SOS Children in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Children at the SOS Nursery School Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovenia

Two decades on, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina is still struggling to recover from three years of bloody conflict in the early 1990s. Now, access to education is limited, especially in rural areas, and girls often fall victim to sexual exploitation. SOS Children has worked to help children in Bosnia since 1994.

You can help children in Bosnia by sponsoring a child with SOS Children:

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Recovering from conflict

After three years of war, infrastructure and the economy had been destroyed beyond recognition. Many people had lost their water and electricity supply, and schools, homes and roads had to be rebuilt. Unemployment still stands at 43%, nearly half of the population, and one in five lives in poverty.

Postcode lottery

Children growing up in the Bosnian countryside are at a considerable disadvantage. Though access to primary education is generally high, school attendance is low amongst children from rural parts. Many Roma children grow up without an education because they are not registered with the authorities. Lack of education puts these children at serious risk. Of the one in twenty children aged five to 14 who are involved in child labour, it is those from rural areas that represent two thirds of this figure.

Bosnia & Herzegovina mapOur Work in Bosnia

The war was still in progress when we first began work in Bosnia in 1994, delivering emergency aid to families in Sarajevo who were caring for orphaned children. Youth clubs,  therapy and counselling were provided to help young people recover from the trauma of war.


After the war, we opened two Children's Villages. Our Village in the Serbian capital Sarajevo was built on the site of a residential district extensively damaged during the war. The Village opened with 16 family houses for up to 102 children, all of whom had been left alone by the conflict. An SOS Youth Home provides accommodation for young adults as they prepare to leave our care. A sports ground provides a place for children to play and compete in outdoor games.

In 1999 we finished work on an SOS Social Centre close to the Village. At the nursery here, we provide daycare to local children so that their parents can go out to work.We also have a computer centre where young people can improve their IT skills, and run English and German classes, as well as handicrafts and visual arts workshops. Large capacity allows hundreds of children and young people to benefit from these facilities. There is also an adventure playground which provides somewhere for children from the Village and the neighbourhood to play in safety away from the busy city streets.

In Autumn 2003 our popular Playbus Project, which has been run with great success in Albania and Romania as well as other locations around the world, was introduced in Sarajevo. The bus visits parks and playgrounds and offers deprived children the opportunity to participate in play and hands-on learning. Playbus activities are free and activities are tailored to different age groups. Every month, the Playbus puts smiles on thousands of faces in schools, hospitals, parks and orphanages around the country.


Bosnia’s second Children’s Village opened in north-eastern Bosnia on a hill overlooking the town of Gracanica, a short drive from Tuzla, in 1998. Located several miles from the city centre, SOS Gracanica offers a loving home to many children who have lost their parents. The Village also has a Youth Home for children on the verge of independence.

Other SOS projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina include the rebuilding of two nurseries in Mostar which were destroyed in the war.

Bosnian Orphans

For more information about the work we do in Bosnia, see our page on Bosnian Orphans.

Life in SOS Children's Villages Bosnia-Herzegovina: Big brother, little brother

When you look at their interests, talents, friends and temperaments, you would think that Ismet and Hamza are not even related. Look deeper into their hearts and you will find what they share with their SOS siblings - their affection for their SOS mother and the same deep brotherly bond which grows stronger every day.

"Ismet and Hamza are very much in tune with each other," says SOS mother Isma. "I try hard to create such bonds among all my [SOS] children. I teach Two brothers, Bosniathem that each of them will be the other's pillar. They have to and will support each other in life."

When Isma talks of her nine children, she can't stop smiling. "I'm happy when my children are happy and content with themselves. I couldn't be prouder."

A little brother who's a talented dancer

Six-year-old Ismet has been attending ballet school for over a year now and is happy to demonstrate the ballet steps that he has learned. As ballet is not such a popular choice for boys, he was the only boy in the group when he started but he soon discovered his talent.

"Each time I bring Ismet to a ballet lesson, his teacher tells me how exceptionally talented he is. He really enjoys every lesson," says Isma as Ismet does the splits in the living room. "Who knows... maybe he'll grow up to be the next Baryshnikov?!" "Barshy…who? How do you spell that?" immediately inquires the boy who will not start school for another year, but already knows all the letters.

A big brother who's a talented basketball player

Hamza is a promising basketball player, although he is unsure whether he will be a professional basketball player or whether he will just play the game as a hobby. The nine-year-old is training hard in the local basketball club and takes every opportunity to shoot a few balls on the village playground.

"Whenever I go outside I take a ball with me. Even when I'm on my way to school, if I meet some friends on the field, I quickly shoot a few three-pointers before I rush off to school," says Hamza. A third-grader in the nearby primary school, Hamza is often described as a wonderful student by his teacher. "Ah, I do sometimes get help from Tea," admits Hamza with a look of gratitude to his older SOS sister.

Regardless of what they do with their lives, one thing will always remain the same: Ismet and Hamza will always be the brothers of Tea, Mirso, Faris, Alma, Amra, Alen, Damir. They will always be Isma's sons and be each other's greatest support.

Local Contact

SOS Children's Villages Bosnia and Herzegovina   

Semira Fraste

71000 Sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina

+387/33/465 218    

Fax: +387/33/465 323