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Girl from SOS SC Sarajevo Bosnia
By 1994, the war in Bosnia had affected countless young lives. SOS Children's Villages stepped in to help children and families suffering in the conflict, and has remained in Bosnia ever since, providing care to children who have lost their parents, and supporting communities in Sarajevo and Gracanica. … more about our charity work in Bosnia

Helping children to grow up safely in Bosnia-Herzegovina

A family supported by the FSP in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina
A family supported by the FSP in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

In Bosnia-Herzegovina families are faced with many challenges. Approximately 18% of children grow up in poverty and unaffordable health insurance has left families in desperate situations. SOS Children are working through our Family Strengthening Programmes (FSPs), supporting families in all aspects of their lives to provide a better future for their children.

Families in Bosnia-Herzegovina are still living with the legacy of the inter-ethnic war during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. The economy is struggling and many parents have difficulty finding work. Living in poverty, they cannot afford health insurance or school uniforms for their children. Due to the stigmatisation of illegitimate children (many were born as a consequence of rape during the war), many parents failed to register their child's birth. Without birth certificates, children are unable to access many vital public services.

There are three SOS FSPs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, managed out of SOS Social Centres located in Sarajevo, Mostar and Gorazde. The programmes support families with parenting advice, free childcare, support them to access healthcare and help parents to find paid employment.

Berima Hacam is manager of the FSPs in the country. She explains how families come to be enrolled onto the programme. "The first contact is often by telephone, or families come to our premises to ask for support. They know that we are there for them," she says. In other cases, SOS social workers go out into the community to identify vulnerable families. "During these home visits it is easier for the families to share their problems and discuss solutions," Berima says. "This is something the state should provide, but it does not happen."

A key service offered by the FSPs is parental skills training. Training workshops are open to the whole community. "We also offer knowledge to school teachers, social workers and volunteers. Some are obligatory like child protection, others are voluntary," explains Senka Cimpo, the coordinator of the FSPs in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Activities like picnics and excursions help families to bond, and children to make friends. "The feedback we get is great!" she says.

For families without health insurance, SOS social workers help them to access healthcare through the Ministry of Health. Many parents still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder following the conflict, and SOS staff organise campaigns to highlight the importance of seeking medical attention for themselves and their children.

In many cases, the FSPs help families who are unable to afford school supplies. "We buy books or organise the sharing of books, ask partners for support, and organise tutoring and training for parents on how to support children in learning,” says Senka. The SOS Social Centres also run nurseries for the younger children. This free service enables parents to find paid employment to support their children.

Staff are on hand to provide parents with careers guidance and advice about how to write a CV. SOS Children are able to provide tools for vocations such as hairdressing and cooking, to support parents to get their own small businesses up and running.  There is an emphasis on sustainability, and help is on hand for parents so that they can graduate from the programme and support their family independently in the long-term.

Find out more about our work in Bosnia-Herzegovina.