Families and children have suffered due to the political situation

Siblings at home in an SOS family (photo: R. Ben Messalem)

Sferai is a small village in southern Lebanon. It is located about 16 kilometres east of the old harbour city of Saida.

The effects of the Israeli occupation and the isolation of this part of the south of Lebanon between 1975 and 2000 remain noticeable today. It is one of the poorest regions within Lebanon, and the economy is still recovering from conflict. Although there is some fishing and agricultural activity, unemployment is high in the area. According to a United Nations report, urban poverty is increasing in this district, and its effects are becoming more visible – child labour has increased and people are living in overcrowded conditions.

The July 2006 war badly affected the already marginalised and poverty-stricken Southern Lebanon Governorate. Much of the area's infrastructure was destroyed and many people were displaced. In addition to its peacekeeping activities, the United Nations implemented aid programmes for the communities in the area.

Vulnerable children are in need of protection

At a local level, the social and economic conditions in Sferai make the work of SOS Children's Villages particularly important. Many children lose parental care due to poverty and a lack of social support – single parents, those who are widowed or who are chronically ill struggle to provide for their children. Some children have lived through difficult moments which have had a deep impact on their emotional development.

Refugees have also sought safety in this southern part of Lebanon; the Ein al-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh refugee camps are located here. They were already home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees before the Syrian crisis, but many more Palestinians from Syria have arrived in recent years. The camps are overcrowded and not always safe due to sporadic bursts of factional fighting.

What we do in Sferai

Young girls and the SOS Children's Villages' youth leader enjoying a treat (photo: R. Ben Messalem)

Family-based care: Children who have lost parental care find a loving home in SOS families. The children are part of the local community; together with children from the neighbouring families, they take advantage of the playground and workshops which we organise with other groups.

Many of the children who come to live with us have had very traumatic experiences. We provide psychological care, and other therapies, as well as extra tuition for those struggling at school. We organize special events where children can further their social and creative skills.

Support for young adults: When children turn 14 or 15 they can move into one of the two youth houses (one for boys and one for girls) in Abra, which is located about 12 kilometres from the SOS Children's Village in Sferai. They continue their education and training and we help them find their first job. SOS Children's Villages workers give them advice and also organise workshops and leisure activities.

Protecting the rights of children: SOS Children's Villages has been very involved in the development of child protection policies in Lebanon. We aim to influence decision-makers so that they change local policies and practices as required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.