Douala, a sprawling city of 2.5 million people, is the capital of Cameroon's Littoral province. It is also the country's most economically prosperous urban centre.
It is home to both Cameroon's largest maritime port and airport, and handles all major exports: oil, cocoa, coffee, timber, petrol and fruit often pass through the massive city.
A city of contrasts
A large community of French and Lebanese nationals work in the city's thriving petroleum industry and enjoy a high quality of life, able to take advantage of the countless restaurants, clubs, cafes and bars along the waterfront. Despite the region's economic prosperity, high cost of living and high quality of life, large areas of Douala tell a different story.
Slums dominate some neighbourhoods of the city; places where raw sewage flows through the streets and near homes. The inhabitants of these neighbourhoods live in overcrowded conditions, which increase the spread of disease, and the city's incredible rainfall - it rains 180 days out of the year - leaves them at risk of the damaging effect of landslides and floods.
Families living in poverty
The number of people living in poverty is constantly on the rise, as migrants from outside the city come in search of work they can only sometimes find. Nearly three-fourths of the population must search for jobs in the informal sector, where work is insecure, low paid and sometimes dangerous.
People living in these conditions must work long hours to earn enough of a wage, and little time remains in the day for child care. In the worst cases, some children must work to help keep their family from financial collapse. A large number of children live on the streets; some have fled abusive households, others have lost their homes and some are from neighbouring countries, brought to Douala as domestic servants before being abandoned or fleeing hostile situations.
SOS Children's Villages' work in Douala
SOS Children's Villages began working in Douala in 2007, and today we have several programmes in place to ease the burdens on troubled families. An SOS social centre offers guidance and teaching which promotes and encourages strong family ties, and a social worker in the area offers counselling to families in need. The small SOS medical centre, which provides healthcare and information on disease prevention, sees about 60 patients a month.
When the worst happens and hardships leave children without a home, our Children's Village offers them a loving place to grow up. Joining one of the SOS families, they are surrounded with loving siblings and the affectionate care of an SOS Mother. The SOS nursery provides healthcare and basic education to children from the SOS Village and from the region, who soon go on to the SOS school. This offers a primary education to 210 pupils, where qualified teachers prepare growing youths for a brighter and more stable future.
Young people in Douala are given hope for a better future by belonging to the SOS community. In our Children's Village are children waiting to be sponsored by you.