Does Poverty Cause Violence? Conflict and Poverty Surveys in Santa Otilia, Guatemala
By Rogelio Véliz, San Carlos University student - Guatemala
Hello. My name is Rogelio Véliz and I am an Engineering student at San Carlos University in Guatemala. As part of my supervised professional practice (internship), I'm working with ConDev / CDF conducting surveys on conflict and poverty in Santa Otilia, a small community in Chimaltenango, located in the Central Highlands region of Guatemala. At the same time, I am evaluating problems that affect the community and working on the design of an infrastructure project, supervised by the College of Engineering Professional Practice Unit at USAC.
The Santa Otilia community has about 350 families with an average of 6 family members each. This community faces problems of poverty and food insecurity; lack of educational and employment opportunities; soil and water pollution; infrastructure problems, and serious violence threats. According to local authorities, approximately 20% of youth in Santa Otilia are joining gangs. This is in part derived from the disintegration of families due to migration to the USA and other countries.
During the first weeks of my internship program, I have been able to conduct 95 surveys. Field visits have been successful. People in the community are always offering their support and the time required for us to advance in the necessary work. People answer questions about the types of conflicts that affect their lives and also indicate whether people in their homes suffer from lack of food, and from hunger.
In the next few weeks I will complete all surveys and I know the results are now being analyzed by ConDev. The data I'm collecting is part of a study of three Latin American countries. I am pleased to be collaborating with this study.
As part of my infrastructure project, I held meetings with community leaders in the field, to assess the situation of the community regarding problems affecting each of the villagers. We concluded that the main problems affecting their quality of life are an inadequate sewer system that causes severe health problems and the need of a bridge that all people living in the community have to cross to exit the community. The current bridge is broken, the wood has rotten and it is very unsafe. People made me note that during the rainy season (a 6-month period of heavy rainfall) a lot of water accumulates under the bridge, and an engineering project is much needed.