An estimated 15,500 children aged 7 to 17 are living and/or working on the streets across four cities in Uganda, highlighting the scale of the issue.
Retrak Uganda has three transition centres in Kampala, working with both boys and girls who live and work on the streets. A community prevention programme in Wakiso district works with highly vulnerable families to prevent children from coming to the streets. The program supports the community with savings-and-loans groups, and also delivers messages about the dangers of life on the street and child protection, child rights, life-skills lessons and the risk of trafficking.
Retrak also works with Child Restoration Outreach in the city of Mbale, with an extensive programme of self help groups and community prevention work. This is a large-scale and impactful programme, involving around 80 groups of 20 women each.
High HIV prevalence in Kenya, at 7.1%, has contributed to an estimated total of 890,000 orphans and a further unreported number of vulnerable children in the country. With such a huge population, and not enough resources, many children are ending up on the streets.
To help tackle these huge figures, Retrak works with Child Rescue Kenya (CRK) on the ‘Street Smart’ outreach project.
There are an estimated 200-500 street children living in Kitale town, western Kenya, at any one time. Tragically, in Kenya around 150,000 orphans are under five years old.
In the capital, Nairobi, Retrak also works with Nanga, providing a social worker for their small children's centre to provide counselling, reintegration and family work.
In Ethiopia there are an estimated 11,000 street children on the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa, alone. Retrak is one of only eight NGOs providing support to children who spend all their life on the street. The total estimated capacity of these organisations is currently around 1,000 a year, leaving a huge deficit from the 11,000 estimated to be on the streets. Retrak is one of the few agencies working with children who are on the streets all day and all night, as opposed to those children who work on the streets all day, but return to shelter at night.
In Ethiopia, Retrak runs transition centres, community programmes, educational and outreach ‘stay safe’ initiatives and other projects across Addis Ababa, Hosanna and Sodo. In the city of Hosanna, Retrak also works with partner charity Love In Action on outreach and prevention with sex workers.
Retrak began to work in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, in 2013. Retrak works with Chisomo Children’s Club (CCC), which is one of only a few organisations working with the estimated 10,000 street children in Malawi.
At its busy drop-in centres, in Blantyre and Lilongwe, the trained staff help street children make positive choices, such as gaining better access to basic human rights like health, education and longer-term family support. Working with the Malawi police, victim support, social services as well as NGOs and churches, the programmes help older children to follow their interests and access vocational training. Some have entered into professions and then come back to the centre to support others who started out life like them.
CCC has recently re-established its ‘diversion’ programme where children in trouble with the law can be diverted away from the criminal justice system, and can instead return home and get monitored by staff so they progress at school. Thousands of children in Malawi have very little opportunity to receive family-based care, so Retrak’s collaboration here is hugely important.
In 2016, Retrak started a programme with local partner Volunteers for Vulnerable Children in collaboration with CESVI.
The ‘Journey Home’ project provides support for street children in the capital, Harare, by offering them safe shelter, food, healthcare and psycho-social support to help them transition from street life back to their home families and communities, through a long-term reintegration programme.
Retrak’s work in Harare continues to demonstrate the high need. There is no consensus on precisely how many children are living on the streets in Zimbabwe, due to the inherent difficulty of identifying this mobile and hidden group, but one 2014 estimate suggested up to 15,000, including 5,000 children on the streets of Harare alone.
VVC’s experience has been that there are many more vulnerable children in need of help than there is current provision to support. There is no alternative state provision for street children in Harare beyond the handful of NGOs operating in the area.