Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Thousands of families face food shortages and are unable to cover the most basic needs as their income continues to decline. Madagascan children represent the most vulnerable segment of the population – they are in urgent need of support and protection.
Food security is one of the biggest issues affecting the population
Children at the SOS Children's Villages Kindergarten (photo: SOS archives).
The city of Toamasina (formerly Tamatave) has a population of over 200,000.
Toamasina Province has a tropical climate and cyclones and flooding are common during the rainy season. On several occasions, the city was completely destroyed by cyclones and had to be rebuilt. This insecurity makes it even more difficult for people to find a way out of poverty.
Toamasina’s economy is based on its petroleum refinery, which is the biggest in the country, as well as its seaport. The majority of the local population lives in rural areas and makes a living in agriculture. Their lives are fraught with difficulty: food security is a big problem and malnutrition in children under the age of five kills thousands of children each year. In the city, many make a living pulling the so-called “pousse-pousse” rickshaw-like taxi carts.
The coastal region here on the east of the island is often referred to as the “Madagascan Riviera” and is a popular international tourist destination. Although tourism means money for the local economy, it also brings its share of problems: children often work in the tourism sector, which can expose them to a great many dangers including sexual exploitation in the worst cases.
SOS Social Centres for holistic and sustainable progress in the community
In recent years, we have continuously expanded our family strengthening programme in the region to reach as many struggling families as possible. The aim is to alleviate hardship and maintain family stability so that children will be safe and protected and grow up in a loving home. We now run SOS Social Centres throughout the city. The social centres ensure that children have access to essential health and nutritional services, as well as education. We assist parents by providing guidance on income-generating skills and parenting practices, as well as counselling and psychological support where needed. In cooperation with local organisations, we work towards strengthening the support systems for vulnerable families within the community.
What we do in Toamasina
Children are cared for and can have fun again (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children’s Village Toamasina began its work in 1998.
Care in 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, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS parent.
Education: The children attend the SOS Kindergarten together with children from the neighbourhood, which ensures that they are integrated into the local community from a young age. The children then go on to complete their primary and secondary education at the SOS schools, which are attended by around 400 pupils.
Supporting young people: Due to the economic situation in the country, it is often difficult for young people to find a job and become independent. SOS Children's Villages supports them while they attend further education and receive training. We also help them find work.
Health care: The SOS Medical Centre offers medical assistance, especially to pregnant women and babies. We also provide check-ups, vaccination programmes and other preventive measures.