Lilongwe and Blantyre have a combined population of 4, 000 children who come to the streets on a daily basis to beg while 454 are completely homeless, a recent government study has revealed.
Director of Child Development Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, McKnight Kalanda, said in an interview that an enumeration study the ministry did recently established that Blantyre has over 2,000 street children with Lilongwe registering close to 2, 000.
Kalanda said that 237 street children in Lilongwe are completely homeless and have turned the streets into their home.
“On the other hand, Blantyre has close to 2, 000 children who frequent the streets on a daily basis to do street begging and other things. And, out of this figure, around 217 are homeless,” Kalanda said.
He said the government is working with various partners such as Chisomo Children’s Club and Tikondane Children’s Care in Lilongwe in trying to assist the children access shelter, psychosocial support and education before they are repatriated to their respective homes.
Kalanda further said that, apart from the two non-governmental institutions, government is also running Lilongwe Social Rehabilitation Centre where children in need can access temporary shelter, rehabilitation services and get enrolled in the nearest school as authorities work to reunite them with their families.
“We know that although they are homeless, they have their parents or guardians. So, whilst providing temporary shelter, the system also tries to trace their roots. And after thorough assessment, the children are reunited with their families,” he said.
But Kalanda did not provide statistics of the children that are living on streets in other cities and major towns such as Mzuzu, Zomba, Mangochi and Kasungu.
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Director of Children’s Rights, Noris Chirwa, said in a separate interview that children who live on the streets are susceptible to sexual abuse and harassment, discrimination, drug and substance abuse.
Chirwa said the government and other special interest groups need to work hand in hand to address challenges that are driving the children onto the streets.
Last month, Christ Embassy launched a campaign dubbed Reach Out Malawi (Roma) to raise awareness on the plight of vulnerable, needy and orphaned children in the country.