March 3 2009

SOS Children's Villages in Guinea Bissau on the alert

03/03/2009 - Due to the recent political unrests in the small West African country, SOS Children's Villages is taking precautions to protect the children and staff.

Photo: Joris Lugtigheid
The situation of numerous children in Guinea-Bissau is alarming. There is a lack of medical treatment, clean water, schools and kindergartens - Photo: Joris Lugtigheid

According to press reports, the conflict that has been smouldering between the armed forces and the president for the last couple of months reached its peak early morning yesterday when President Joao Bernardo Vieira was killed.

The director of SOS Children's Villages Guinea-Bissau, Mr. Nelson Medina, as well as the three village directors confirm that although the situation is confused, everything is still more or less quiet. Even if the situation should take a turn for the worse, the villages will not run out of supplies (rice, oil, gas etc.).

Nelson Medina reports that it is not clear who is the driving force behind the latest upheavals and that nobody is able to say what's coming next. At the moment, the ministers are gathering in a crisis meeting, says Medina. National broadcasting stations are not reporting on the recent events, it is only through international media that people are able to follow the news.

The director of the SOS Children's Village in the capital of Bissau describes the situation as relatively peaceful. Although the local markets are open, hardly any people are visiting them. Most of the shops are closed as well. Currently, all the children and their SOS mothers are staying within the SOS Children's Village premises. The kindergarten, the primary and secondary school as well as the social centre will remain closed until further notice.

Photo: Christian Lesske
Everybody hopes that the situation in the country will ease again… in order for the children to be able to grow up in peace (at the SOS school in Bissau) - Photo: Christian Lesske

In Canchungo and Gabú, where the other two SOS Children's Villages are located, the situation is much more relaxed. The schools are open and there are sufficient supplies. The SOS Children's Village Canchungo was only inaugurated last October.


Since the late 1990s the SOS Children's Villages in Guinea-Bissau have repeatedly been affected by civil-war-like conditions. At the peak of the fights, the children and mothers of the SOS Children's Village Bissau even had to be evacuated to the Gambia for almost ten months and were not able to return to the looted village until July 1999. In addition, in the past SOS Children's Villages carried out various emergency relief actions for families and communities.