As countries worldwide continue lobbying the United Nations to officially set April 12 as the World Street Children’s Day, a number of issues came into my mind as I lingered over a number of challenges that affect children in street situations.
The challenges which such children face are countless and other people, except the street children themselves, do not have any idea that there are also such challenges.
However, it is undeniable fact that there are also a number of heartrending health hazards which these children face. These young people surely need to be protected from various forms of abuse from older members of the society and they are the easy targets for child traffickers.
Looking at the issue of health and the welfare of street children further left me with a lot of unanswered questions. Young people who live with parents or guardians are better off in terms of getting guidance and counseling on a number of things like alcohol and substance abuse as well as on issues pertaining to sex and sexuality.
I asked myself several questions like;
“Do these children have Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) Information?”
“Do they have access to SRH services and the most needed SRH counseling and support that everyone needs more especially during adolescence?"
My reaction to what I have observed in this country is that these children are not given the proper care and attention they deserve as human beings. The society tends to look at them as throwaways and the conditions in which these young people live in proves that no one cares about them .
As a nation, we have an obligation to make sure that these young people have adequate information and access to health services as a way of ensuring that their lives are protected from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) including HIV, trafficking and many other undesirable endings.
The international day for street children is aimed at given platform to street kids to voice out their concerns so that they rights should not be ignored and access to SRH services and information is one of them.
There is a need for Malawi to have well-laid-out social development strategies that accommodate the lives of children who live in the streets. Some local as well as international Non-government Organization are trying to set some standards on the ground concerning this issue but the government still has the mandate to provide such critical services to everyone in the country including children who live in the streets.
If nothing is to be done immediately these children will continue facing different abuses which some of them will have dire consequences despite their having an inborn right to ‘access health services’.
As we are working towards achieving the ambitious 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, let us remind each other that one important target is to ‘ensure inclusive universal access to SHR services and information’ and children living in the streets of Malawi are not a minus.
With this few annotations, let me join the rest of the world in lobbying the UN to accommodate street children in its internationally recognized days. In this way, we can all remind and affirm our commitments and fulfill our obligations towards improving the lives and welfare of children who living the streets.