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THE CHALLENGE: UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF STREET CHILDREN

DEFINITION

Street children are now much more widely defined as children with many and varied connections with the street; some will live there, others will work there, some maintain their family relationships while others have been ostracised or choose to sever their contacts. Our Project in Kinshasa works with children who live continually on the street through no fault of their own and often because they have been accused of withcraft and forced to leave their family.

NUMBERS

It’s impossible to know the total number of street children throughout the world but it is estimated at more than 100 million. For further information about the universal issue of street children please see the websites detailed on our Useful Links page.

The number of children living on the streets of Kinshasa rose from 11,800 in 2006 (Unicef) to 30,000 by 2015 (Caritas Congo) and continues to grow. Many families from all over the DRC, whilst previously enjoying a poor but sustainable life in rural communities, choose to move to the capital in the hope of finding a better life, improved housing, education, health care and job opportunities. In reality these do not exist in Kinshasa. They find themselves worse off in the city than they were in their rural communities and the pressures of extreme poverty, hunger, homelessness etc have devastating effects on family relationships. We work in the Makala district where there is a particular concentration of street children.

IMPACT

The children have all experienced family breakdown resulting from profound poverty within their families that has often led to them leaving, or being ejected. Many have been subjected to abuse – emotional, physical and/or sexual – and others are on the street as a result of witchcraft accusations. When they arrive on the street they are often highly traumatised and there is no-one to assist them or protect their rights. Effective government, welfare support, legal protection etc do not exist in Kinshasa and these children find themselves subject to violence, abuse, discrimination and exploitation by society generally, and often by the police in particular.

OUTCOME

This Project aims to effect sustained change to the lives of children. Instead of living impoverished, abused lives on the streets of Kinshasa as many as possible will be reunited with their family (or extended family). Even when this is not possible we strive to affirm every child in their identity and sense of worth, inspire them to continue their education, become active decision makers about their own futures and influence changing attitudes within society.

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