Located at the foot of Mount Kenya in the centre of the country, Meru has a population of roughly 250,000.
The region’s economy is based primarily on agriculture and the local population make a living in small-scale farming.
Historically, there has been unrest in the region as farming and grazing land is limited, especially in times of drought. Many children in the region face challenges, which include limited school attendance, insufficient health services, malnutrition and the risk of losing parental care due to HIV/AIDS.
Since 2005, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Meru.
Like in other parts of Kenya, the new policy on free primary school education has led to improvements and many more children are going to primary school in the country.
However, numbers are still comparatively low in Meru County, especially in the north of the region, where only 56% of children of primary-school-age are enrolled. Secondary school attendance is even lower, at 15%. As a result, illiteracy is a common problem and many young people have few opportunities when it comes to future employment.
In Meru, only 53% of children receive full vaccinations before the age of 12 months.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has also severely affected the region and many people are not able to receive treatment. There is a great number of children who have lost their parents to the virus or are vulnerable, meaning that a parent has died, or there is a chronically ill parent in the household.
In Meru North, 1 in 11 children is without parental care, and almost 20% of children are at risk of losing care.