Pune is located in Maharashtra, India's wealthiest state. Nevertheless, it is troubled by all of the social problems which afflict India as a nation. Widespread poverty, high levels of illiteracy, children living alone on the street - all of these problems are present in Pune.
With over 5.5 million inhabitants living in the wider metropolitan area, Pune is India's eight-largest city. Its economy is based on a mixture of traditional industries including manufacturing, glass and sugar, as well as emerging sectors such as IT. In fact, Pune's booming IT industry has attracted numerous people to the city - many of whom have found themselves languishing in the city's slums.
City's boom bypasses many
In 2001, 40% of Pune's inhabitants lived in these slums. Over a third of people living here lack basic infrastructure and services, and most have not enjoyed the benefits of the city's booming economy. As in all slums, houses are poorly built and dangerous, and residents are at constant risk of injury and disease.
A dangerous childhood
Lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation makes waterborne disease a real risk, and this is a particular threat to children and infants. Sickness and malnutrition is rife among children living in Pune's slums.
Education is unattainable for many children. Poverty forces many families to keep their children out of school and send them out to earn money instead. These children shine shoes or sell goods for a living, while others simply beg. Drug addiction is not uncommon among marginalised youngsters, often with devastating lifelong consequences.
Some children lose their parents to disease, or are abandoned by families whom poverty has pushed to the limit. Many end up living on the streets, or near railway platforms. These children face numerous risks, from exploitation and abuse, to sickness, malnutrition and drug addiction.
What are we doing about this?
SOS Children has been helping since 1979. Our Children's Village is located in the northern suburb of Yervada, one of the city's most densely populated areas.
Giving families a chance
Given the numerous health risks faced by children and adults alike, medical support is vital to helping families overcome the hurdles poverty places in their way.
In the community, we work with parents to help raise awareness of the critical importance of hygiene in areas where sanitation is lacking. We discuss child rights with families, helping them understand the needs, concerns and requirements of their children.
Beyond this, we help families establish an income through business. While offering guidance and ongoing support as families start their owns trades, we also provide financial support to help them cope during the difficult early stages.
Worryingly, more and more children are found living unaccompanied on Pune's streets. That's why we established our SOS Mumbai Centre, specifically to cater to the complex needs of street children.
A new home for children left alone
Children who have been left alone through bereavement or abandonment can find a home in our Children's Village in Pune. Here, children are placed with an SOS family, where they benefit from the love of an SOS mother and the other children in her care. As they grow up, our youth programme in Pune offers a way into adult life, providing young people with the background they need as they approach independence.
For many people in Pune, life is hard. Our work reaches everyone, from fragile families to street children. Over thirty years of experience in Pune means that we truly understand the needs of children and families alike.