The township of Rutana is the capital of the rural province of the same name. It is one of the country’s most densely populated areas and its population continues to grow, placing considerable strain on resources and inadequate infrastructure.
Rutana is home to many vulnerable children living in deep poverty, many on the streets. In 2005, SOS Children’s Villages established a presence in Rutana to help children and families in desperate need.
A rapidly growing population competes for scarce resources
Rutana is a rural town in southern Burundi and the capital of Rutana province, which has a population of approximately 337,000. Located 136 kilometres from the city of Bujumbura, the town is close to the Kagera Falls, a spectacular series of waterfalls occupying 142 hectares of land. One of Burundi’s highest mountains, Mount Kikizi lies to the west of Rutana.
Agriculture is the primary means of making a living for the majority of the province’s inhabitants, and they work in very tough conditions to eke out a living. Land is scarce and the soil is low in nutrients, requiring fertiliser to improve harvests. Due to its cost, fertiliser is inaccessible to most people.
Families living in poverty
Following the end of the civil war and the restoring of peace to the country, thousands of people who left Burundi to avoid the violent conflict have now returned. The arrival of returning Burundians has placed considerable strain on the already stretched physical and social infrastructure as well as food security. Burundi has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, which is a particular concern for authorities in the densely populated and under resourced country. Development of the agricultural sector in particular is urgently needed to provide relief and future prospects for families living in great poverty.
Health issues are also a major concern and can be devastating for affected families. HIV/AIDS and malaria are widespread and not only are health services extremely limited; the majority of the population cannot afford treatment.
The levels of poverty in Rutana are high, and often prevent extended families from taking in young orphaned relatives, because they are simply unable to provide for more children. Many children, who are already dealing with the trauma of civil war and the illness and deaths of their parents, find they have no choice but to live on the streets.
Brightening the futures of children in Rutana
Opportunities for education are very limited in Rutana, and a large proportion of the population is illiterate. Access to education, through the provision of schools and social infrastructure that would support school attendance, are vitally important to the development of the country. Burundi is ranked 185th out of 187 countries when considering factors such as health, education and income, and change is desperately needed to improve the futures of the country’s children.
Keeping children together with their families is also an important factor for healthy, well-developed children to grow into responsible and self-sufficient adults. Parents and carers need support to enable them to provide a stable home and basic essentials for their children. Access to social amenities, in particular health care and medical treatment, and infrastructure are crucial to the success of many of the town’s families.
Our work in Rutana
SOS Children’s Villages has been active in Rutana since 2005. We operate a SOS health clinic and SOS social centre to provide basic essential services to the local community. We arrange for the distribution of food packages to families in dire need, provide assistance for those looking for housing and offer training to increase their employment or income-generating prospects. SOS Children provides medical help and support for families affected by HIV/AIDS and we conduct regular campaigns to educate the population about its prevention.
SOS Children believes in implementing sustainable solutions to help the families of Rutana and bring about positive, lasting change. One such initiative involves providing families with goats to assist them in growing vegetables to feed the family and perhaps even become a small source of income if sold outside the home. Through our familiy-strengthening programme, families are issued with three goats, which provide enough manure to fertilise their land and make vegetable growing possible.
Stable and loving families
Children who are no longer in the care of their families are welcomed into one of our stable and loving SOS families in Rutana. Up to 140 children can be accommodated and grow up with their brothers and sisters in an affectionate and safe environment, watched over by their SOS Mother.
Together with their siblings, SOS children benefit from early education opportunities at the SOS Nursery, which is also open to children from local families. This service provides peace of mind to parents who are able to entrust their children to the care of professionals while they go out to work. Children have further opportunities to gain skills for the future when they move from the nursery to the SOS Primary School at age five.
For the young adults in our care, SOS Children has its own youth programme which allows our young people to take their first steps towards independence in a safe, shared-living environment. Our young people are able to complete their education or vocational training while living in a semi-independent home under the supervision of a trained guidance counsellor.
When you sponsor a child, you give hope to orphans. Vulnerable children need to be cared for and and grow up in a caring family environment. Will you become a child sponsor today?