The SOS Children's Village Nelspruit is located in the city of Mbombela in the easternmost province of Mpumalanga. This growing city has a population of about 110,000 people. The area is a popular tourist destination, partly because of its proximity to the Kruger National Park. However, many people in the area struggle to find decent jobs and live in poverty. Due to the large disparities between the city centre and the poor townships, many of the children who grow up in the city’s outskirts are disadvantaged from an early age. In addition, HIV/AIDS is a major problem in the region.
Since 2003, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Nelspruit.
There are huge inequalities in Mbombela. The city centre is prosperous and developed. In contrast, people in the outskirts live in very poor conditions. Here, families often do not have access to basic infrastructure such as sanitation, electricity or proper roads. These areas are characterised by high levels of poverty, as many people are unemployed or work in the informal sector. In many cases, parents can barely afford to feed their children, which is why about 1 in 3 children are malnourished. These children are vulnerable to preventable diseases and often cannot go to school. Without an education, their future prospects diminish drastically.
Mpumalanga province has the second highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the country - according to recent estimates, more than a third of the population is affected by the disease. Many are co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis and the provision of medication remains a challenge for the health system. The presence of the disease has a devastating impact on the lives of children. As their parents can no longer work due to the disease, the children are often forced to find a way to earn money to support themselves and their families. For this reason, they cannot afford an education and therefore have little chance of finding a decent job.