Kayonza is located in Rwanda's Eastern Province, about 80km from the capital Kigali. The province lies near the border with Tanzania and is home to over two million people, with the city of Rwamagana as the provincial capital. In this area, the vast majority of people are live off agriculture. However, the harsh climate conditions and reliance on traditional farming methods means that people are vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity. This is a big problem, as many children do not develop properly due to widespread undernourishment. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS remains a challenge and many children are left without parental care due to the epidemic. They often drop out of school in order to make a living.
Since 2011, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Kayonza.
Over 90% of the population in the region is involved in agriculture. However, the changing climate conditions and reliance on traditional farming methods and products means that they are very vulnerable. Crop failures put people’s livelihoods at risk and resulting in food shortages. Despite measures being taken towards resiliance, such as tree planting and terracing or planting of drought resistant crops, production is not always enough. Many families struggle to feed their children. In many cases the lack of food, combined with the limited supply of wood for cooking leads to a lack of nutrition and often in malnutrition. This is especially dangerous for children, as this affects their physical and behavioral development.
Kayonza has high maternal and infant mortality rates, as adequate health care is not readily accessible. In addition, almost 3% of the population is estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Many children are directly affected by the virus, for others this means being without parental care. Indeed, child-headed households are common in the area. Children are often forced to work to support their families - for example, in the illegal mining of cassiterite in the region, children are often employed in very dangerous conditions. More generally, the need to work to earn a living means that many children drop out of school early. As a result, their chances of escaping the circle of poverty remain low.