Country information:

Capital: Bissau
Area: 36,120 sqr. km.
Population: 1,503,182 (July 2008 est.)
Official language: Portuguese
Ethnic groups: African 99% (Balanta 30%, Fula 20%, Manjaca 14%, Mandinga 13%, Papel 7%, European 1%
Religion: Muslim 50%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 10%,
Human Development Index ranking: 175/177 (UNPD 2008)
Literacy rate: 42.4%
HIV/AIDS: 3.8% (Unicef 2003 est.)
Total orphans as a percentage of all children: 10.1% (Unicef 2006)

SOS Children’s Villages in Guinea-Bissau:

Due to the prevailing poverty in Guinea-Bissau, the government approached SOS-Kinderdorf International in 1984 requesting the establishment of an SOS Children’s Village in Guinea-Bissau. In the subsequent years, contacts between the secretary general of SOS-Kinderdorf International and the local authorities were established, and it was the ambassador of Guinea-Bissau in Senegal, José Baptista, in particular who promoted these contacts. In February 1988, a property in Mansiri, a suburb of the capital Bissau, was transferred free of charge to SOS Children’s Villages. So, from 1991 to 1994 the first SOS Children’s Village Guinea-Bissau with an adjoining kindergarten and primary school came into being. After construction had been completed at the beginning of 1994, two clerical sisters (Mrs Ronchi and Mrs Benedetti) assumed the task of staff training and child selection and initially directed the village. In May 1994, the first children could move into their new home.

During the official opening of the SOS Children’s Village Bissau the state president of Guinea-Bissau expressed his appreciation of the SOS Children’s Village work by renaming the road on which the SOS Children’s Village Bissau is situated into “Rua Hermann Gmeiner”. Subsequently, SOS Children’s Villages received a second property in Gabú, a province capital, about 200 km from Bissau.

However, due to the political and social unrest in 1997/98 the start of the construction of the second SOS Children’s Village was delayed. In June 1998, military operations began in the immediate vicinity of SOS Children’s Village Bissau. Children and staff were evacuated, first to the town of Gabú and then, from October 1998 to July 1999, to the safe SOS Children’s Village Bakoteh in the Gambia. During the civil war SOS Children’s Villages carried out a small emergency relief programme in order to provide the immediate neighbourhood of the SOS Children’s Village and a public hospital with food, medicine and water during this difficult time and to assist them with the reconstruction of their houses.

In 2000/2001 the SOS Children’s Village Gabú, together with a kindergarten and a school, were finally built. At the same time an SOS Youth Village and an SOS Social Centre were established in Bissau on a neighbouring property of the existing SOS Children’s Village. Besides a small first aid clinic, the social centre provides vocational training and various recreational facilities for young people. In December 2000 the national SOS Children’s Village Association of Guinea-Bissau was founded as legal entity of the activities in the country. In 2003 SOS Children’s Villages Guinea-Bissau strengthened its community assistance activities, e.g. SOS Children’s Villages in Bissau constructed water well to provide approx. 12,000 persons with clean drinking water.

In order to address the bad situation of the many orphans and vulnerable children in the poorest northern part of Guinea Bissau, Region of Cacheu plans for a third SOS Children’s Village were developed in 2002. During 2006 a third SOS Children’s Village has been be constructed in the city of Canchungo. The facility also comprises a Kindergarten and primary school which both started their first school term in the school year 2007/08. At the same time a secondary technical school for 800 pupils is going to start operations in Bissau. It will offer a wide curriculum for administration and technical professions.

At present there are three SOS Children’s Villages in Guinea-Bissau, one SOS Youth Facility, three SOS Kindergartens, four SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools and two SOS Social Centres/Family Strengthening Programmes.