SOS Children's Village Panambí
In Paraguay, the economic progress of recent years has benefited mainly urban areas, while poverty in rural areas is as high as ever. The ever-expanding genetically modified (GM) soya monocultures, which already cover 2.5 million hectares of the country, are costing small farmers their livelihoods and the pesticides used pose a real health threat to the population.
Rural poverty is on the rise, and subsistence farming is becoming impossible for many
SOS Children’s Village Panambí is located in the town of San Ignacio Guazú in the Misiones department in southern Paraguay. San Ignacio has a population of over 50,000 and its economy is based on commerce with a large service sector, and agriculture such as the growing of tobacco and soya.
SOS Children's Village Panambí is especially designed to care for children with disabilities (photo: P. Drbal).
At over 30 per cent, poverty in the Misiones department is higher than the national average and rural poverty, in particular, continues to be a great problem. While many used to be subsistence farmers, around 70 per cent of the population here is now employed in the tertiary sector, the majority in small, family-run businesses. This type of work often means little security, particularly in times of economic downturn.
The living conditions of thousands of families are becoming increasingly precarious
Such living conditions not only mean that a high proportion of even very young children are expected to work in order to contribute to the family income, it can also have severe effects on the wellbeing of the parents, and hence the way they treat their children. A study shows that 61 per cent of children in Paraguay experience some form of abuse in the home, be it physical or psychological. The study also notes that the more children parents have – and hence the more stress and financial pressure they feel – the more frequent violence in the home is.
Sadly, in many cases parents have to work such long hours that they simply do not have the time to give their children the attention they need, ensure that they go to school, and are taken to the doctor if they are ill. Over 60 per cent of children in the region have no access whatsoever to health care, with children below the age of four most severely affected.
What makes matters worse is the alarmingly high rate of children born with diseases of the nervous or respiratory system. Many believe that the indiscriminate use of agro-toxins on GM soya plantations, and the resulting contamination of the air, ground and rivers in the region, is the cause.
What we do in Panambí
SOS Children's Village Panambí began its work in 1993 and is situated right next to the SOS Children's Village San Ignacio and the medical centre there. SOS Children's Village Panambí was specially designed to meet the needs of children with mental and physical disabilities. There is a rehabilitation centre here, which offers equine, physio-, and speech therapy, to name a few.
Children grow up with their brothers and sisters (photo: P.Drbal).
For children from the region who are not able to live with their parents, eight SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 48 children. They live with their brothers and sister and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mothers.
The proximity to SOS Children's Village San Ignacio means that the children from Panambí have access to extensive medical care at all times, and they can play and make friends with children from the other village, too. In recent years, the integration of two villages has increased so that today, children with and without disabilities live together in the families.