Raipur is the capital city of the state of Chhattisgarh, in eastern India. Chhattisgarh is a relatively new state, founded in 2000 out of sixteen south-eastern districts in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. Despite economic growth, Chhattisgarh remains one of India's least-developed states, and living standards reflect this.
Chhattisgarh is home to big industries such as steel, aluminium and cement. In fact, this one state alone accounts for 15% of India's steel output. Despite this, unequal wealth distribution has led to a doubling in the number of families living in poverty over the last decade. This is particularly evident in the capital, Raipur; home to around a million of Chhattisgarh's inhabitants.
Unsafe housing and an appalling health record
Most of Raipur's impoverished inhabitants occupy the capital's many slums. Here, housing is unsafe, and infrastructure lacking. Basic amenities such as safe drinking water and decent sanitation are absent, resulting in a high risk of disease.
Indeed, the state-wide health index is amongst the lowest in the country. Key indicators such as female body mass index and under-five mortality rates paint a dismal picture of life in Chhattisgarh's shanty towns. Of women belonging to the particularly marginalised “Scheduled Tribe” minority, half suffer from malnutrition.
Girls left behind
Poor health affects children, both directly and indirectly. Risk of disease among children is high, with waterborne illnesses a daily hazard in areas where plumbing and sanitation are non-existent. Under-five mortality is well above the national average, as is malnutrition amongst children more broadly.
As well as suffering directly from ill health, many children lose their parents to diseases such as TB, cancer and HIV/AIDS. Others are abandoned when extreme hardship means that families are simply unable to meet their needs.
As is so often the case, girls suffer the most. Girls are more likely to be taken out of school to contribute to the family income through labour or begging, or to help at home. Girls lag behind in literacy attainment. While male literacy is relatively high, at 92.4%, the female literacy rate is more than 10 percentage points behind, at 81.1%. Girls often fall foul of human traffickers, who promise work as domestic servants in other cities, then force girls into prostitution.
What is SOS Children doing?
We saw desperate hardship in Raipur and wanted to help. We approached the state authorities, who provided a plot of land in an area called Manna Camp, near Raipur's airport. Today, we continue to work with communities to deliver the best support for local people.
Many of the children we help in Raipur have lost their parents to sickness and are now in the care of other relatives. Many of these families struggle to cope with an extra mouth to feed, and are unable devote the time and energy to give these children the upbringing they need.
We work with families like this, raising awareness of children's needs, and providing support so that they can meet those needs. By demonstrating the importance of child rights and providing practical guidance on good parenting, we ensure families are well-equipped to give children a good upbringing.
When families cannot afford to send children to school, we help them meet the costs of education, as well as providing uniforms and equipment so that children can get the best out of school. Providing medical support to children and families alike is another vital area of our work, providing the basic protection from illness that is every person's right.
We also guide families towards a sustainable income by helping them start their own businesses. By supplementing this with vocational training and ongoing support, we help people succeed in such trades as jewellery, tailoring and livestock farming.
When there's no one else
Children who have no one else to care for them can find a new home in our Children's Village, where they grow up as part of an SOS family. In Raipur, these children are able attend local schools, giving them the opportunity to mix with children from their community. We support young people until they are ready to stand alone, providing vocational training as they approach independence, equipping them to build a successful career. Our Vocational Training Centre provides a range of courses, enabling students to embark on a wide range of trades, from electronics and plumbing, to car mechanics and IT.
Many children in Raipur live in desperate poverty. SOS Children is working with local people to giving these the best possible start in life.