Street Children – Increased Vulnerability to Disease and Abuse

Today April 12, 2013 the world celebrates International Day for Street Children. The day provides a platform for the millions of street children around the world – and their champions – to speak out so that their rights cannot be ignored. The day was launched in 2011 by Consortium for Street Children launched International Day for Street Children . The theme of the day this year is Home Street Home – highlighting that for many children across the world, the street is their home.

AfCiC in its work has recognized that the virtue of home being the streets increases vulnerability to disease and abuse. It is a growing concern to the global public health community since street children phenomenon is an increasing problem in most cosmopolitan cities of the country, including Thika, which is a fast growing industrial town.

According to AfCiC Street Census 2011, the number stood at 113 boys and 20 girls. It is therefore important to have a clear presentation of their health problems in an attempt to intervene and rescue these children. The street children in the census reported all five types of abuse: general abuse and neglect, health abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Verbal and psychological abuses were reported the most. Older children and children with higher income abuse the younger children and children with lower incomes, respectively.

Street children have high incidence of diseases and there are several factors determining occurrence of disease amongst them. Sexually transmitted infections are the order of the day given the fact that some of the older children take advantage of the young ones and abuse them sexually. As the lead way to HIV/AIDS, non treatment of STDS has also given rise to HIV infections in the streets.

Interestingly, upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is common due to cold exposure as well as dump site smoke which provoke Tuberculosis (T.B). This has become a worrying trend in Thika town and to the country due to the emergence of Multidrug resistant T.B (MDR) due to non adherence to T.B drugs.

 Drug abuse is rampant among the street children in Thika which include glue inhaling, petrol (solvent), cannabis, cigarettes smoking among others hard drugs. Other than URTI’s, burns have been experienced amongst the users as these solvents are highly flammable. Rarely do the children get medical attention due to the numbness resulting as a result of drug use.

Lack of sanitation in bathing, toilets, and water also contributes to poor health leading to environmental concern. Outbreak of dysentery, a bacterial parasite which causes an inflammatory disorder of the lower intestinal tract often affects street children. Most of the street children in Thika lack access to medical care, which is especially detrimental during times of illness or injury.

Children rights to health cannot be attained if some children continue to call the streets home with the above mentioned health problems and challenges. We are calling for governments and society to join together and stand up for the rights of street children all over the world.