Children Living or Working on the Street

The Chronic Urban Emergency in Rift Valley Kenya: Report From Profiling Children Connected to the Streets in Rift Valley Province

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Research was conducted in five Rift Valley towns (Eldoret, Kitale, Molo, Nakuru, and Naivash) in Kenya in 2011 to understand the link between emergencies and the perceived increase of children joining the streets. The findings are based on interviews with 3,138 children, of whom 2,696 were directly connected with the streets.

 Findings show that food insecurity is one of the biggest factors (59%) that cause children to drop out of school and gravitate toward the streets to find food and earn money.  Other major factors identified included abuse at home (23%), particularly when children are looked after by extended family, step parents or family friends, the death of a caregiver (16%), and being unable to go to school due to cost (21%). In Eldoret, a large percentage of children interviewed came from families where one or both parents had died (44%). Displacement as a result of Post-Election Violence was also a major factor with 37% of all children interviewed in the streets being internally displaced (IDPs).

Children identified food as their biggest need (39%) followed closely by education (34%) and their third biggest unmet need was identified by them as love (24%). More than one in five children interviewed had been reunified with their families at least once but were now back on the streets. Of these, 28% had been reunified between two and five times, and 4% of children said that they had been reunified ten times. As a result, family reunification was not a major priority for these children and a majority, particularly teenagers, wanted to live in rented accommodation with their friends. The situation was somewhat different for internally displaced children living on the street. Over half of all IDP children sleeping on the streets wanted to live at home with their families, highlighting the fact that children connected to the streets are not a homogenous population.

The findings were shared with a number of government and non-government actors and children who outlined key recommendations to tackle the crisis. The recommendations fall into two concurrent streams: 1) conduct an immediate emergency child protection response to remove children from the streets and place them into sustainable family and care situations; and 2) coordinate a multi-sectoral developmental thrust to eradicate the issue of children connected to the streets, ensuring their basic needs such as education and food security are met. These recommendations should be guided by an overarching strategy led by the Government of Kenya’s Children’s Department along with its child protection systems.

More specifically pertaining to alternative care, these recommendations urge the Children’s Department to rapidly scale up child reintegration and protection measures to transition all children currently living on the streets into durable situations through tracing, family reintegration or into alternative care. The Department is urged to expand alternative care options including alternative family-based care and independent or family-linked living for youth. The Strategic and integrated, these efforts should include psychosocial preparation for return and mobilization of adequate, ongoing support for children and their families.

Bridget Steffen

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