Agadir is a glorious seaside resort with a dark side. Its beautiful beaches and proximity to the Atlas Mountains make it a popular destination for holidaymakers. However, it also plays host to a growing culture of sex tourism, often involving children from impoverished backgrounds.
In 1960, Agadir was struck by one of the worst earthquakes ever to hit mainland Africa. The city was reduced to ruins and had to be rebuilt almost from scratch.
Extreme hardship in a relatively wealthy country
Morocco is a wealthy country by African standards, and its Atlantic coastline is traditionally looked on as the gateway to the West. Nevertheless, extreme poverty is common in Agadir and its suburbs, with devastating results on the city's children.
Agadir's status as a popular tourist resort has boosted its economy and brought many benefits. Inevitably, though, the effect has not always been positive on the poorest segment of society. For the most impoverished families, the increasing presence of tourists has brought moneymaking opportunities, including through prostitution.
Children at risk of sexual exploitation and HIV/AIDS
As a result, Agadir has developed a reputation among Arabic and European tourists looking for sex. Many come to the city in search of young and even underage girls forced into selling sex to survive. In cities such as Agadir and Marrakesh, many young people work as domestic servants or street vendors, and these children are also at risk of exploitation in the sex trade.
These children face numerous risks, from long-term trauma to sexual violence. A particular threat is HIV/AIDS; a hazard which is exacerbated by lack of awareness and ignorance around prevention methods.
What are we doing to help?
SOS Children came to Agadir in 2008, determined to protect as many children as possible in this dangerous city.
Many children face sexual exploitation after being forced to leave their families due to financial pressures at home. These children are also vulnerable to recruitment by the criminal underworld, leading to a life of drugs and violence.
Bringing self-sufficiency to the poorest families
That's why we help parents achieve security and independence. We support families as they strive to become self-sufficient, providing skills training and turning entrepreneurial ideas into good business. This way, parents can provide a stable upbringing for their children without relying on permanent support. Sustainable business is there for the long term and can be passed down from generation to generation.
For children who have no family of their own, we provide a loving home with an SOS Mother in our Children's Village. Here, our children enjoy the best education from preschool to secondary level. This culminates in skills training tailored to their individual strengths and interests, helping them achieve long-term employment and a fulfilling career.
SOS Children is in Agadir because many young people are at risk of exploitation and lifelong suffering. As long as there are children who need our help, we will be there.