The Republic of Benin is located in West Africa and has a total population of almost 12 million. The capital city is Porto-Novo and the country’s official language is French - however, a number of indigenous languages are widely spoken.
Economically, Benin is one of the continent’s largest producers of cotton and it strongly depends on regional trade, especially with neighbouring Nigeria. While there have been improvements in the country, many people here still live in poverty and without access to basic services. Certain diseases are also widespread. As a result, many children who grow up here are incredibly disadvantaged.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it in Benin since 1985.
While Benin has seen steady economic growth over the past two decades, this has not benefitted everyone equally. 40% of the population are poor. Life becomes a daily struggle for those who find themselves on the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Poverty in Benin is predominantly a rural phenomenon: the vast majority of people do not have access to sanitation facilities or drinking water. Often, children have to work in order to financially assist their families. Droppping out of school seriously diminishes their chances to lead a better life once they become adults.
Access to education has been improving in Benin. The vast majority of children enrolls in primary school. However, the quality of education remains quite poor, as only around 3 in 10 people in Benin know how to read and write. This number is even lower for women and girls. Many children do not complete primary education, let alone continue to secondary school. Parents cannot always afford to send their children to school. Without a proper education, children and young people struggle to escape the cycle of poverty.
Since the living conditions for many Beninese families are so dire, many children do not get enough nutritious food to develop healthily. Growing up in a poor family puts children at risk of undernourishment. In fact, in Benin, around 45% of children experience difficulties related to their physical and intellectual development, often due to undernourishment. This can have severe long-term effects for these children. Furthermore, out of 1,000 live births, 93 children never reach the age of five.