With a population of over 2 million people, the north-eastern city of Sylhet is the fifth largest city in Bangladesh. Located on the banks of the Surma river in the Barak Valley, it is famed for its beautiful waterfalls, rainforests, hills and other natural landmarks.
Despite having been one of Bangladesh’s major commercial centres, the Sylheti economy is heavily dependent on remittances from people living abroad. Sylhet also experiences frequent power and water shortage and lacks the sanitation to maintain hygienic living conditions for its residents.
Sylhet is also a hub of Bangladesh’s tea industry, being situated at the heart of tea country. It is also home to renowned mosques and mausoleums, attracting tourists and religious people from all over eastern South Asia.
Political Instability and aftermath
The Sylhet region alone held 3 of the 11 key brigadier sectors in Bangladesh during the national War of Independence in 1971. When the liberation war ended, many children were left without parental care, and an SOS Children study showed that the number of those at risk of losing parental support was increasing in Sylhet and the surrounding areas.
Underemployment and poor living conditions
The city of Sylhet is concentrated with slums that lack electricity, clean water, sewage systems and other basic amenities. Many people earn low wages working as day labourers or domestic workers. Since most struggle to make a living, many households face severe social and economic problems.
Very few can afford to feed their children or send them to school. Children are often forced to work outside the home and commonly contribute to the family income. Consequently, about 30% of Sylheti people cannot read or write. The dangerous nature of the city slums also means that parents cannot provide their children with safe shelter, and children often live and work in harmful environments.
What is SOS Children doing?
Following the liberation war, Bangladesh found itself in a complex social and economic situation. We have been supporting vulnerable children in Sylhet since 2011, when we opened our sixth Children’s Village in the country. Our Village is situated in Dayamir, about 14 miles from the centre of Sylhet. From this location, SOS Children provides material assistance, training and support to families in need until they are able to provide for themselves.
Empowering local families
In Sylhet, SOS Children works closely with the local population to support impoverished families around the city. We run SOS outreach programmes targeted at victims of natural disasters, as well as single mothers raising their children without external support.
We also provide family support, giving vulnerable children and their families access to education, healthcare and balanced meals. We provide tools and training for income-generating activities, enabling local families to become self-sufficient and equipping them to care for the children in their own homes and communities.
Care for children with no one else
Children who can no longer stay with their families are raised by an SOS family in our Children’s Village. Here, the children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters, and attend our SOS school where they are educated alongside with children from beyond the Village, enabling them to mix with the local community from the outset.
Since tackling the high illiteracy rate is one of our priorities in Sylhet, our school is open to all children to ensure that the next generation are able to access quality education throughout their childhood. We also run literacy programmes to help those from the local community improve this basic skill.
SOS Children supports local families, providing skills and services so children can flourish. Will you help us to do this, and start your child sponsorship today?