Dakar is a fast growing city on a peninsula of the western coast of Senegal, and at last count its population was estimated to be roughly 2.5 million. Uncontrolled growth, with little urban planning, has made it an extremely difficult place to live.
Being the capital of the country, it is at the heart of the economy and politics of Senegal. However, this does little to comfort the large portions of the population who live in poverty and for whom everyday is a struggle.
Though they are not as bad as many of Senegal's slums, the conditions at the temporary settlements are still precarious. They are massively overcrowded with up to 8,000 people per km2 compared to London with 5,100 - and this means that conditions are poor and public services are severely overextended.
As a result, child mortality and maternal death are sadly common and only 42% of the population are immunised against easily preventable diseases. Education also suffers, since the schools here are overwhelmed by the steady influx of children from even poorer rural areas.
The most vulnerable
As is often the case, the most vulnerable children are those who have lost all parental care and in Dakar this can be due to a range of reasons. Many sons are sent to Koranic teachers, but there are growing reports that these teachers often exploit the children they are meant to look after.
Even more worrying are the large number of children who have no shelter at all and are forced to sleep on the streets. There are now an estimated 7,600 children begging on the streets of Dakar every single day. Not only are these children particularly vulnerable to a range of health issues, but they are also missing out on an education that would help them overcome poverty in the future.
Tackling the problems that face children in Dakar
Our work in Senegal's capital began in 1977 when we opened our first Children's Village in the country. We have had to provide relief for families in times of crisis, but our core goal has always been to ensure that all children get the benefits of a family life.
A home and a mother
SOS families provide a loving home to up to 150 children who are unable to remain with their parents. These are the centre of our work in Dakar and they offer children from difficult backgrounds a loving home and caring SOS mother.
To ensure that they integrate with the local community, all of these children attend the SOS nursery and school with children from the local area. When they are old enough to leave the SOS family, they can join the SOS youth programme. Here, qualified staff support them as they undertake further education or training and take their first steps as independent adults.
The best place for children to grow up is a loving and affectionate home and we aim to make this a reality for all children. Our SOS family strengthening makes sure that all children have access to healthcare, nutrition and education, which are the basis for a happy and fulfilling childhood.
We also give support and advice to parents who are living in extremely challenging situations. This includes training on how to develop income generating activities and specialist services for families affected by HIV/AIDS. Overall, the programme helps about 1,400 children and 340 adults to overcome the complex issues they are faced with.
In Dakar we create families for children who have lost their own. These children are supported by people like you, who have become a child sponsor. Will you join them, and sponsor a child today?