Although Cameroon is one of the more stable countries in West Africa, vulnerable families and children face many challenges. Poverty, malnutrition and HIV/AIDS mark the lives of many, especially in rural areas. Children are in need of protection and care so that they can grow up in safety, go to school and become independent adults.
Poverty affects thousands of families
Vulnerable children are given the chance to thrive in the care of SOS Children’s Villages (photo: SOS archives)
Mbalmayo is located in the Centre Region of Cameroon and has a population exceeding 65,000. Mbalmayo is situated just 50 km from Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé. The economy of the region – one of the most populated in Cameroon - is predominantly based on agriculture, especially the cultivation of cocoa.
In the Centre Region, nearly 14 per cent of the population are poor, they mostly live in the rural areas outside Yaoundé.
Clean drinking water is often not available, especially outside the urban areas. People are forced to drink unclean water from sources that are contaminated by agricultural waste. Illnesses such as dysentery, hepatitis A and malaria are therefore common. Children are most severely affected by these illnesses, especially those who are malnourished.
The rights of children need to be protected
A number of human rights issues are also problematic: violence and discrimination against women and girls. The trafficking of children, child labour, and forced labour also persist.
Various national health initiatives have been implemented in the region. For example, education and immunization campaigns to prevent childhood illnesses. The Centre Region has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. In recent years, various programmes have been introduced to improve the situation. The focus has been on preventing the mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and to ensure that anti-viral medicines are better distributed so that more people have access to them.
What we do in Mbalmayo
Children growing up together in SOS Chidlren’s Village Mbalmayo (photo: SOS archives)
In 1998 SOS Children's Village Mbalmayo began working in Ngalla, a small village located about one kilometre from the centre of Mbalmayo.
Strengthen families: SOS Children’s Villages assists to members of the local community in need of support. We ensure that children have access to essential educational, nutritional and health services. We assist families affected by HIV/AIDS, for example through payment of rent or the children’s school fees, and donation of clothing and food. We run workshops for parents on income generation and parenting skills. We also offer counselling services and medical care in cooperation with local organisations.
Care in SOS families: For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home. In each family, they live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.
Whenever possible we work closely with the children’s family of origin, so that the children can return to live with them. When this happens we support the children and families until they are fully settled into their new life together.
Support for young people: When young people are ready to move out of the family home, we provide support so that the young people learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.