Families struggle to care for their children

Brothers and sisters playing together (Photo SOS archives).

The city of Dhangadhi is home to approximately 104,000 people. It is located about 800km west of the capital city Kathmandu and on the border of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

Dhangadhi is an economic centre which also offers educational and health services to the population. The city is growing at around five per cent every year, as people arrive in search of work. Dhangadhi does provide some employment opportunities, but the distribution of jobs and income is very unequal. In addition, when people move away from their home area, they often leave behind their families and friends who provide them with support in difficult times.

Nepalese society continues to be segregated along ethnic, caste and religious lines. Thousands of poor families live on the margins of society, which means that their children are born into a life of disadvantage. When parents are struggling just to provide for their children’s most basic needs such as food and shelter, the children’s emotional, educational and psychological needs are frequently neglected. Health care for children and mothers is also inadequate; they often suffer from illnesses that would be preventable and treatable if they had access to doctors.

Thousands of children at risk

Children in Dhanghadi are vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. Many children have lost the care of their families due to the death of one or both of their parents. Almost half of the children are out of school; the majority come from families living in poverty.

Migration has affected the lives of the local population; hundreds of families, displaced by the fighting, have moved into the area. However, the lack of jobs in Dhanghadi has led some parents to migrate further, across the Indian border in search of a better life. Children are often left in the care of extended family members who may not be able to care for them appropriately. In some cases, children have to fend for themselves. The border location also puts children at risk of human trafficking; many are taken into India and forced to work in exploitative conditions such as prostitution.

What we do in Dhangadhi

An SOS mother with children in our care (Photo: SOS archives).

We support families in Dhangadhi in numerous ways. SOS Children's Villages offers a family strengthening programme to members of the surrounding communities so that families that are at risk of breaking down can stay together. Working alongside the local authorities and other organisations, we aim to identify struggling families and provide all the support they need so that their children will be safe, healthy and can attend school.

For children who are no longer able to live with their parents, 12 SOS families provide a loving home. In each family, the children live with their brothers and sisters, affectionately cared for by their SOS mother. The children attend the local kindergartens and schools; this way they make friends with children from the neighbourhood and become part of the community.