Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda and its population of one million has been growing rapidly in recent years. The city is also at the heart of the country's fast growing economy and has been energised by this progress.
Though the city and the country are generally viewed as very progressive, this has not reached everyone in Kigali. Many still live in very precarious situations within the city's numerous informal settlements.
A hard environment
Migration has been the main driver of population growth in Kigali and migrants often find themselves living in terrible conditions. The informal settlements, which have developed to cope with new arrivals, rarely have access to a supply of clean water or electricity and sanitation services are virtually unheard of.
Despite moving to the city many migrants continue their rural way of life, meaning that over 70% of the city is used for subsistence farming. As the population grows demand for housing and services will also swell and this will put pressure on the government and subsistence farmers.
The population of Kigali is extraordinarily young, with over 50% being below the age of 15 and 77% below 29. Many of them are still living with the trauma caused by the 1994 genocide, and a large number lost parents and carers during this catastrophe.
Up to 10,000 children live on the streets of Kigali and they represent the most vulnerable people in the city. This is not least because many are forced to accept presents and money from older men and women in return for sexual favours, which puts them at increased risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Our work in Kigali
We have worked in Kigali since 1979 and, despite having to evacuate our Children's Village due to the violence of 1994, we have continually expanded our efforts to ensure that every child gets the upbringing they deserve.
Our family strengthening programme targets parents who are at risk of abandoning their children due to the stress caused by poverty and social exclusion. We ensure that their children are able to access essential services, like healthcare and education, and we offer parents support to overcome the challenges they face.
This support can includes psychological advice for both children and parents and training to develop income generating activities. We also provide targeted advice for families affected by HIV/AIDS and work with local authorities to ensure that the changes we make are long lasting.
Many poor families lack access to proper medical facilities and this can severely hamper their ability to care for their children. The SOS medical centre in Kigali provides care to around 2,500 patients each year, ensuring that everyone in the community can access this vital service.
Sometimes children are unable to stay with their families, when this is the case they are able to find a loving home with one of the SOS families in the SOS Children's Village Kigali. Here, they get all the support and attention they need from their SOS mother, who may have even trained at the nearby training centre.
They all attend the SOS nursery and primary school with up to 650 pupils, which helps them to build vital social skills. Once they are old enough they are able to join the SOS youth programme that offers them advice and support as they take their first independent steps. Many may also join the local SOS vocational training centre, where they can learn skills, like electronics and accounting, which will help them earn a living as an adult.
Poor children growing up in Kigali face numerous risks, from sexual exploitation and associated diseases to poverty and unemployment. Amid so much uncertainty, we provide security to the most vulnerable.