Ragged, hungry and rejected by society, plentiful of street children abandoned by nearly all live in the Malawi commercial city Blantyre.
Director of Child Development Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Disability and Social Welfare McKnight Kalanda estimates 200 street children who have turned street to be their home could be in Blantyre alone.
In commercial city of Blantyre, Wenala Bus Depot is a harbor for street children, who call it “the base”. It is here, outside the wall face you could see youngsters below age of twelve sleeping on cardboard.
Here, some sleep on the hard floor of nearby drinking joints, others close to the rubbish dumps where they scavenge for empty plastic bottles to make some profit, but at least the place is safe from outside eyes.
A few hours after dawn, some children are still lying on the ground, the glass bottles from which they drink liquor. No one, not even nearby vendors, enlighten in component the source of alcoholic bottles. Other spaces are empty, with those youngsters having headed off to work, begging on the streets.
“When people see some of these children, they do not take them as human beings,” said Moses Banda, himself a former street child, who escaped the tough life, and ekes out a living now working as minibus commuting between Blantyre and Limbe. “When people see them drinking and dirty, they beat them or insult them.”
Some children are pushed onto the street following the death of parents — sometimes due to running away from violence at home. Others live on the street simply because their families are too poor to look after them.
PROCEED OF DESOLATION
“It is quite difficult to describe the situation… you find if they sleep outside someone’s shop, in the morning, instead of the owner waking them up gently, they kick them or even pour water on them,” Moses said.
Many leave their rural areas – where traditional community ties have loosened – for cities, where they have more chance of surviving by begging, finding odd jobs, scavenging rubbish sites, or prostitution.
Abandoned by the state, several charities offer help. In agreement with Malawi government, Chisomo Children’s Club and Tikondane Children’s Care in Lilongwe are trying to assist the children access shelter, psychosocial support and education before they are repatriated to their relations homes.
It’s just to invite the kids, to get them to create. It’s not to teach them, it’s not to impose anything on them. It’s to say: ‘Tell your story’. They’re much focused and they do lovely work… they tell the stories in their heart and they just enjoy themselves.”
When Moses walks the streets of Blantyre, children throw themselves at him, finding solace, friendship and love they otherwise lack.
“Everybody needs to think about the way they’ve been treated, and why they’re living on the streets, and suffering on the streets,” Moses said. “These kids are traumatised, they are kids who had huge suffering, they’re abandoned… going to the streets is an act of despair.”
SELLING THEIR BODIES
Girls face an especially tough time. The life in town is very difficult, one sleeps out in the cold where you are rained on, sometimes you find that you wake up and find that one of your colleagues has been raped,” said Tadala Nkhoma, 16, who just recently joined the street life. “Others even end up selling their bodies in order to get money to buy food.”
Almost a third majority of girls are victims of sexual abuse or sexual exploitation, some the victims of gang rape. Many are forced to become prostitutes, with a high risk of contracting AIDS.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Director of Children’s Rights, Noris Chirwa, says, children who live on the streets are susceptible to sexual abuse and harassment, discrimination, drugs and substance abuse.
Government and other special interest groups need to work hand in hand to address challenges that are driving the children onto the streets.
Christ Embassy launched a campaign dubbed “Reach Out Malawi (Roma)” aimed at raising awareness on the plight of vulnera