The town of Kayes, where SOS Children's Village Khouloum is located, has around 127,000 inhabitants. The conditions in Kayes are amongst the worst in Mali. Children who live in female-headed households, older people, those with disabilities and suffering from HIV/AIDS are most vulnerable.
The majority of the population lives off agriculture, but the region is one of the driest in Mali and food is not always available. Kayes has one of the highest incidences of child malnutrition in the country.
Since 2011, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Khouloum.
Children are at risk due to a lack of adequate education and health care. Many children do not go to school because they have to earn money or look after younger siblings while their parents work. More than two million children aged between 5 and 17 still do not go to school, and over half of Mali’s young people aged 15 to 24 cannot read or write. The lack of economic opportunities leads many fathers to migrate to other areas in search of work. Children growing up in female-headed households are more than 17% more vulnerable, especially when there is no other family to support them.
Girls are particularly at risk in this region: they are often married off at a very young age. One in two girls in Mali is married while still being a child. As a result, many girls stop going to school and have children at a young age. Early pregnancies often lead to complications, and due to the lack of adequate medical care, the infant and maternal mortality rate in the region is very high. Girls who are married off as children are separated from their families and friends, which can have a negative impact on their mental and physical well-being. Since they can no longer participate in community activities after marriage, they are also no longer able to participate fully in their communities and society.