Located on the Atlantic coast, Benguela is the capital of Benguela Province. Largely unaffected by the violence during the civil war, the town was a magnet for refugees from regions which were hit the hardest.
SOS Children's Villages has known the families and children of Benguela for many years. We helped them with emergency relief during the civil war, which traumatised the village for decades.
Children of war and poverty
Population growth in the city continues to be a major problem, and many children are left to fend for themselves. Living on the streets, they are susceptible to sexual and physical abuse, as well as health problems associated with poverty and abuse such as HIV/AIDS. Families are torn apart by such diseases, and this creates orphans who have to look after themselves.
Landmines maim and kill children on a regular basis - families often send amputees away as they cannot afford to look after them, and those children often end up on the streets.
From emergency relief to family support
Wars destroy society, and the people of Angola have little or no access to education or healthcare. Though the country's economy is on the up, the benefits of the new wealth coming into the country is only shared among a few - Angola is still one of the poorest countries in the world. As a result, the rates of children having to fend for themselves or at risk of losing parental care are very high indeed.
SOS Children's Village Benguela
SOS Children's Villages moved into Angola during the civil war in 1994, providing emergency relief. With the end of the conflict, we changed our operations there in 2005. Where we were running a reactive programme during the war, SOS Children's Villages is running a proactive programme trying to keep families together. Poverty being a major issue of family breakup, we are trying to help people reach a position of self sufficiency - in being able to look after themselves and their families, so we see families looking after their children.
An SOS Nursery enables single mothers to go to work without putting their children at risk by leaving them at home. We also run a highly regarded primary school for up to 800 children, and this is open to families who aren't in the direct support of the charity.
SOS has a social centre which reaches out to at risk families, single parent households and those afflicted by HIV/AIDS. Such support may be food packages and medical treatment but our primary focus is on getting people self sufficient so they can take care of themselves.
There is an SOS medical centre which we run in conjunction with the government, providing over 5,000 services every year. Through our health and prevention campaigns arranged by the medical centre, we reach right out across the community.
A loving home
For children that can no longer live with their parents we have several SOS families, headed by SOS Mothers, who provide loving care to them. As they grow up, the children can move into more independent living at our SOS Youth Home, advised on the major decisions of adulthood by qualified youth counsellors.
All our efforts are in conjunction with local authorities, which is important to achieve change right across society in the longer term.
Families in need, and children with nothing and no-one, benefit from our work in Benguela. You can be part of this work by sponsoring a child today.