It is estimated there are around 2.5 million street children in Kenya out of a child population of around 19 million. The figures have been rising alarmingly on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya's capital; 16,000 in 1989; 25,000 in 1993; 50,000 in 1998 and today around 70,000, although the exact numbers are not known. Few chose to live on the streets, but for many it is the only option. “I lost my parents three years ago and since then I have been living in the streets without shelter and assurance of having food every day.
Nobody cares about me; whether I live or not,” said one fifteen year old boy, “people don’t want to look at me. I’m trash. I don’t want to live in the streets, but I have nobody. My uncle beat me hard when I lived there, and so I ran. Living in the street is the only way to survive”. Most children end up on the streets after being orphaned, abandoned or are sent there by poor parents to either work or beg, and of course, cities like Nairobi are well known for their numbers of child prostitutes. Such are the number of street children in some of the towns that they have their own 'code' with the streets being divided up into age zones, with street children who stray outside their designated area at risk of physical punishment by older children.
Many of these children can be seen with glue bottles grasped by their teeth keeping the fumes close, fumes which quell the pangs of hunger and seemingly keep the cold and emotional pain at bay. One street child also noted that when high on glue it gave him the courage to eat garbage. One rehabilitation group believes that between 52-90% of street children in Kenya are glue addicts. This all makes any attempt at rehabilitation even more difficult as, although many would not initially want to remain on the streets, any other lifestyle with its social constraints has become alien and unworkable.
Often when we think of African children and are asked to sponsor them we are presented with images of sad children looking longingly into a camera. These are not those children. These street children, rob, steal, beg and sell themselves just to get a high. But they're still children and need help just as much or their future is as bleak as their present. This videos provide some insight into the lives of street children in Kenya.
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