A boom-town in the middle of Benin, Dassa-Zoumé is both a tourist town and one of extreme poverty.
With child trafficking a major problem, SOS Children works hard to support the most vulnerable in the city.
Life in Dassa-Zoumé
Situated in the heart of Benin, Dassa-Zoumé's economy is powered by a Catholic shrine and tourism. Catholics flock to Dassa-Zoumé where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared where the Basilica Notre Dame d'Arigbo now stands. Pilgrims bring lots of industry to the city, and this is a draw to people in its poor rural hinterland.
Where there is wealth, there are people who want a part of it and large slums have formed on the outskirts of the city. The slums have poor sanitation, access to healthcare and schooling. Though the government is investing in education and healthcare, young girls tend not to access education due to social norms.
Traditionally in Benin, poorer families placed their children with richer families in a tradition known as 'vidomegon'. These in turn secured better education and a step up in life for the less wealthy child.
Vidomegon has become a by-line for child trafficking and exploitation. Where richer families once gave their support to the child from the poorer family, many children in these situations are now forced to do chores around the home and treated as second-class citizens.
Other elements of society offer to help poorer families arrange vidomegon and instead sell the child on to work in mines, quarries and on farms. Such children may end up working in another country, far from familial support.
Raising awareness of children's rights is important in Benin to try to tackle this situation. SOS Children runs an educational programme to try to prevent more children ending up in a world of slavery and exploitation.
How do we help children in Dassa-Zoumé?
We run family stengthening, schooling, healthcare and children's right education programmes out of our base in SOS Children's Village Dassa-Zoumé. Some of our most important work is in educating adults and families about children's rights so more families stay together, looking after their members and not relying on the unknowns of vidomegon.
Over 2000 patients a year are treated at the SOS medical centre in Dassa-Zoumé which works closely with local health authorities to tackle the raging HIV/AIDS problem. There are also vaccination programmes to prevent tropical disease outbreaks in the area.
A new loving home
For children who cannot be looked after by their families, they can live in SOS Children's Village Dassa-Zoumé. Here they grow up in an SOS family with their SOS Mother, brothers and sisters, while attending an SOS school. We run a nursery and primary school to ensure all children get a basic education. While children are at school, the parents can work to support them.
Vulnerable children are cared for in SOS Children's Village Dassa-Zoumé. With your support, we can ensure they grow up healthy and happy. Will you become a child sponsor today?