Cameroon: "Agir pour un sourire" - Building a protection center for children in situations of distress


Location: Maroua in the Far North region of Cameroon


Local partner in Cameroon: ALDEPA (Action Locale Pour un Développement Participatif et Autogéré)


Concerning the project title:

The project title illustrates the action by ALDEPA (= agir), that helps children who have experienced traumatic situations to smile again (= sourire).


A child protection center shall be built in Maroua to support the daily work of ALDEPA with children in need. In the center, children will receive shelter, protection and support until a possibility for their family and social reintegration is found.


In the cities of the Far North region of Cameroon, especially in the regional capital Maroua, the number of children living on the streets, varies a lot. One reason are the terrorist activities in the border area to Nigeria. Those have triggered massive movements of refugees to the cities and refugee camps, as a result of which many children find themselves in the streets. The lack of prospects for girls in rural areas also motivates many of them to migrate to Maroua at a young age in search of work in the informal sector. In addition, there are children who flee violence and abuse at home, as after a separation or the death of a parent, many children find themselves neglected, discriminated or even severely mistreated in their foster or stepfamilies.

On the streets, children easily come into conflict with the law, into exploitative employments or are forcibly recruited by terrorist groups.

In response to the precarious security situation and to reduce the risk of forced recruitment, the municipal authorities additionally started imposing bans on children in the streets. For many of them, this means exchanging hard work, abuse and exploitation for a place to sleep at anyone who would take them.

In Maroua, there has been no functioning child protection facility where children temporarily find shelter, stability and care according to their rights or support for their reintegration.

Since its creation in 1998, the NGO ALDEPA has been promoting the rights of children and women in the Far North region. Programs with concrete activities and visibly positive effects have earned ALDEPA the recognition on national and international level as a strong and efficient non-governmental organization. Many years of experience of working with children in situations of distress have shown that with the right support and cosultation, the reintegration of children turns out well in most cases. In addition, accompanied children often take on a role model function for others, afterwards.

ALDEPA now faces the challenge of accompanying a large number of children in situations of distress in a secured environment: providing protection and shelter as well as physical, psychological and social stabilization up to a successful reintegration with concrete future prospects.

An institution adequate for hosting and accompanying children has become increasingly indispensable for ALDEPA's work.

Project Aim

In ALDEPA’s new child protection center, children in need have access to their fundamental rights – especially to protection, shelter, psychosocial support, health care, nutrition, education, play and sports – and receive support for their reintegration into family, community as well as into school or an apprenticeship.

Target Groups

In the future child protection centre of ALDEPA, children (girls and boys up to 16 years of age) having stranded on the street will receive protection and support. These are in particular:

  • Girls who suffered sexual violence and abuse and are excluded by their families
  • Girls who fled early and forced marriage
  • Children who fled exploitation, violence, discrimination or neglect in their families (especially in stepfamilies)
  • Children who have come into conflict with the law, may have been in prison and therefore are no longer accepted by their families
  • Children who have been separated from their families by terrorist attacks and are on their own, as well as children who have been forcibly recruited and are no longer accepted at home or are on trial without legal assistance
  • Children who have been economically exploited and/or have been in the hands of child traffickers

The planned center can accommodate up to 30 children who will be admitted for a phase of rehabilitation and stabilization. About 140 children per year are expected.

Constructed facilities in the center


  • Four separate dormitories, 2 for boys and 2 for girls
  • Simple gender-segregated sanitation facilities
  • Multifunctional room for common meals, social or educational activities
  • Kitchen with energy-saving cooking hob and chimney


  • Playground and sports area
  • Deep well for the sustainable and self-sufficient water supply of the center
  • Area to be used for self-sufficiency of the centre through gardening and agricultural activities, as well as small animal husbandry.


  • Room for counselling and psychological consultation
  • Offices for employees: social workers, educators, psychologists, jurists


  • Solar system for the self-sufficient power supply of the center


The construction activities, the division and the design of the rooms are based on principles according to children's rights. These include:

  • Prohibition of child labor on the construction site
  • Ensuring the clear separation of children's areas of residence from spaces open to the public
  • Gender-specific separation of sanitary and sleeping facilities
  • As far as possible, bright and transparent construction
  • Avoidance of injury-prone or dangerous installations (grids, edges, etc.)
  • Avoidance of puddles or standing water
  • Protection of windows and beds by mosquito nets

Solar power installation and professional training

With the support of the energy supplier EWS from our region, a solar power installation can be set up from August 2021 to provide an inexpensive, stable and sustainable power supply for the center.


An experienced technician in Maroua will lead the set-up. She will also train 20 young people in the process.


The public electricity supply in Maroua is subject to frequent power outages. However, for the safety of the children in the center, it is necessary to maintain a minimum of lighting at night.


ALDEPA also needs a stable electricity and internet connection for effective child rights work (project management, administration, training and other activities).


In addition, renting out an air-conditioned conference room (structurally separated from the children's part) can generate income for necessary expenses of the center.


Total costs:  358,373 Euros


Supported by:

  • Bild hilft e.V. "Ein Herz für Kinder"
  • Deutscher Caritasverband (DCV)
  • Elektrizitätswerke Schönau Vertriebs GmbH (EWS)
  • ALDEPA and Kinderrechte Afrika e. V. (KiRA) (donations)
  • And You? Help providing children a safe home and future opportunities. Your donation to ALDEPA’s Child Protection Centre (indicate construction center ALDEPA)

Picture above: The child protection center of ALDEPA in construction.



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