The SOS Children's Villages Association of Botswana was founded in 1980, 14 years after the country's independence. Against the background of a rapidly increasing number of AIDS orphans, the work of SOS Children's Villages became particularly important in Botswana.
A politically stable country
Children who have lost parental care can grow up safely in families in SOS Children’s Villages (photo: S.Kitshoff).
Botswana's total population is roughly two million and its capital is Gaborone. Nearly forty years of uninterrupted multi-party democracy, constantly rising GDP levels and modern social welfare policies have transformed Botswana into a role model for many other African states.
The country's most important economic resource is diamonds. However, the country has been trying to reduce its economic dependence on these precious gemstones.
Poverty and inequality remain high in spite of Botswana's economic uptrend
The country is characterised by a large middle-class-population, compared to most other African states. Education is a high priority and the government spends more on education than most other countries in the region.
In spite of Botswana's impressive economic growth, rates of poverty and inequality remain persistently high. 16 per cent of Botswana's population is poor. Surprisingly, malnutrition is also a problem as nearly one in three children is chronically malnourished. Access to decent sanitation facilities is generally good in urban areas but remains precarious in some rural parts of the country.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic that affects Botswana remains the country's main health concern. At 21 per cent, the country has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the entire world. Apart from the immense human suffering that AIDS is causing, the economic impact of the disease in Botswana is also considerable. HIV/AIDS generally hits adults in their most economically productive years. Due to increased mortality and chronic illness, the labour force in Botswana is constantly reduced, which in turn affects households and individual families. Because of HIV, life expectancy at birth has dropped noticeably in Botswana over the past decades. Nonetheless, the country is making progress. The government has shown a high level of dedication in terms of fighting HIV. HIV treatment programmes in Botswana are highly advanced and anti-retroviral drugs are readily available.
Children are in need of protection
A local family in Francistown could open a little shop and make a living thanks to support from the SOS Family Strengthening Programme (photo: SOS archives).
According to UNICEF estimates, there are around 160,000 children with no parental care living in Botswana: 120,000 of them have lost parental care due to AIDS. With their parents becoming ill, children are take on more responsibility within the family. When their parents die, many of them end up heading households. Child-headed households are very vulnerable. They often have to work in order to earn an income, making it nearly impossible to attend school.
In Botswana, 11, 000 children aged 0-14 are living with HIV. Because of strong social stigma and stereotypes, coming to terms with their HIV status is sometimes very difficult for the young population in Botswana.
SOS Children's Villages in Botswana
SOS Children’s Villages has been working in Botswana since 1986.
Strengthening families: Since 2008, SOS Children's Villages has been strengthening family ties so that children who are at risk of losing parental care can grow up in a caring family environment. We ensure that families have access to basic goods and services such as health care and education. We also provide counselling and parenting advice to families. Many of the families are affected by HIV/AIDS.
Care in families: If, in spite of all support, families cannot take care of their children, they can find a home in one of the SOS families in Francistown, Serowe and Tlokweng. Children grow up with their siblings. Some of the families live integrated in the community, alongside other families in different neighbourhoods. When needed, we can also provide short-term care for children and young people.
We ensure that, wherever possible, children stay in regular contact with their families of origin. We support families and children through counselling and advice sessions. Every child and family is unique and has different needs, and our assistance is adapted accordingly. We make sure that the best interests of the child are at the centre of all decisions, and that the child`s physical and emotional needs are met.
Sometimes children can return to live with their families; we support them during this period of change and adjustment, which can sometimes last up to three years. We monitor the situation, visiting the families regularly and bringing them together with the community, so that they can get the long-term support that will help them stay together.
Support for young people: The high unemployment rate makes it difficult for young people to become independent. We help young people complete further training and education. We support them while they develop new skills and gain the experience they need to find work and live independently.
Website of SOS Children's Villages Botswana
(available in English)