Mthatha is located in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, near the provincial capital Bisho. Former President Nelson Mandela was born in a small village not far from Mthatha. Today, the city has more than 200,000 inhabitants and is the most important urban service centre for about 1.5 million people from the surrounding region. However, the infrastructure, such as the sewage system and roads, are under pressure due to urban growth. Many people here live in poverty and have difficulty finding a secure job to support their income. For many children, this means growing up in dangerous conditions, not having enough to eat and no access to education.
Since 1997, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Mthatha.
In Mthatha, unemployment and poverty rates are very high. In fact, an estimated two-thirds of the local population are unable to meet their basic needs.
In addition, the economy of the region reflects the still existing racial inequality: the black African inhabitants - who make up 96% of the local population - have a much lower average income than the white African population. Many people here work in the informal sector, selling fruit and vegetables, offering tailoring services or working as hairdressers. Most of them are women, because many men migrate to other regions in search of work, leaving the women to take care of the family. Daily survival is a struggle for many families.
Mthatha's infrastructure is under great pressure: the sewage system often breaks down, endangering not only the environment but also people's health.
In addition, many roads are in poor condition and access to basic services is limited. In fact, 35% of the rural population has to travel over an hour to reach the nearest hospital, and the journey is very expensive. Access to education is also limited for the same reasons, which is why over 60% of the population is illiterate. Without quality health care and education, children and youth cannot escape the vicious circle of poverty.