With a population of 250,000 Ziguinchor is the main town in the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Situated on the coast, the area has been deeply affected by the violent conflict between local secessionist forces and the government, which continues to this day.
Though farming has traditionally been the main source of income around Ziguinchor, unexploded landmines have made it difficult for people to continue working the land. However, processing and exporting agricultural goods remains an important source of employment and there are a relatively large number of tourists visiting the region's many beaches.
Despite the tourists and the processing industry, Casamance remains one of the poorest regions in all of Senegal. This has largely been due to the difficulties that many families have had in finding new sources of income when they could no longer work the land. Many have moved to Ziguinchor in order to make a living, but life here is hard and access to important services is limited.
Children have been particularly badly affected by the loss of farming livelihoods, as families struggle to make ends meet. A large number live in severely overcrowded conditions and suffer from malnutrition and neglect. They often do not attend school and instead work or beg to get enough money to buy food or clothes.
The consequence of conflict
A long standing conflict between the government and separatist forces in Casamance has displaced an estimated 40,000 people. It has also hurt economic growth in the area and robbed thousands of a stable source of income. This further instability only adds to the challenges children here face.
Our work in Ziguinchor
We began working in Ziguinchor in 1998 and collaborate directly with the government and other agencies to ensure that vulnerable families get the help they need to stay together.
Building stronger families
Our family strengthening programme in Ziguinchor, helps to make sure that every child has a safe and nurturing upbringing. We target families that are at risk of abandoning their children and work with local authorities to guarantee that these children have access to food, education and healthcare.
We also provide counselling and advice to support parents and help them to develop income generating skills. At all times we focus on building stronger communities, so that there is a wide safety net to help catch vulnerable people in times of need.
For children who are unable to remain with their parents, there are 13 SOS families that offer a new home to up to 120 kids. They receive the benefits of a family life and all the support they need to grow into successful adults.
All these children attend the SOS nursery and SOS school with up to 500 others. This early education is essential for future development and the school environment also provides a chance for children from SOS families to make new friends and learn social skills.
Once they are old enough, children from the SOS Children's Village can leave home and join the SOS youth programme. With the help of qualified professionals they navigate their transition into adulthood, whilst also undertaking vocational training or higher education.
Our Children's Village in Ziguinchor is home to children with troubled pasts. In their new life, they receive all they need to flourish. Will you sponsor a child in Senegal today?