Children from Awassa in Ethiopia

Though on the shores of a major lake, and droughts that impact other areas of the country not so frequent or severe, families of Hawassa still struggle to survive.

Gender inequality is a major issue, with young women having less access to education and a way out of the cycle of poverty.

Deprivation and poverty affect children the most

Hawassa (also known as Awassa) is the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR) and has a population of about 259 000. Being on the shores of Lake Awassa, fishing and subsistence farming are the primary industries in the area.

Due to the pressing needs of the family, mothers are often forced to return to work before their babies are properly weaned, and as a result 60% of children between the ages of 12-23 months show signs of stunting (described as being below age appropriate height).

Infant mortality high

In the rural areas surrounding the city, healthcare is not widely available. In these areas, only around one in five children below the age of two are vaccinated against common infectious diseases. Infant mortality rates and still births are high - 85 are still born for every 1000 live births, and the under five mortality rate sits at around 142 per thousand children.

HIV is a major issue in the country, with 2009 estimates putting it at around 1.9 million people nationwide. The majority of HIV infections are among women between the ages of 15-24.

SOS Children's work in Hawassa

We arrived in Hawassa in 1985 and have set up social centres to help the wider community and also help children who can no longer live with their parents.

Helping families care for their children

Our social centres work with families in a holistic way to maintain family cohesion and help self reliance and economic autonomy. We help families send their children to state run schools where possible and also provide counselling and psychological support.

Our social centres provide day care facilities for up to 150 children, enabling parents to leave their children with us while their go to work. We feed and teach the children basic literacy as they stay with us, further empowering them as they grow up.

A mother and daughter share a biogas-based meal at the Village in Hawassa!

We run medical facilities which reach up to 8000 people annually. The medical centre offers minor surgery, vaccination, family planning services, ante and post natal care, voluntary HIV testing and provides preventative health education.

Children from across the community are able to access nursery, primary and secondary schooling through our SOS school. They are able to sit IGCSE qualifications which are internationally recognised secondary school qualifications.

There is an SOS vocational training establishment which offers children a range of vocational skills, including dairy, poultry and livestock farming, as well as fruit and vegetable cultivation. We also reach out to children with special needs.

A new loving home for orphans in our Children's Village

Children who are no longer able to live with their parents can live in our Children's Village with an SOS family. Here they live in a family environment with other children and are cared for by an SOS Mother. They attend school and participate in community life as they would living with their parents.

As children grow up and need more independence they are offered a place through the SOS youth programme, outside the SOS Children's Village, Hawassa. Here they are able to access vocational training or further education while being supported in shared accommodation.

Hawassa's young people are hoping for a bright future. Will you help the most vulnerable, and sponsor a child today?


Family Strengthening Programmes provide families with the means to stay together. This helps children grow up safely, get educated and stay healthy.