SOS Children's Village Mbalmayo

Children are the most vulnerable members of society and here in Cameroon, their rights are still under threat. Countless struggling families need support when it comes to income generation and education.

Vaccine-preventable diseases and poverty affect thousands of families

Two children outside their SOS home (photo: C. Ngo Biyack)

Mbalmayo is located in the Centre Region of Cameroon and has a population exceeding 65,000. Mbalmayo is situated just 50 km from Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé. The economy of the region is predominantly based on agriculture, especially the cultivation of the important cash crop cocoa.

Sanitation continues to be one of the greatest shortcomings of the infrastructure in the Centre Region. Especially in rural areas, clean drinking water is often not available and people are forced to drink from streams or rivers, which are frequently polluted or contaminated by agricultural waste. Illnesses such as dysentery, hepatitis A and malaria are therefore common.

Another consequence of the lack of improved sanitation was seen in 2011, when 85,000 cases of cholera were reported in West and Central Africa, many of them in Cameroon. Children were most severely affected by this outbreak, especially those who were malnourished. Where clean water is not available, education on hygiene measures to prevent these diseases is particularly important.

In addition to the high levels of poverty that affect a great proportion of the population, a number of human rights issues also remain problematic in Cameroon. Social violence and discrimination against women and girls, as well as female genital mutilation, remain common. The trafficking of children, child labour, and forced labour persist, as do rights abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Holistic and sustainable support for the protection of children

SOS Children's Village Mbalmayo began its work in Ngalla, a small village located about one kilometre from the centre of Mbalmayo, in 1998 with the aim of providing social and material support to families, thereby ensuring that children are not abandoned and can enjoy a safe and nurturing childhood.

What we do in Mbalmayo

Children at the SOS Children’s Village (photo: R. Pichler)

Strengthen families: The SOS Social Centre here provides a family strengthening programme to members of the local community in need of support.

The programme ensures that children have access to essential educational, nutritional and health services. It provides assistance to families affected by HIV/AIDS, for example through payment of outstanding rent or the children’s school fees, and donation of clothing and food. We provide guidance to parents on income generation and parenting skills.

The social centre also offers counselling services and medical care in cooperation with local organisations.

Care in SOS families: For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, SOS families can provide a loving home for up to 110 children. In each family, they live with their brothers and sisters and are affectionately cared for by their SOS mother.

Education: The children from the SOS Children’s Village attend the SOS Kindergarten here together with children from the community. This means that children from SOS families are integrated into the local community from a young age. The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Mbalmayo, which is also open to children from the neighbouring community, provides primary education to a total of 432 pupils.

Support for young people: When young people from the children’s village are ready to move out of the family home in order to pursue further education or vocational training, the SOS Youth Programme provides shared accommodation. With the support of qualified counsellors, the young people learn to take responsibility, plan their future and prepare for independent adult life.