Gwagwalada, Abuja

Children from Gwagwalada, NigeriaGwagwalada is a satellite town of Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. Though Lagos remains Nigeria's most populous city and commercial hub, Abuja became the capital in 1991 because it occupies a more central and inclusive location within this huge country.

Abuja is a planned city, mostly constructed in the 1980s. Today, it boasts a population size approaching a million, while the greater metropolitan area is home to far more than three million people.

Poverty and hardship in one of Africa's wealthiest city

Abuja is well-known as one of the continent's richest cities. Nevertheless, inequalities of income abound, and poverty is particularly widespread in the outskirts as well as the countryside around the city. Many people struggle to get by, and in 2012, impoverished families suffered a further blow when subsidised fuel prices were curtailed, all but doubling the price of fuel. These actions led to protests across the land.

The rise of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram (literally meaning, "Western education is sinful") has threatened security across the country. Though the group started out in Nigeria's north, today, they are active further south as well. In 2011, Boko Haram took the lives of hundreds. In the capital, they instigated bomb attacks on police headquarters and even the UN. Sadly, Christians have responded by attacking mosques, and many Nigerians have been forced to leave their homes due to the escalating violence.

A dangerous place to grow up

Against this backdrop, many other dangers threaten the lives of young people growing up in Abuja. With the gap between rich and poor expanding, young people are losing a clear outlook for the future. And as poverty takes away opportunities, young people are becoming increasingly involved in violence and crime.

Today, whole families earn a living by begging on the streets. Since these families have no money, and everyone is forced to contribute to income, children do not attend school. With no escape from these desperate circumstances, inherited poverty blights whole families, and successive generations raise a family on the streets.

School enrolment is low in Abuja, though it has risen in recent years. The average literacy rate among 15-24 year olds is correspondingly low at 65%, and secondary school uptake is as low as 54%.

These children from the SOS Children's Village in Gwagwalada, Nigeria are performing a traditional dance

Women and girls face particular hazards. Only 17% of women use contraception, increasing the risk of unwanted pregnancy as well as HIV/AIDS infection. Staggeringly, well over a third of girls are married by the age of 18, and domestic violence is common. Many girls also face female genital mutilation, and UNICEF data from 2001 puts the national prevalence rate at 41%.

What is SOS Children doing to help?

SOS Children has provided vulnerable children and families in Gwagwalada with vital support since 2007. We give children who can no longer grow up with their parents a loving home with an SOS family. These children become part of their community from an early age, attending our SOS nursery with youngsters from the neighbourhood, and going on to continue their education in the same vein at our SOS school.

Helping families grow together

We carry out family support work throughout the community, providing all manner of help from our SOS Social Centre in Gwagwalada. Here, a health clinic provides youngsters with vaccinations to protect them from disease, while staff remain on hand to help local people with any medical emergencies.

We also run workshops to help build awareness of key health risks and how to avoid them. This runs from vital HIV/AIDS prevention to broader themes such as sexual and reproductive health.

As well as health care, we offer all kinds of support to help families achieve financial independence. Literacy classes give people skills fundamental to success in the job market, while micro-finance support enables families to better manage household accounting. In total, we help nearly 3,000 people in Gwagwalada achieve a better standard of living.

SOS Children help families in Gwagwalada provide a better life for their children. Please choose to make a difference by supporting our work.

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Child sponsors with SOS Children get regular updates on developments with their sponsored child and the village they live in.