Challenges to protect children in a disadvantaged community

The government of Ecuador recently implemented a programme to improve the living conditions of a disadvantaged community located in the slums of Guayaquil. The objective of the programme was to provide the community with better access to municipal basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity, and also improving the housing and infrastructure conditions through slum upgrading.



Growing up in a disadvantaged community in Guayaquil, Ecuador

The slum upgrading initiative implemented by the government was a good effort to reduce social inequalities and to promote social and economic development in this disadvantaged community. However, this programme didn’t address one of the main issues affecting the community i.e. crime and gang activity. The members of the community and specifically the children in the area are usually scared when walking by the streets and they don’t feel safe playing outside.


disadvantaged community

In fact, a few weeks ago there was an unfortunate incident involving a child from this disadvantaged community and a gang member. The children was shot in his leg by a man involved in one of the gangs operating in the community. I am concerned about the lack of capacity of the local authorities to effectively reduce crime levels and properly address the security issues affecting the community. Specifically, I am worried about the safety and protection of vulnerable children growing up in dangerous and disadvantaged communities not only in Guayaquil, Ecuador but in other developing countries as well.


The challenge is to provide children with a safe and nurturing community environment. I believe that this task is not only the responsibility of parents or local authorities but of community members as well, including all of us working for street-connected children. Our goal then should be to make our societies more resilient.

Martha Espinoza

Martha is the Executive Director of JUCONI Ecuador and has worked for the organisation for over 17 years. As an experienced child psychologist and practitioner, Martha brings technical knowledge to the project. She is working with Merli Lopez. Coordinator of their Working Child and Family Programme, to deliver the project in Ecuador.

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