Louga has a population of about 83,000 people and is situated in the north of Senegal, near to the coast and the Sahara desert. People here struggle with a number of social and economic challenges and, as is often the case, children come off worst.
The area is at the very tip of the so-called 'peanut basin' and local people depend heavily on the agricultural sector to earn a living. However, the expansion of the Sahara has severely damaged food security and made it difficult for the population to get by.
Whilst enrolment rates are high - 85% at primary level - completion of even basic education remains rare, with just two in every hundred reaching their final year. This often has a lot to do with their life at home, either because they are pulled out by parents to help support the family, or because parents simply cannot ensure that children attend school regularly.
Another common contributing factor is the practice of entrusting the care of boys to a Koranic teacher called a 'marabout.' Whilst this is a respected tradition, there have been increasing suggestions that many marabouts are exploiting children in their care for personal gain. They, and all other children who do not get the education they deserve, will struggle to fulfil their potential.
A key reason why many parents struggle to care for their children is the large size of many families. 37% of households in Louga have more than 11 members, which leads to cramped conditions and makes it difficult for parents to give all the children the attention they need.
Some children have lost parental care altogether and are forced to fend for themselves. In a large number of cases this is because they have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. Another major cause is the discrimination against children with disabilities and twins, which often leads to abandonment. Ensuring that these most vulnerable children have a loving homes remains our key priority.
Our work in Louga
We began working in the area in 1990, now, more than two decades on, we remain committed to expanding the care and support that we offer the children of Louga.
Strength in families
Our SOS social centre is at the heart of our efforts to improve the lives of children throughout Louga. We focus on ensuring that every child has access to essential services and, through training and counselling, the support of a loving family.
Since it is a major driver of family abandonment and the loss parental care, we provide particular support for families that are affected by HIV/AIDS. This includes practical health services as well as psychological support and assistance to deal with the wider effects of the disease.
A lifetime of support
For those children who can no longer stay with their parents, 12 SOS families at the SOS Children's Village Louga provide loving homes. Here, they are looked after by their SOS mother and given all the care they need to grow up happy and successful.
To help them make friends they all attend the SOS nursery and SOS school with up to 600 local children. The skills they learn inside and outside the classroom will help to ensure their success in the future.
Even when they decide they are old enough to leave their SOS family, our commitment to these children does not stop. They are supported through our SOS youth programme as they begin their adult lives. Many may even attend our SOS vocational centre, where they can learn skills that will better equip them to find a job once they leave the programme.
With the help of child sponsors, our Children's Village in Louga gives orphaned and abandoned children new family homes. They are many more children who need your help today. Will you sponsor a child?