Natitingou is a city and commune located in north-western Benin, with just over 100,000 inhabitants. This rural region is much drier than the south of Benin, making farming difficult. It is also among the poorest and least developed areas in the country. The majority of families living here don’t have access to proper housing, safe drinking water or sanitation facilities. Furthermore, many villages are very remote and lack proper infrastructure, such as medical services or schools. Children growing up here rarely get an education and are disadvantaged from a young age.
Since 1999, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families, and advocating for their rights in Natitingou.
Unfortunately, the standard of living is quite poor all over Benin, but the situation in rural areas of the country, such as Natitingou, is particularly dire. Many families live in poverty, as making a living through farming is difficult in the dry climate of the north. People tend to live in shacks, without access to proper sanitation facilities, such as toilets, or safe drinking water. In fact, around 3 in 10 people in rural Benin cannot easily get safe drinking water. This makes people, and children in particular, vulnerable to waterborne disease. In combination with a general absence of medical services in rural areas of the country, this puts these people at incredible risk.
Because Natitingou is quite remote, very limited access to medical treatment and education is the reality for a large portion of the population here. Consequently, the rate of illiteracy remains high, and girls and women, in particular, are disadvantaged when it comes to education. Through initiatives such as making basic education free for girls, the government is undertaking actions to relieve the situation, but insufficient access to basic services will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. While primary school enrolment is relatively high in the country, not every child is able to complete education in rural Benin – and it is mainly girls who drop out of school. As a result, the majority, around 70%, are not able to read or write.