With a population of over 100,000 people, Makeni is the largest city in northern Sierra Leone. The civil war continues to take its toll on local families, with countless children left alone or orphaned. Ebola has left even more without parental care, many of whome are shunned by their communities.
Most families in Northern Province live in rural areas, depending on the land for food. Most jobs are based in the informal sector, and many support themselves through buying and selling.
The legacy of war
Life is challenging for families running small enterprises such as these. During the war, millions had to leave their homes and businesses to escape the violence. To this day, citizens all over the province struggle to maintain a steady source of income.
Even with ongoing reconstruction efforts, basic requirements are lacking in the Makeni area. Only around 30% of homes have access to clean drinking water, 10% use decent toilets, and only 2% of homes have electricity. Today, impoversihed families are struggling with inflated commodity prices as society struggles with travel restrictions imposed to control Ebola.
Children living in vulnerable conditions
A large number of children live in vulnerable conditions around the province. Children separated from their parents often end up living in dysfunctional families. With distant relatives unable to provide adequate care for them, they struggle to achieve their basic needs.
Many orphaned children live on the streets of the city. Without a family to care for them, they are faced with little choice but to beg for money. With nowhere safe to go at night, children are susceptible to physical and sexual abuse.
Homeless children are frequently exploited by child traffickers in the region. In this situation, children are usually sent to work in forced labour camps. Many unsanctioned diamond mines illegally exploit child labour in Sierra Leone.
Barriers to education
With the benefit of a good education, children are able to combat poverty and go on to live independent lives. Children in vulnerable situations are less likely to attend school. For families living in hardship, youngsters are often forced to drop out of education to provide extra income for their family.
Girls face many obstacles to education. Early marriage is common in Sierra Leone, with around 48% of girls married by the time they reach 18. Early pregnancy and having to care for younger siblings are also common factors that stop girls attending school.
How we help in Makeni
We have been working in Makeni since 2007. Several charities are also working in the city, supporting the population with nutritional aid and healthcare. With this in mind, we focus on helping orphans, abandoned children, or children who are at risk of losing their parental care. Throughout the recent Ebola crisis, we also worked hard to support vulnerable people from the local community, providing food, protective equipment and advice.
For children unable to live with their parents, we provide a loving home in our Children’s Village. Each child joins an SOS family, where they grown up with their new brothers and sisters in the care of an SOS mother. In their new family, children can learn, play and grow in the comfort of a family environment.
Younger children attend the SOS nursery, learning and playing alongside children from the community, helping them to remain a part of their community.
As the children get older, they continue their education at our SOS primary school. This school is considered to be an important institution in the area, providing around 300 children with access to education.
Children across Makeni contend with the legacy – and now Ebola too. You can help turn a child's life around by sponsoring online today.