Globe, Latin America

The sad and dirty faces of Dominican children

Edwin’s height barely reaches halfway up the windscreen of a Toyota Corolla, which is parked in a corner of the Dominican capital and nonetheless the boy, ten-years-old, tries to clean it to earn some money.


Diony Sanabia Abadia


The change of the traffic lights speeds up the boy’s work while the driver of the vehicle pays ten pesos, about 25 cents, before continuing down the road indifferently, where he will find other children doing the same work.

Nearby, in the entrance to the supermarket, Roberto Carlos, who they have called ‘Mochito’ since his birth a decade and a half ago, asks to shine the shoes of “the Sirs”, in the hope of having something to calm his hunger.

Give me some quarters, demands another contemporary, repeating the same thing that many have done before, his face dirty and his broken right shoe showing his exposed foot, without anything to protect it.

Such scenes, and others which are similar or sadder, are permanently on the streets of this country, just as they occur in the majority of nations, judging by the data available on the state of childhood globally.

A recent report from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) confirms that the large growth achieved by the Dominican economy in the last few years has not been enough to improve the situation for children and young people.

The financial benefits aren’t reflected in the lives of the excluded young people in urban fringes and poor rural areas of the major provinces and on border with Haiti, the text notes.

The report cites inequalities, such as high infant mortality rates in comparison with the average for Latin America, and the marked differences between national malnutrition and the level that exists in the aforementioned bordering areas.

Although 98 per cent of the births happen in hospitals with the involvement of specialist staff, in Santo Domingo, 32 children under 5-years-old die for every thousand live births.

This indicates a regional level nine points lower than average, according to the data from Unicef.

For its part, Dominican infant malnutrition rose by 3.1% above average, but in the provinces on the border, it rises to 10.5 per cent.

Medical assistance at secondary school centres register figures of 52% and 37% in the case of adolescent females and males, respectively.

At the same time, there is a proliferation of social ills without cure in the Caribbean country, such as abuse, sexual exploitation and the trade and trafficking of minors.

According to Unicef, access to social services of basic quality represents one of the most important aims of Santo Domingo, to reduce the current gaps in services and to help excluded groups to break out of poverty.

In addition to numerous problems, Dominican children who are without the constant attention of parents, tutors or institutions, are exposed to numerous natural risks because of the geography of the nation: in the path of hurricanes.

While 8 per cent of Latin American children aged between five and fourteen years of age are forced to work, some 12.9% of Domenicans in this age range find themselves in a similar situation.

The problems are also evident in birth records, 20.8% of the population of Santo Domingo exist for up to five years without being registered.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Unicef specify, the lack of services affects nine out of every hundred people of these age groups.

Faced with the current situation, the Dominican government aims to speed up the completion of the National Development Strategy 2012-2030, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Objectives by 2015, with the priority on children in poor communities.

However, various opinions criticise government institutions responsible for child development for not having clearly defined roles in order to reach this important objective.

The programmes and services for children are focused on institutional care, without considering community participation, and is characterised by its lack of articulation and lack of an integrated perspective.

(Translated by Daniela Fetta)

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