but it is also the most common form of violence experienced by children. Being exposed to violence at a young age can be particularly harmful, given the increased potential for physical injuries. Children are unable to understand the motivation behind the act or to adopt coping strategies to alleviate their distress. Families need support so that children can grow up in safe and protective homes, free from violence or abuse.
In El Salvador, gang violence harms communities and puts many Salvadoran children and young people at risk of falling into a lifetime of crime. But imprisoning children is not the solution.
In 2022, changes to the country's juvenile criminal code have meant that children aged 12 to 15 who commit a crime as part of a criminal organization can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. From the age of 16, they even face up to 20 years. Prison is not a favorable environment for their development and does not help them reintegrate into society.