Niamey is Niger's capital, and between 2006 and 2011 it saw its population almost double. It is now home to around 1.3 million people and is the economic, cultural and administrative heart of the nation.
Much of the growth can be attributed to this relative prosperity, as people from poor areas are drawn by the promise of opportunity in the big city. Without even including migration the population was already growing fast, and this means that the city has a very high proportion of children and young people.
For migrants, who hoped to escape poverty and famine in the rural areas of Niger, the experience of living in Niamey can hardly be considered a relief. The rapid expansion of the city to accommodate its new residents has meant the formation of many informal slums.
Life in these areas is extremely hard and living conditions are shocking. There is virtually no access to important public services, like sanitation and health care, and little infrastructure to speak of. Though poverty reduction programmes have brought some change, the challenges that people face on a daily basis remain many.
Children at risk
The precarious livelihoods of the city's poor has forced many parents to turn to drastic measures. Many children are made to beg or take up work in order to help families get by, and this severely hampers their chances in later life.
Even more worrying, are the high numbers of young girls who are forced into the sex industry, either in Niamey or further afield. These girls have few opportunities in life and will struggle to achieve their potential if more is not done to combat trafficking and the conditions that contribute to it.
What are we doing to help Children in Niamey?
SOS Children started working in Niamey in 1993 and this was our first programme in the whole of Niger. We cooperate directly with local authorities and people to ensure that change is lasting and effective.
Our primary aim is to ensure that children have a loving home to grow up in, because we believe this is the best environment for them. To achieve this, we support parents in Niamey through our family strengthening programme. As well as advice, we also help to teach mothers practical skills and provided them with loans to enable them to start earning their own income and providing for their children.
Our SOS social centre also runs awareness campaigns and provides counselling to people who are affected by tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. Altogether, we aim to create a happy community that is more able to care for its children.
A mother's love
For children who can no longer live with their biological parents, we support ten SOS families that can look after up to 120 children. These children attend the local SOS school with about 420 other local children, which helps them to integrate in the local community.
Once they are ready to move out, we are there to help them take this next big step in their lives. Our qualified counsellors support them whilst they shoulder growing responsibility and they are given accommodation as they transition into adulthood.
The holistic care we provide for orphaned and abandoned children ensures they have a flourishing childhood. Each young life is supported by child sponsors. Will you do something amazing today, and sponsor a child in Niamey?