“The first time I saw Yves he was 3 months old, he was seriously malnourished and suffered from rickets. His mother had died giving birth to him, his father had abandoned the family before he was born.
Nobody before us had ever taken care of him. Yves, abandoned and left to live on his own, and would not have survived his first year. A destiny shared by far too many children in this country.
Inside our centre for orphaned children, the operators have taken care of him, fed him, and cuddled him. Today, Yves is one and a half years old, is walking, and has already said his first word.”
Andrea, WeWorld operator in Benin
The situation in Benin
The Republic of Benin is among the least developed countries in the world: according to the 2013 report of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) that measures human development, Benin ranks 165th out of 187 Countries, with a backwards economy based on subsistence agriculture, a sector which involves approximately 65% of the work force, and where 75% of population is illiterate.
Child malnutrition, poverty, illnesses, low levels of education and female emancipation are all factors that don’t allow the country to create the conditions for a concrete development.
In several districts, child malnutrition levels reach 40%, a critical threshold, a dreadful number that makes hunger among the principal causes of child mortality together with: pneumonia, complications during childbirth, diarrhoea and malaria.
118 out of 1000 new-borns every year don’t reach 5 years of age, and during their first years of life approximately 38% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and delayed growth (stunting).
Many children are abandoned at birth or sold to traffickers, who exploit them from their most tender age. Despite primary education recently becoming free, more than one third of children are forced to leave school before concluding the basic education cycle – without knowing how to read or write – because they must work to help maintain their family.
Women are often excluded from education and social life and are thus also forced into economic marginalization.
How we operate
In Benin WeWorld focuses its efforts in three main areas: education, health and gender empowerment.
We work to improve the quality of education, guarantee medical care against the most common illnesses for children and fight malnutrition. For example, we have restructured a high-protein flour factory, which today runs at full capacity and allows the distribution of healthy school meals to the children of the local community.
To improve the quality of education, we train teachers and renovate school buildings, which are often run-down. In order to allow children to attend school regularly and receive a high-level education, the first step often consists in strengthening their families’ possibilities of improving their income and savings –especially those of their mothers – so that poverty does not force them to pull their children out of school.
We help women to start their own entrepreneurial activity by organizing training courses and facilitating access to microcredit. We also stimulate agricultural development by supplying improved seeds and fertilizers. In this way, cultivations are improved and child labor is discouraged: a more abundant harvest means an increase in the family income and it also means children won’t have to be forced to help their parents in the fields (this is one of the main causes of the high rate of early school leaving in the country), and will be able to attend school regularly.