In January 2001, an earthquake hit Gujarat, a north-western state in India. An estimated 20,000 people were killed, in the city of Bhuj, homes, schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure were destroyed.
The town has been gradually been rebuilt with the help of national and international organisations. SOS Children began it's work in Bhuj as an emergency programme in response to the earthquake. Since 2001, we have been continuing to support the community on a permanent basis.
Although some sectors of Bhuj's economy are flourishing, the positive changes have not reached all and many still live in poverty. People who are particularly vulnerable to poverty are those with little education and those who work in construction or as casual labourers.
Evidence of the urban poverty are the dozens of urban slums in Bhuj. Slum-dwellers have no legal right to the land they live on, and therefore can be evicted without notice or compensation. They are also unlikely to secure the basic infrastructure that they need.
How does poverty affect children in Bhuj?
Children who grow up in slums face many challenges. Their parents may struggle to meet the material and emotional needs of their children. They may not go to school as their parents cannot afford it, and may even work to to raise the family income.
Girls are particularly disadvantaged. They often drop out of school at an early age, and therefore
lack a good education which may have empowered them to break out of the poverty cycle. For this reason, we have educational programmes especially for girls.
SOS Children helps after earthquake crisis
When Gujarat was hit by an earthquake in 2001, SOS Children quickly provided emergency relief, including 25 relief centres. Over two thousand children were provided with day care, medicines and food. SOS relief centres were open for six months to ensure families had the support they needed. By this point, it became clear that many children had lost one or both parents. We were determined to continue supporting these vulnerable children and families.
How are we helping families in Bhuj today?
In Bhuj, as elsewhere across the world, we help the community in two ways. Firstly, we care for children who can no longer with their own families. Secondly, families in the community are offered services that enable them to provide their children with a happy and healthy childhood.
Orphaned children can find a loving home with one of the SOS families, where they are looked after by an SOS mother. As the children grow up they can go to the SOS Primary School. Given the high drop-out rate of girls, special attention is given to their education, and we run a special hostel for girls attending school. When the young adults are ready to leave their SOS families they can join our SOS youth programmes. The young people are encouraged to develop future plans.
Working with local organisation, our family support programmes provides support for families and children in need living in the community. We offer a range of services, which include raising awareness of hygiene, children's rights and positive parenting skills. When needed, we provide families with food as well as educational support and medical treatment. So that parents can generate an income, we offer vocational training, career counselling and advice on how to look for a job.
Life after the earthquake has been difficult for families and children who lost relatives. With SOS Children's support they have hope for a better future. Will you sponsor a child today?