The city of Puducherry - known historically as “Pondicherry” - lies in the Union Territory of the same name. Agriculture and fishing form the basis of the local economy. The region suffered badly in the 2004 tsunami, and it was at this time that SOS Children came to the area.
Since the tsunami, the economy has undergone a transformation, and today, industry, services and tourism are on the rise. Despite the creation of new jobs, poverty is rife in Puducherry and nearly a fifth of residents live in the city's slums.
Vulnerable to natural disaster
Natural disaster is a constant risk in Puducherry. In 2011, Cyclone Thane caused massive destruction to homes and infrastructure. Mud and thatch is a popular building material in Puducherry, and many people living in such habitations lost their homes. SOS Children was deeply involved in reconstruction work, helping to restore people's homes and livelihoods.
Along with the threat from nature, deprivation is widespread in Puducherry, with a fifth of the population living below the poverty line. Most of these people live in slums with limited access to decent sanitation, clean water and essential services such as waste collection.
Disease, pollution and crime
As hotbeds of disease, pollution and crime, slums are a dangerous place to grow up. With no schools and no health centres, children lack the essential ingredients of a good childhood. Such an upbringing can have devastating long-term consequences on children's physical and emotional wellbeing.
Making a living is hard for people who start with nothing. Girls and women suffer particularly, as they remain victims of discrimination. Female health is often neglected, and girls are the first to be taken out of school when families need extra help at home. The disparity in male and female literacy betrays the significant disadvantage women face. While 92.1% of men can read and write, women are far a long way behind at 80.4%.
What are we doing to help?
SOS Children has been in Puducherry since the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004. We were a key player in restoring homes and livelihoods in the aftermath of the disaster. When we saw the scale of loss, and the sheer number of children left without parental care, we had to act. In 2008, we began our permanent work in Puducherry.
Helping fragile families
Many families in Puducherry struggle to stay together due to dire financial hardship. We are there to give parents support and guidance they need to look after their children. We offer daycare in our nurseries so that parents can go out to work, and run parenting courses to help families provide the best possible upbringing for the children in their care. These courses focus on the necessity for good hygiene - of critical importance in slums, where sanitation and plumbing is limited - and raise awareness of child rights. We offer financial support so that families can send their children to school, as well healthcare and medical advice.
Keeping children safe
At the heart of SOS Children's work are the Children's Villages for which we are famous. Here, children who have lost their families can find a permanent home with an SOS family. In Puducherry, children from the Village attend local nurseries and schools along with children from the wider community.
SOS Children has been an important presence in Puducherry since the tsunami of 2004. With our help, countless families were able to return to their traditional livelihoods. We stayed, so that children who lost their families in the disaster were not left alone. Today, we help families throughout the city stay strong and stay together.