Bolivia is located in central South America, extending from the Andes in the West to the Amazon in the East. It is landlocked between Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru (clockwise from North). The country is multi-climatic with great biodiversity scattered throughout tropical rainforests, mountain peaks and temperate savannas. Major river systems conjugate in three predominate catchments: the Amazon Basin, the Central Basin and the Rio de la Plata Basin.
Bolivian culture is a product of pre-Columbian, colonial and republican periods. Unlike most countries, its hidden ancient treasures remain largely undiscovered by archeologists as ruins laden with jungle are hard to reach. The Bolivia we know today has been highly influenced by wider Latin America, particularly by the Aymaran and Quechuan cultures.
The majority of Bolivians identify themselves as 'mestizo', meaning they have a combination of white and Amerindian ancestry. A large indigenous population of 20% speak a variety of 36 officially recognised native languages. It is not uncommon for Bolivians to identify themselves concurrently as both indigenous and mestizo. In terms of religion, Bolivia is a secular state but has declared religious freedom. 77% are Roman Catholic, 16% are from other Christian denominations, 5% have no religion and 2% are other.
Bolivia was founded as an autonomous state in 1925 after a long war of independence with Spain. The Chaco War against Paraguay reeked social havoc from 1932-1935 while the National Revolution of 1953 saw strong economic growth for two subsequent decades. Democracy was shaky in the late 1970's and early 1980's with the rise of a number of coups, however it was restored again in 1982 to precede a new phase of politics. A sharp crisis befell the economy in 1985 which was eventually restored after extreme liberalisation reforms. Since then, the few political turbulences which have arisen have been overcome in compliance with constitutional and democratic principles.
Bolivia is one of the most unequal countries in one of the most unequal regions in the world, as only a small elite group controls much of the country's wealth. The high income inequality shows significant differences in assets, household size, and earnings with great differentials by gender, ethnicity and type of employment.
The country is endowed with many natural resources which spur a lively agriculture, fishery, forestry and mining sector. Despite taking advantage of these natural wealth deposits, extreme poverty still entraps approximately 41% of the population. This is largely because of governmental policies that have deterred internal and foreign investment. Much of the reform-based economic advancement that was made throughout the 1980s and 90s was undone again the early 2000's because of instability sparked by heated protests regarding plans to export newly discovered gas to the Northern hemisphere. High commodity prices since 2010 have led to favourable growth and significant trade surpluses.
- Child labour and homelessness – As more than 40% of the total Bolivian population are living below the poverty line, an estimated 600,000 children and adolescents have entered the work force out of necessity. Of those working minors, approximately 3,700 are also living on the streets and a further 10,000 live in residential care facilities for the orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable.
- Infant and child mortality – High levels of disease and malnutrition cause persistent growth stunting and mortality throughout the country. Amongst the socioeconomic poor, this pattern ravishes urban and rural populations alike as a lack of affordable medical facilities transcends geographical boundaries.
CIA WorldFact Book - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html
UNDP - http://www.bo.undp.org/