Sylhet is located in the north-east corner of Bangladesh. A child rights based analysis of children without parental care and children at risk of losing parental care showed that the number of children in both categories is increasing in Bangladesh and that the Sylhet division is particularly disadvantaged, with a large part of its population living below the poverty line. Many villagers living in remote and rural areas are unable to find employment, and the region has the highest child mortality rate in the country. In order to help the region's many destitute children, it was decided to build an SOS Children's Village there.
SOS Children's Village Sylhet is in operation since January 2011 and gives a home to 140 children. It consists of 14 family houses, the village director's house, a house for the so-called SOS aunts (family helpers who support the SOS mothers and fill in for them when they are on leave), a community building, and an administration and service area.
A family strengthening programme targeting the surrounding communities will be run by SOS Children's Village Sylhet. The aim of this programme is to prevent vulnerable children of neighbouring communities from illiteracy and malnutrition and to help underprivileged children become self-reliant and strong enough to live within their families as well as their communities.
The inhabitants of the surrounding villages are very poor and mostly illiterate. They earn their living mainly as day labourers, cart pullers and servants. The family bond often has been weakened for reasons such as early marriage, polygamy, high birth rate, the dowry system, extreme poverty and sexual discrimination. Most of these families are faced with severe financial problems and therefore cannot afford to send their children to school. Children who do attend school tend to eventually drop out in order to be able to financially support their families. Many of these children live in slum areas without access to education or medical facilities and suffer from malnutrition.
The most vulnerable children, who are at significant risk of abandonment, and the ones whose families cannot meet their basic human needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health and education will form the main target group of the family strengthening programme. Families living in extreme poverty, victims of social circumstances or natural calamities, and widowed or divorced women who have to look after their family on their own will also be targeted.