Lack of infrastructure in rural areas affects health and well-being
Young girl at the Children’s Village (photo: SOS archives)
The city of Jos is the capital of Plateau State in central Nigeria and has a population of approximately 900,000. Jos is an important commercial and tourist center, and its tin mines attract internal migrants from all over Nigeria, making the region very ethnically and linguistically diverse. Its location in the “middle belt” of Nigeria places it at the center of the divide between the Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south.
In the past decade or so, Jos has repeatedly seen violent clashes between Muslims and Christians. Violent riots broke out in 2001, 2008 and 2010, leaving over 2,000 people dead and many wounded. There have also been severe violent clashes in other towns in northern Nigeria. An estimated 5,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
Jos has a large Christian population in the otherwise Muslim north, and people from the two religions tend to live in separate villages. Traditionally, the Christians are farmers, while the Muslims are cattle herders, and the two often compete for resources and land. So although religion appears to lie at the heart of the tensions, there are other underlying social and economic factors that foment the conflict. The traditional agricultural lifestyle of the region is also under threat by tin mining activities, and Plateau natives feel excluded from the country’s oil wealth and want land rights and more autonomy.
Poverty is at the root of discontent
Nigeria’s socio-economic problems are complex. They include the mismanagement of oil revenues by the ruling elite which has resulted in increasing desperation and anger of the country’s poor. Unemployment is especially high amongst young people, making them easy recruits for militant groups or criminal activities.
The northern, rural regions of Nigeria continue to suffer high levels of poverty. The country has one of the greatest numbers of malnourished children in all of Africa. Children who have lost parental care and those whose parents are affected by HIV/AIDS are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. With a goal of alleviating the suffering of these children and of achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015, state welfare programs have brought some relief in recent years, but thousands of families still urgently require support.
What we do in Jos
An SOS family in Jos (photo: SOS archives)
SOS Children's Villages began its work in Jos in 2011. Today, the Jos SOS Social Centre provides a family strengthening program to members of the local community in need of support, ensuring that children have access to essential educational, nutritional and health services. It also provides assistance to families affected by HIV/AIDS, through the payment of rent or school fees, and through clothing and food donations. We also offer guidance to parents on income generation and parenting skills. Finally, the social center provides counseling services and medical care in cooperation with local organizations.
For children from the region who are no longer able to live with their parents, we have twelve SOS families with the capacity to provide a loving home for 120 children. In each family, children live with their brothers and sisters and are cared for and held dear by their SOS mother.
Children attend the SOS Kindergarten together with local children from the community. (The kindergarten includes one class for children with learning disabilities.) Children complete their primary education at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School which has approximately 210 pupils total from the children’s Village and the neighborhood. In this way, children who grow up in an SOS family are integrated into their local community from a young age.