DRC Street Children

Anyone familiar with this website will be aware of our concern for the number of street children living on the streets throughout towns and cities across Africa. But let us dispel a few myths.

Certainly the journey that took them to live on the streets was inevitably harsh; many were orphaned through AIDS/HIV, others fled family violence and/or unbearable living conditions at home, others, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had their families killed in war, some were child soldiers with no welcome home, others, horrifically, accused of witchcraft and fled their communities in fear of their lives.

However, once embedded on the streets, these children known as 'Shegue' are no Oliver Twists. They have to rob, steal, harass to stay alive and numb the pain by taking drugs, entering into violent gangs and sniffing glue. They have no education, nor future employment opportunities. They rarely have documents proving who they are, and are at risk of being shot dead by police for even minor misdemeanours. 

Democratic Republic of Congo Street Children GirlMany of these street children are trafficked for enforced labour and forced prostitution within the country itself as well as into neighbouring territories with much of this child trafficking undertaken by armed groups and even governmental forces within the country's unstable eastern provinces. When they are abducted and often raped, no-one notices. No-one cares. No-one even knows they're missing. They are forgotten.

It is estimated that there are around 70,000 street children in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo alone (this figure includes children who work the streets but return home each night).



 
 
 
 
 
 


DRC Street Children

DRC Street Children

DRC Street Children

DRC Street Children

 


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Note: Whilst children are treasured in Africa they are often children of their village as much as children of their family and it is not unusual for women to bear children to new fathers time and again; new fathers who have little interest in supporting the off-spring of an absent and previous father. Surrounded by poverty and little future many of these children migrate to urban areas where they are quickly out of their depth and end up on the streets.

Democratic Republic of Congo Street Children

Overall there are around one quarter of a million street children in the country. These numbers are hardly surprising when you consider that there are some five million orphans in the country, let alone those who have taken to the streets for other reasons.

The situation is being so embedded that there are now second and third generation street children in the Democratic Republic of Congo especially in Kinshasa, Bukavu, Goma and Lubumbashi. These former street children are now hardened street adults ~ uneducated, outside of mainstream society and seeing no relevance in the rules of a society which abandoned them as children.

Democratic Republic of Congo Street Children LadsDisturbingly some of the street children are often recruited by political parties to create disorder in public demonstrations in exchange for food and or money.  With no one to advocate for them, security forces respond aggressively and there have been many reports of children being killed or seriously injured during these episodes.

Democratic Republic of Congo Street Children BoyThe statistics for girls are alarming. Often referred to as mayibobo, or tsheil, many girls start a life of prostitution at the age of twelve and where statistics are available, seven out of ten report they have been raped with one out of every three of these children already being a mother as a result of these incidents.

It is widely acknowledged that there is neither the social understanding nor political will to address the issue which is becoming increasingly prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa. The common response of 'just go home' assumes there is a home to return to, and if there is, is it safe.

The video (above, right) shares some of their lives, their stories and the work being undertaken with some of those that can be reached to offer a better future. This work, mainly by NGOs and other charitable organisations, includes attempts to identify the child's birth family and reconnect with them, offering remedial education for those prepared to re-enter the educational environment or the teaching of practical and trade skills for the older street children.

Some educational work is also undertaken with families making them more aware of the outcomes for their children if they are abandoned on the streets.

 
 


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