Map of Bolivia

Population: 9.863m
Life expectancy men: 65.0 years
Life expectancy women: 69.4 years
Infant mortality rate: 3.81%
GNI per capita: 1699 US$
HDI ranking: 108/187 Med
What are these?

Located between the Andes and the Amazon, South America’s highest and most isolated country is both geographically and culturally diverse.

Although various ethnic groups coexist, Quechua and Aymara people make up two-thirds of Bolivia’s population. Enslaved by the Spanish conquistadores, they experienced centuries of exclusion from political and economic power, which has left them particularly vulnerable. Inequality is also expressed geographically: white settlers dominate the east, while most indigenous people eke out a living on the barren and unyielding altiplano, high in the Andes.

But a resurgence of ethnic identity and bitter folk memories have fuelled protests against the privatisation of basic services such as water – and culminated in the election of the first indigenous Bolivian president, Evo Morales.

A new constitution in 2009 gave greater rights to indigenous people – but huge challenges lie ahead. Indigenous women, especially, suffer malnutrition, and maternal and infant mortality.

And according to Unicef and the ILO (the International Labour Organisation) more than half of Bolivia’s children are obliged to work. In mining areas, children are believed to comprise ten per cent of the workforce.

Meanwhile, a US-funded crop-eradication programme has angered farmers who rely on coca cultivation for survival. Used to make cocaine, coca is revered in Bolivia for its ability to boost stamina and relieve pain.

More on Bolivia

Latest on Bolivia on our website.

  • I write this on a plane somewhere over Bolivia as a glorious sunrise streams through the windows. After a hectic week, the clinical peace of the cabin is allowing me time to stop and reflect on what I’ve seen. Bolivia is a stunningly beautiful country, boasting tropical rainforests, vast highland plateaus and horizons serrated with breath-taking mountain peaks. But it is also home to areas of brutal poverty, marginalised people groups and many broken homes.

  • One of my most abiding memories from Bolivia is of Tearfund’s partner Mosoj Yan. This organisation runs a Restoration Shelter for girls who have been victims of violence and abuse. Girls like Moyra, 17, and her one-year-old baby Angela Bethzabe.

  • When we asked Tearfund’s Becca Brierley to help us celebrate International Women’s Day (next Tuesday) with a story of a woman who inspires her, she came up with a corker.