Mbalmayo has over 60,000 inhabitants and is located in the Center Region, only 50 km outside the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé. The region's economy is predominantly based on agriculture, especially the cultivation of cocoa. Almost 14% of the population in the region live in poverty – mainly people live in the rural areas outside Yaoundé. Basic infrastructure, such as access to clean drinking water, is generally poor. Children are therefore particularly at risk of contracting diseases. In addition, HIV/AIDS remains a major public health challenge. Many children lose parental care due to the virus and have to survive on their own.
Since 1998, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Mbalmayo.
Many people in Cameroon’s Centre Region, including in Mbalmayo, live in rural areas around the city of Yaoundé. Most of them live off agriculture. Basic infrastructure here tends to be quite poor. For example, clean drinking water is often not available, especially outside urban areas. In fact, while the vast majority of the urban population have access to improved drinking water sources, only 48% of people in rural Cameroon have access. Families here are forced to drink unclean water from sources that are contaminated by agricultural waste. Water-borne illnesses are therefore very common. Children are most severely affected by these illnesses, especially those who are already malnourished.
The Centre Region of Cameroon has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. In recent years, various initiatives have been introduced to improve the situation. The focus has been on preventing the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and to ensure that anti-viral medicines are better distributed. However, the virus remains a major challenge. In fact, as many as 330,000 children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Unless these children are taken in by relatives, they are left to fend for themselves and mostly live in poverty. They have to make a living instead of going to school.