Bolivia is one of the most unequal countries in South America. Millions of people live in difficult conditions, struggling to survive, even though the country is rich in natural resources, with huge oil and gas reserves and the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest.
Bolivia’s new constitution recognises the richness and natural history of the Amazon region as being vital to national development. However, there is debate about who will drive this process and potential for conflict over land and natural resources. Many hard-won Amazonian indigenous territories are now being labelled 'unproductive' and potentially standing in the way of progress.
Deforestation by loggers, cattle ranchers and large landowners, to enable the growing of cash crops, is a threat to the environment. The problems of deforestation are not only environmental – there are also high levels of poverty and tension around the territorial rights of indigenous groups. Christian Aid works for the rights of indigenous and farming communities by working directly with communities, and in national and international policy and advocacy work.
Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disability in Bolivia among women aged 15–44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war. In a UN report, Bolivia was found to have the highest rate of violence against women in Latin America: 53% of Bolivian women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner. In 2013, the Bolivian Government passed a law designed to prevent gender-based violence and punish abusers. Our partners are monitoring the implementation of this law and raising public awareness to promote a life free of violence.
In Bolivia, 77% of women work in rural agriculture, but only 9% of women are formally employed and so entitled to social security benefits, such as healthcare and insurance.
Climate change is affecting the water supply. Research shows that Bolivia’s glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. In the capital, La Paz, and neighbouring El Alto, more than two million people depend on glaciers for their drinking water. In 2014, many communities in the Amazon region, in which Christian Aid works, lost their homes and livelihoods during some of the worst floods in living memory, caused by extreme rainfall patterns.