Atakpamé is a city of over 80,000 inhabitants located in the Plateaux region of Togo, around 160km from the capital city. The population lives off the textile industry and farming. They mostly grow food to feed themselves, but some also harvest coffee, cocoa and cotton for commercial purposes. The region is often affected by natural disasters that make life hard for farming families. Few children continue their education after primary school, as they often need to leave education in order to help support their family.
Since 2017, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Atakpamé.
Children who are not registered at birth cannot access basic rights and services. This particularly affects girls who cannot attend school or take their end of year primary exams. Togo’s birth registration rate is as low as 78% and 31% of children who live in rural areas like Atakpamé do not have a birth certificate.
Life for children can be difficult, as the government offers no legal protection against child abuse. The mistreatment of children and gender-based violence are widespread in school and at home. Although violence against children under 15 is considered a crime, it often goes unpunished. Therefore, the promotion of a culture of zero tolerance for sexual and child abuse is very important.
In the rural Plateaux region, only around 40% of the population has access to drinking water. People must walk some distance to get to the water source. Women and children in particular suffer when fetching water in large buckets many kilometres away from home. The water people drink, usually from nearby rivers or wells, is dirty and often carries diseases like Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid fever. These diseases also affect children’s school attendance. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion of public hygiene and clean water became more urgent.