Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh
The coastal city of Visakhapatnam – known locally as “Vizag” – boasts one of India's largest seaports. In recent years, the economy has expanded beyond Vizag's traditional industries, leading to an influx of migrants. Yet infrastructure has yet to catch up, and conditions remain poor for many.
As people have moved into the city, demand for housing has increased, leading to a rise in property prices. Consequently, many children grow up in slums where conditions are appalling and basic amenities inaccessible.
Living in Vizag's slums
Often, only those with the very best education benefit from Visakhapatnam's new employment opportunities. For the rest, work and good housing is often beyond reach. Despite government attempts to improve housing, urban slums persist.
Here, terrible conditions threaten the health of inhabitants. HIV/AIDS rates are high, with devastating effects on Vizag's children, who often lose their parents when they are still very young.
Children forced to become family breadwinners
When parents die or become disabled through illness or accident, children often become the primary breadwinners. Families widely rely on children to earn a living through begging on Visakhapatnam's streets.
Not only do these children lose out on their education, they are also left prone to exploitation and abuse. Girls and women are particularly vulnerable to trafficking for work or sex. Traffickers prey on young girls, offering the promise of decent work only to exploit their victims for forced labour, often in the sex trade.
What are we doing to help families in Visakhapatnam?
SOS Children began working in Visakhapatnam in 1995, after a devastating cyclone swept through the region. With the support of the local government, we opened a Children's Village in the town of Bheemunipatnam, roughly 20 miles from Vizag.
Helping families achieve independence
Today, we continue to work closely with local agencies and communities to ensure our work meets the needs of families. We work around the region from social centres which offer all the support families need to survive and flourish.
We provide the basics such as food, healthcare and education, as well as the wide-reaching support families need to stand on their own two feet. This ranges all the way from parenting advice to vocational training, career coaching, and support to help families start their own businesses.
Giving lone children a new home
Children who have lost their families are offered a loving home in our Children's Village, where they benefit from the very best upbringing in the care of an SOS mother. When they reach school-age, they continue to mix with other children at local primary schools. We continue support children as they approach independence, offering a tailored programme designed to help young people cope with the challenges of adult life.
With our support, disadvantaged children in Visakhapatnam are able to defy their circumstances and build a better life. We work to ensure all the children in our care enjoy a happy, healthy childhood and the prospect of a successful future.