SOUTHINGTON, Connecticut — The vast disparity and inequality among Bolivia populations have kept 38.6% of the population living below the poverty line since 2017. The 2020 Bolivia unemployment rate of 3.45% has caused families to struggle to maintain rent during COVID-19. As COVID-19 impacted housing in Bolivia, NGOs contribute by building homes and maintaining community welfare as a strategy to support Bolivia.
The Fuller Center for Housing Bolivia has continued to build homes for indigenous families in El Alto, Bolivia through volunteer-based initiatives and partnering with local organizations throughout 2020 and 2021. Its Program Manager, Fernando Unzueta, told The Borgen Project how school principals “and university directors” found “students that want to collaborate making teams in their classes. They asked for food donations for our families in need and construction materials for the houses” during COVID-19.
Bolivian Housing and The U.N. Human Settlement Programme
U.N. Habitat Bolivia’s Program Coordinator Sergio Blanco Ania told The Borgen Project about how the U.N. Habitat collaborated with associations of tenants in the national association of social organizations. These organizations are working on housing rights and helping citizens gain access to better habitat conditions including water and sanitation. Blanco also added that the association also “has been campaigning to stop evictions” during COVID-19.
The organization promoted the Precarious Neighborhood, Food Security and COVID-19 project with the Alternatives Foundation in July 2020. The project developed food contingency plans, which help to identify and support vulnerable populations in the municipalities of Pucarani, Mecapaca, Laja, Palca, Achocalla and Viacha in La Paz. Blanco added that the organization implemented the La Paz food security project, completed in November 2020, because “it was very difficult for many neighborhoods to get access to sufficient food, particularly in terms of fair prices” during COVID-19.
The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing recommended a focus on the housing rights and COVID-19 protection measures of homeless shelters and unemployed individuals in April 2020. A Bolivia New Cities Policy for Urban Development was introduced in October 2020 with the intention of following Sustainable Development Goal 11 by reducing inequalities, ensuring sustainability and diversifying the economy to create inclusive cities by 2036.
Blanco discussed how U.N. Habitat Bolivia partnered with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights in La Paz, Bolivia in order to “make sure human rights and gender inclusion were incorporated to the national urban policy.” The World Bank Bolivia’s Emergency Safety Nets for the COVID-19 Crisis project provided a $254 million loan for COVID-19 vulnerable household cash transfers as a strategy to support Bolivia in April 2020.
Help Bolivia Foundation and Other NGO Support
The Help Bolivia Foundation is a Canadian charity that has supported El Alto, Bolivia since 2018. It established COVID-19 support last year. The Help Bolivia Foundation’s co-founder Lydia Hill spoke with The Borgen Project. She explained that the organization distributes food and “started fundraising to buy tablets for 20 of 38 sponsored families.” Its goal was “to send money for 12 more in March 2021.”
Hill mentioned that the organization collaborates with the Sariry Foundation to administer programs to mainly countryside migrant beneficiaries across the Tahuantinsuyo youth community center and one other charity-sponsored center during COVID-19. Regarding housing, Hill said the Sariry Foundation director Elisa Aguilar noticed that some “families had to move in with relatives because they couldn’t pay rent.”
A church in La Paz provided masks, food and other COVID-19 homeless relief during the 2020 holiday season as part of The Good Samaritan program. Habitat for Humanity initiated a strategy to support Bolivia by distributing 700 PPE kits to families in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba, Bolivia from May to July 2020 and water and sewer sanitation for 248 families in San Benito, Arbieto and Arani from August to September 2020.
Shelters and Building Homes in Bolivia
Brighter Living Humanity’s program in Bolivia is called Proyecto Don Bosco Center. The Don Bosco Center center focuses on protecting and educating 40 homeless or orphaned teens in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia through support from the Brighter Living Humanity organization during COVID-19. The Habitat for Humanity Bolivia Cornerstone of Recovery article reported on how the Social and Solidarity Housing Guarantee Fund housing policy will help fund low-income housing needs and social housing program construction through a $729 million grant.
The Fuller Center for Housing Bolivia President Alex Aramayo Rana told The Borgen Project that the organization hopes to complete 48 houses in 2021 as the CAF Development Bank of Latin America and other organization volunteers donated family supply baskets for 500 families in July 2020.
A Look Ahead in Bolivia
Blanco talked about how Bolivia has been involved in “four waves of crises” as “a freefall crisis” that started with “the political crisis.” In addition, “there was the social and the health and economic crisis”. The Bolivian government enacted mask and isolation mandates in March 2020 and cash transfer programs as 70% of employed Bolivians do not have employment contracts. As 70% of the Bolivian population lived in urban areas in 2019, NGO and housing policy support will continue to help low-income families during COVID-19. The country collaborated with COVAX to distribute one million COVID-19 vaccines by February 2021 as a strategy to support Bolivia.