Located in the south of the country, Blantyre is Malawi’s economic capital and became a Millennium City in 2006. With a population of around 712,000, it is the second largest city in the country. Set in a mountain landscape, it stands at 3,000 metres above sea level. Blantyre has a rich cultural heritage and is one of Southern Africa’s oldest urban centres.
Despite its history, Blantyre and its surrounding communities suffer the realities of life – corruption, poverty, HIV/AIDS and natural disasters continue to hamper development and are as common here as they are in the rest of Malawi. It is estimated that around 60% of the population live below the poverty line, with all that brings in its wake. Blantyre is the first choice for those working on the land who leave their rural homes in the hope of finding a better life.
A hard life for Blantyre's children
In rural areas, children are frequently employed in agriculture. Particularly in large tea and tobacco plantations, people usually work as tenant farmers and have to meet tight production targets. The pressure put on them means that their children have to work too. Up to 80% of working children are estimated to be between the ages of ten and 14, which, of course, interrupts or ends their education.
Over a quarter of Malawi’s children work and the hard life they lead causes many young people to run away to the city, which makes them vulnerable to sexual exploitation, HIV infection, abuse and violence. Young women from impoverished rural areas are also lured to come and work in the city and then forced into prostitution. Many will have no home to return to either because they no longer have a family, or from shame at what they have had to do.
Our work in Blantyre
Our SOS Children's Village
Our Children’s Village was opened in 2007, and cares for up to well over 100 children. Compared to the rest of the country, Blantyre has a high number of orphaned children – estimated at 10% of the relevant population. Poverty is also increasing, and over 300,000 children and their families live below the poverty line.
We also have a nursery and a primary school which together offer hundreds of places to Malawi's children. As well as providing care and education for children living in our Village, these facilities also look after those in the wider community
Helping thousands in the community
Our Social Centre, which forms the centre of our community work, offers care to around 2,000 children whose families are struggling to provide them with life’s necessities. The ultimate aim is to alleviate hardship and maintain family stability. We ensure that children have access to essential health, nutritional services and education. We offer parents the opportunity to learn or improve their parenting and income-generating skills. Where appropriate, we also offer counselling and psychological services. In particular, we support families affected by HIV/AIDS.
Our Medical Centre treats up to 20,000 patients each year and offers HIV/AIDS screening and treatment alongside vaccination programmes and other preventative measures. We also provide therapeutic support such as physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapies, and orthopaedics to 1,000 children with disabilities. The parents and guardians of these children get expert practical support and we help them to manage and overcome the discrimination they and their children face.
Our presence in Blantyre means thousands of the area's most vulnerable children benefit from a happier, healthier childhood and better opportunities.