In the late 1960s, the director of a mother and child clinic in Mexico City visited an Austrian SOS Children's Village. Because of his profession, he was intimately acquainted with the living situation of children in need. Impressed by what he had seen, he returned to Mexico with the idea of putting into effect the same long-term care concept in his home country.
At present there are eight SOS Children's Villages, four SOS Youth Facilities, one SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, one SOS Vocational Training Centre as well as five SOS Social Centres.
Some facts about Mexico
The Republic of Mexico is a country in North America that shares borders with the United States of America in the north, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea in the east, Belize and Guatemala in the south, and the Pacific Ocean in the west.
Through the wall - photo: C. Martinelli
Present-day Mexico is a country of extreme contrasts, where poverty and affluence, skyscrapers and Mayan ruins, lush rainforests and scorching deserts rub shoulders.
Remittances ("remesas") sent by Mexicans who live in the United States to their families at home account for a substantial part of the Mexican economy.
The country’s capital, Mexico City, is one of the largest and most populous cities in the world. It is currently home to roughly 20 million people. The total population of Mexico amounts to nearly 115 million, of which around 80 per cent live in the country’s urban centres.
Violence on the rise
Due to rising drug cartel violence, the security situation in Mexico has deteriorated over the past few years. Levels of violence are particularly high in the northern border region, which has served as a strategic drug-and-human-trafficking hub for the Mexican mafia. In Ciudad Juárez, more than 3,000 people were murdered in 2010.
Each year, thousands of undocumented US-bound migrants from Latin America are kidnapped and held for ransom by drug-related gangs in Mexico. Most of them are Central Americans who leave their countries in search for a better life in the north.
Mexico is currently ranked 56 by the Human Development Index (HDI). The country is therefore on a par with nations such as Malaysia and Bulgaria. Although Mexico has one of the largest economies in the region, roughly half of the country’s population face a life in poverty.
Mexico is marked by an enormous gap between the rich and the poor. Thousands of people live in shacks where they lack access to basic services. Regional wealth disparities and significant income inequality also remain evident: while human development figures for northern states like Nuevo León are similar to those for European countries, the southern states Oaxaca and Chiapas are marked by extreme levels of poverty.
Mexico has an illiteracy rate of roughly six per cent. However, in the state of Chiapas, roughly 15 per cent of the population are illiterate. Among the state’s indigenous population these figures are even worse: out of 10 indigenous women, 5 cannot read or write.
Both the under-five-mortality rate and life expectancy are also significantly lower for Mexico’s indigenous population.
Situation of the children in Mexico
At 98 per cent, the primary school enrolment rate for Mexico is relatively high. However, not all young Mexicans can take access to education for granted. Thousands of children at school age who come from poor families do not attend school. Among the most affected groups are children from migrant farm workers and indigenous families. In rural areas, school infrastructure is often desolate and the teaching is done under precarious conditions.
Siblings - photo: S. Streeck
The UN has criticised that in Mexico neither relevant data concerning the number of children who grow up without parental care, nor information about their living situation in general is available.
However, it is estimated that around 412,000 children live without parental care. The main reasons leading to the loss of parental care are maternal mortality, femicide, AIDS and Mexico’s on-going drug cartel violence.
Social exclusion, adolescent pregnancies and migration are some of other factors that increase the risk of a child ending up without parental care. Life as an orphan in Mexico can be extremely tough: many face social exclusion, discrimination and poverty. In urban zones, these children frequently end up living on the streets where they are extremely vulnerable to being recruited by street-gangs.
Domestic violence remains an issue in Mexico: one of every three children has experienced physical abuse, intimidation or sexual abuse in their home. Physical punishment by other family members has a dramatic impact on a child’s development. On average, two fourteen-year-olds have been murdered in Mexico each and every day throughout the past 25 years.
SOS Children's Villages in Mexico
The work of the Mexican SOS Children’s Village association began in 1971. Since then, the organisation has constantly been growing.
In 1994, after a violent oppression of the indigenous guerillas in the Federal State of Chiapas, SOS Children's Villages started an emergency aid programme in Comitán in form of a social centre and a food and medical aid programme for the refugees. After the refugees had returned to their home villages, the emergency aid programme was terminated by the end of 1997.
At present, SOS Children’s Villages is supporting Mexican children and young people by providing day care, vocational training and education through eight different programmes.
Our organisation also runs SOS Family Strengthening Programmes in Mexico, enabling children who are at risk of losing parental care to grow up within a caring family environment. Children whose parents cannot take care of them will find a loving home in one of the SOS families.
Website of SOS Children's Villages Mexico
(available in Spanish)