SOS Children's Villages has been working in the Central African Republic since the early 1990s, when it started supporting families and children in the capital city of Bangui. The country remains one of the poorest in Africa, and the lives of children have been blighted by years of political unrest and violence.
An increasing number of children lose parental care
Five years old and hoping for a peaceful future (photo: C. Ashleigh).
Bangui is the country's only large town and home to over 700,000 inhabitants. The town is located on the banks of the Oubangui River. The SOS Children's Village is based about six kilometres away from the centre of Bangui, in the Gbangouma district.
Bangui is the administrative and commercial centre of the Central African Republic. The country continues to exist off agriculture, and the majority of the population around the capital city lives off farming.
The high incidence of HIV/AIDS, the unstable political climate which has displaced many people and the high unemployment rate put a lot of strain on families. An estimated 3,000 children can be found on the streets of Bangui - some of these are found begging or trying to make some money by doing menial jobs. Others live on the streets because they have nowhere else to go. The majority do not go to school, and it is difficult for them to get medical treatment when they need it.
A pressing need to provide children with loving homes
SOS Children's Villages became active in the Central African Republic after the country's authorities approached us: the government wanted us to work with children who had lost parental care. A feasibility study confirmed the urgent need to provide children with material support, access to education and to give them medical care, both preventative and curative. Our programmes have since adapted and developed according to the needs of the local population. The work of our organisation has also been affected by the political unrest; we have worked very hard to support the local community and ensure that the children in our care are safe.
What we do in Bangui
Women and children who were forced to flee their homes sought refuge in SOS Children's Village Bangui (photo: T. Müllenmeister).
SOS Children's Villages provides both permanent and emergency support to the local population. We collaborate with local agencies to ensure that children go to school, visit a doctor and have enough food to grow into healthy adults. In an area where the HIV/AIDS rate is so high, the provision of counselling and psychological support for people affected by the disease is one of our priorities.
The eleven SOS families of SOS Children's Village Bangui can provide a loving home for up to 110 children who have lost parental care. Young children attend the SOS Kindergarten, which has capacity to care for up to 125 children, some of whom come from the neighbouring community. Older children go to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School, where up to 480 pupils can receive a primary education.
Young people who are ready to leave their SOS families move into our youth programmes, which can accommodate up to 80 young men and women. With the support of qualified professionals, they are guided through this new stage of their lives, as they start vocational training courses, attend higher education and start looking for work.
In early December 2013, we started to provide emergency relief to the local population in need of support and to families who had fled their homes. We offered shelter to more than 3,000 displaced people in the SOS Children's Village Bangui, which was protected by the Multinational Force of Central Africa. Working with other agencies, we provided water, food and medical care. During these times of conflict, we carefully monitor the situation in order to ensure the safety of the children and families in our care.