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I read the book in 2007 ish. I believe it was aimed at children or young adults but not certain.

I believe the book was set in Africa in a city. There was a "great mother" figure protecting her kids. There was an underground/subway system that played a prominent role in the book.

I can't be certain but I think the story was set in the future. If not it may have been some sort of future scenario with a lot of economic development and an eventual collapse or apocalypse or something.

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Could this be The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer?

General Matsika's children steal out of the house on a forbidden adventure--and disappear. In Zimbabwe, in the year 2194, the children's parents call in Africa's most unusual detectives--the Ear, the Eye and the Arm--who have powers far beyond those of other human beings. The children must avoid the evils of the past, the technology of the future, and a motley assortment of criminals in order to return home safely.
- Goodreads summary

It's a young adult book (recipient of a Newbery honor), published in 1994. It's set in a sprawling, futuristic version of Harare, Zimbabwe. The subway does indeed play a prominent role, with the children attempting to use it to escape from the gang of Masks who are pursuing them.

The "great mother figure" could possibly be the She Elephant, a large woman who controls the people of Dead Man's Vlei and forces the children to work in her plastic mine. This part isn't as good of a fit, since she's not very motherly. But she does feed the children, at least.

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