One of the most recent social problems dominant in cities in sub-Saharan Africa is the rapid increase in the number of unsupervised children living or working on the streets. Most of these children, for various reasons, have either abandoned or have been abandoned by their families and have migrated to urban areas in order to earn a living. Their rapid increase, how they survive and grow up as young adults, the hardships they experience, and the types of violence they endure, raise concern and calls for immediate attention. Our study set out to examine the dynamics of street children’s lives in Dar-es-Salaam. The aim was to advance knowledge and understanding of the situation of poor children who live independently on the streets of sub-Saharan African cities by addressing the questions posed above. We explored the factors that push children onto the streets and examined the nature of their street life and how they cope with the situation. We also examined the hardships and violence they endure and how this affects their health.
Contrary to the conventional belief that street children are young criminals in the making, our study found out that most of these children are pushed onto streets by societal factors beyond their control.
The findings of this study suggest that rural poverty, abuse, and the scourge of HIV/AIDS act simultaneously in manufacturing a great number of helpless children who resort to street life. While on the streets, street children experience a rough life associated with the lack of basic necessities of life like shelter, food, health, education, and others. Both adult urban residents and law enforcement institutions regard them as criminals and most of them experience general violence and, for girls, sexual violence tends to be the routine of life. The study argues that street life has tremendous negative consequences on children’s health. Contrary to the conventional belief that street children are young criminals in the making, our study found out that most of these children are pushed onto streets by societal factors beyond their control. Street children are the neediest children in urban Africa and also the least assisted. The study concludes by detailing down-to-earth short- and long-term interventions that focus on addressing rampant rural poverty and controlling HIV/AIDS. We also recommend the formulation of policies that seek to improve the welfare of vulnerable social groups like women, street children, and children who have been orphaned by AIDS or other factors.
- Lugalla, Joe L.P. and Colleta G. Kibassa. Urban Life and Street Children's Health: Children's Accounts of Urban Hardships and Violence in Tanzania. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2003.