Street child pregnancies on the increase
… girls as young as 15 years are mothers on the streets and continue to run between vehicles for alms to feed their babies
By Staff Reporter
Zambia has not adequately addressed the issue of street kids despite being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child leading to a high prevalence of girl child pregnancies on the street.
A check by NewsDayZambia.com finds a small group of girls sitting under a tree, some breast feeding whilst others are struggling to keep their screaming babies quiet.
The three girls Esther, Dorothy and Mwansa who are 15, 17 and 16 years respectively have lived on the streets for most of their lives, surviving and fending for themselves and their young babies despite being children themselves.
Also Speaking in an interview with NewsDayZambia.com Young Women Christian Association of Zambia (YWCA) Programmes Manager Miriam Mwiinga stressed that there was a lot that Zambia can do to address the situation.
Mwiinga said even if her organization did not have a dedicated programme to deal with the issues of street girls and their daily challenges, they encountered cases they have had to deal with at different occasions and circustances.
She said Zambia needs to see to it that it protects the best interest of the child and the woman and fulfill the obligations of the country towards these international commitments.
“We have seen an increasing number of girls getting pregnant on the streets and we have reports of girls being faced with different kinds of abuse. We have also received reports of girls who have faced sexual abuse, either from the general public or fellow street kids. We have brought in some of the victims and taken them to the hospital where we have also helped with the provision of a few items for the girls in labour. We have also kept them in our temporally shelters and released them at an appropriate time after tracing their relatives” she said.
Mwiinga said the problem of street kids requires urgent attention because life on the street is different and risky compared to the life of a child who is brought up in a normal home.
She said sometimes the girls contract sexually transmitted diseases because they have multiple sexual partners, exposing them to a high risk prevalence of contracting HIV, a situation also exacerbated by drug abuse which impairs their judgment.
“They cannot negotiate for safer sex because they are abused. So, we do not just look at their mental status but we need to look at their physical being. However, there is only much we can do because we receive these girls from members of the public. At the moment we do not have the capacity to go onto the street and round them up,” she said.
Mwiinga said this year alone they have dealt with about 3-5 cases street girls pregnancies and believes the figures are a lot more as some of the cases were not reported.
Meanwhile, Esther says the girls are finding it hard to raise the K200 for rentals, money for general up keep and baby care at the same time.
“We would love to go back to the shelter because we do not have families to integrate into. Life on the streets is hard because people can do anything to you whilst our fellow male street kids are equally a threat at the same time” She said.
According to a UNICEF Breaking the Net: Family Structure and Street Children in Zambia report 2018, Zambian children end up on the streets because of extreme poverty that is estimated at 54.5 percent.
The report further says this is compounded by the fact that Zambia is a country of young people, with the majority of the population under the age of 18 (53.4 per cent with the estimated age being at 16.7 years, which is one of the lowest in the region and globally.
The report says many of these children are affected by poverty which stands at an estimated 54.5 per cent of the population living below the national poverty line.
The report states that Gender inequality, household poverty and the expansion of peri-urban populations are some of the systematic challenges to realizing the rights of children and leading to the vice of street kids in Zambia.
The situation is further compounded by high population growth, with a fertility rate of 5.7 children per woman leading to an annual population growth rate of 3.2 per cent.