Children struggle to survive in Guinea's second largest city  

Children at the SOS Kindergarten singing their favourite song (photo: SOS archives).
Children at the SOS Kindergarten singing their favourite song (photo: SOS archives).

SOS Children's Village Kankan is located in the same-named East-Guinean city of roughly 200,000 inhabitants. Around eight out of every ten Guineans live in crippling poverty. Many of them do not have access to drinking water, decent housing and medical infrastructure.

Kankan and its surroundings are particularly affected by high levels of poverty. Following armed incursions from neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia, millions of Guineans in the eastern part of the country faced internal displacement. Because of the brutal civil wars that spilled over into Guinea, millions were forced to abandon their homes. Many displaced children had to leave school because they had lost their parents as a result of the war. Numerous conflicts between internally displaced people and host communities erupted over access to education, water and health care.

Despite the comparatively low level of AIDS infections in Guinea, the disease continues to represent one of the country's most striking and worrisome public health issues. The extent to which HIV/AIDS affects the country's child population is considerable; thousands of children have been orphaned because of the disease.

In Kankan, a major commercial centre of Guinea and the country's second largest city, many children who have lost parental care face a life in the streets where they eke out a living by washing cars, hauling cargo or engaging in petty theft. In such a harsh socioeconomic environment, the fundamental rights of children are violated every day. Without receiving a decent education, the children of Kankan will find it extremely difficult to break the cycle of poverty in the future.

Brutal war worsened living situation of tens of thousands

Against the background of brutal civil wars that shocked neighbouring Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau SOS Children's Villages decided to become active in Kankan. While the local population had to deal with an extremely difficult socioeconomic environment even before the conflict erupted, their situation further worsened as a result of war.

What we do in Kankan

SOS Children's Villages gives young people all the support they need, both at school and at home (photo: SOS archives).
SOS Children's Villages gives young people all the support they need, both at school and at home (photo: SOS archives).

The SOS Children's Village Kankan is located in Guinea's second largest city. Our organisation is very well integrated into the surrounding community and much appreciated for the support it offers to the population in need. These services include family strengthening programmes, loving homes for children who have to grow up without parental care, schooling, workshops, counselling and psychological support.

The SOS Family Strengthening Programmes enables children who are at risk of losing parental care to grow up within their own family. Many young mothers who would otherwise not be able to raise their children have successfully been seeking our support. Furthermore, the SOS Social Centre offers child day-care and provides advice for families to stay together.

At the SOS Children's Village, up to 120 children who have lost the love and support of their birth parents live in 12 SOS families and are being cared for by our loving SOS mothers. Our organisation also runs an SOS Youth Programme in the region where young people develop perspectives for their future and learn to shoulder responsibility as they lead semi-independent lives with the help of qualified professionals. They are encouraged to create a sense of team spirit and build up contacts with relatives and friends. At our adjoining SOS Kindergarten, up to 90 children from the local community and the SOS Children's Village get to spend the day in a stimulating environment which is conducive to learning and playing. As children grow older they can attend the SOS primary and secondary schools.