With a population of over 900,000, Bobo-Dioulasso is Burkina Faso’s second largest city and an important economic centre due to its textile industry and central location on trade routes. This makes it a promising destination for migrants from rural areas who come to the city in search of opportunity.There is a multitude of difficult social and economic factors that affect families in the region, including high rates of poverty and HIV/AIDS, a lack of education and health care facilities, as well as inadequate sanitation and the consequent spreading of infectious diseases.
Since 2004, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bobo-Dioulasso.
Since the situation in rural areas of Burkina Faso is dire, many people move to cities like Bobo-Dioulasso in hope of a better life. Increasingly, young boys migrate on their own in search of work, often encouraged to do so by their parents. Girls as young as ten or eleven are sent to work as domestic servants for wealthier families in the city. However, they make little money and, as they have no support or protection in a strange city, they are also vulnerable to violence and abuse. In addition, these children do not usually receive an education, and this is especially true for girls. School attendance is low and 2 in 3 girls between 15 and 24 are not able to read or write at all. Without an education, escaping poverty becomes near impossible.
While people in the cities generally tend to be better off compared to rural areas, urban life bears others risks for children. These include the prevalence of drugs and commercial sexual exploitation. Young girls who migrate on their own are particularly vulnerable to becoming involved in commercial sex work or being sexually exploited by their employers. Often, these girls also lack knowledge about HIV/AIDS and are very vulnerable to contracting the disease. Due to HIV/AIDS, around 100,000 children have lost parental care. Lack of appropriate sanitation facilities in overcrowded parts of the city also put people at risk of water-borne disease. This is particularly dangerous for children.