The city of Rourkela is located in the north-western state of Orissa (now known as “Odisha”). Home to roughly 700,000 people, it is an important industrial centre and home to one of India's largest steel plants. Orissa state is one of the country's poorest, and poverty reduction has been slow here, with 40% of the state's population living in poverty today.
Though Rourkela is a major producer of iron and steel, unemployment remains worryingly high. Financial hardship means that the city has a high slum population, with around a third of people living in slums.
Lack of infrastructure makes life hard for many
In Rourkela's slums, the overwhelming majority of people have no access to adequate housing or infrastructure. Lack of plumbing means illness is a constant risk for adults and children alike, often with devastating results due to the absence of medical care.
A lack of jobs means that many parents from Rourkela's slums find it impossible to make ends meet. Crime too is prevalent as poverty drives people to desperate measures.
A dangerous childhood
Poverty has a huge impact on children - and it is children who suffer first. Many do not get an adequate diet, leading to widespread malnutrition and high infant mortality - 73 in every 1000 births. Children often die from waterborne diseases such as cholera, which could so easily be prevented through the provision of a clean drinking water supply - a luxury we take for granted in many parts of the world.
Most parents in Rourkela struggle to make a living, leaving them unable to provide the emotional and practical support children need as they grow up. Poverty means children are kept home from school, often spending their childhood begging on the streets instead. This leaves them vulnerable to crime, and recent years have seen an increase in kidnappings and trafficking.
As in many parts of India, girls face acute discrimination in Orissa. A telling indicator of this is relative literacy; whereas male literacy stands at 81%, only 69% of females can read and write. Low female literacy perpetuates the cycle of deprivation and puts girls at a continual disadvantage from generation to generation.
What are we doing to help families Rourkela?
SOS Children began working in Rourkela in 1999 when a cyclone devastated lives throughout the region. We began emergency relief to provide families with medical support, food and shelter in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Many children lost their families to the cyclone, but when the true scale of loss became apparent, we decided to build a new Children's Village to provide lone children with a new home.
Helping families give children the best start
Much of our work is Rourkela is focused on helping families provide children with the best possible care. Through a multi-pronged approach, we help families achieve independence. We provide parents with career advice and vocational training, and where possible help them start their own businesses through guidance and financial support. Many of the families we help are able to make a living through livestock farming.
On top of this, we help them develop and improve their parenting skills and offer medical and educational support so children grow up healthy and educated.
Caring for children with no one else
As well as supporting families in the community, we offer a new home and a loving family to children with nowhere else to turn. Ever since the cyclone of 1999, we have offered children who have lost their families the chance of a happy childhood. Children from our Village attend local nurseries and schools, enabling them to mix with other children from their community as they grow up. As they approach adulthood, we provide vocational training to help prepare them for a career, as well as opportunities for higher education. We continue to support them as they search for work, providing the support they need as they begin independent life.
SOS Children has been there for children and families in Rourkela since 1999. We enable families to financial independence so they can provide a better upbringing for the children in their care. Through ongoing, far-reaching support, we make sure no child in our care need grow up alone.