SOS Children in Natitingou helps families and children in the poor and rural north western region of Benin, ensuring boys and girls alike get a basic education and trying to educate families against trafficking.
We have been supporting the community of Natitingoui since 1999.
Illiteracy a major issue
Natitingou is in the north west of Benin. Being rural it depends on two main industries - agriculture and tourism in the Pendjari National Park.
Though drier than the more populated areas of the country and not susceptible to flooding, it has its issues such as poor education among the population. Farming doesn't bring in much hard currency. Illiteracy is a major social issue which is being tackled in part by the government giving free education to girls. Because girls get married into other families, they are not valued by their parents who would not otherwise educate them.
Healthcare is a major issue. Many people get bitten by snakes who would ordinarily survive with quick access to anti-venom but frequently die due to the journey times to access such treatments. The duration of travel from any injury to hospital frequently dictates whether someone will live, meaning far more people die of treatable injuries than in more developed areas of Benin.
Child trafficking in Nattingou
Large scale development of the area is urgently needed to support people living in the region. Educating children and providing basic healthcare should be a major priority. If the main wage earner in the family is permanently disabled from an ordinarily treatable injury then the whole family unit suffers. With the breadwinner needing permanent care or dying, the remaining parent cannot work and this impacts on the welfare of the family as a whole.
Benin has a tradition of vidomegon and child trafficking, which take place on a large scale - particularly in rural locations such as Natitingou. In theory vidomegon is a chance for less wealthy families to give their child a better life through a wealthier one, who take on a child to work for them and give them a step up in life. Instead, many wealthy families treat their charges as slaves and house servants rather than giving them an education.
Child trafficking is often done in the full gaze of the parents, who sometimes make money from selling their child into hard labour. Where this brings hard currency to the families, it disrupts the child's development and basically takes their childhood away from them at an early age. Intervening in these traditions will only ensure better lives for the children involved.
How we help the community
Since 1999, we have been providing family social support, education to adults and children alike, and support for children who cannot live with their families.
Our social centre in Natitingou attempts to keep families together by discussing parenting skills and means of earning a higher income to support the family. We run a primary school and nursery in the village, which both provides education to the children while allowing the parents to earn more to support them. We have run an SOS medical centre since 2010 which gives medical treatments, vaccinations and education about HIV/AIDS.
For those children without support of their families they can live in our Children's Village, with one of the SOS families and under the care of an SOS Mother. As they grow up we prepare them for independence through an SOS youth programme which may include time in Abomey-Calavi as they seek opportunities to further themselves.
The children of Natitingou face many struggles early in life. For those without the support of a family, we provide a new loving home in our Children's Village. These children need sponsors - will you sponsor a child today?