Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Situation of Street Children in Selected Cities of South Sudan: Magnitude, Causes, and Effects

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

The Situation of Street Children in Selected Cities of South Sudan: Magnitude, Causes, and Effects

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Children are obviously the hope of a society and humanity. Through children, societies reproduce themselves, establish nexus with successive generations and thereby keep the wheel rolling. However, children are not people of tomorrow alone. They are still individuals in themselves with needs to be attended right at the present (Belay 2007).

These needs are so fundamental that they are considered, in more recent years and almost uniformly across the globe, as the rights of children and the responsibilities of nations. It is almost two and half decades since the UN has institutionalized these rights and responsibilities as a convention, "UN Convention on the Rights of the Child" (UN 1989). According to this Convention, all children of the world have, among others, the rights to survival and development, to be free from discrimination of all sorts, to be given priority in every decision affecting their life, and to take part in such decisions.

Ratifying this Convention, many member states have been taking different measures to fulfil the promises entered. These measures extend from paper (i.e. redressing existing or formulating new policies, laws, and programs) down to field work for promoting development of child-friendly environments.

Despite such encouraging efforts, the issue of "child right" is in its childhood and surprisingly among child-dominated nations, commonly called "developing countries". In the words of Knutsson (1994: xiii), "although many of us talk about bettering the human condition-what specialists refer to as 'development'-we are far removed from the very people to whom development matters the most". As a result, many children are still invisible and live under difficult circumstances. Difficulties meeting basic needs and vulnerability to abuse are still with strong hold, particularly in Africa today. The most vulnerable sections of this vulnerable segment of society, usually considered as the "poorest of the urban poor", are street children.

Globally, an estimated 100 million (Alianza 2000) to 150 million (Hutchison 2010) children live under difficult circumstances in the developing world of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The lion's share of this figure seems to go to the war-racked and poverty stricken regions of East Africa. For example, a relatively recent estimate indicates that the number of street children in Ethiopia ranges from 150,000 - 600,000 nationally (CSC 2009) while the figure in Kenya was estimated in 2007 to be 250,000 - 300,000 (IRIN 2007). In the neighbouring countries of South Sudan, the contribution appears even bigger.

As regards South Sudan, little documented evidence exists showing the situation of street children at large. In fact, there are many socio-cultural, political and economic reasons to speculate that the problem of child streetism is unlikely to be any better than the statistics above. One is the prevailing child-unfriendly hegemonic cultural discourse possibly pushing children out of home for safety and security (Belay 2004). The other major factor can be the recurrent bloodiest civil war that has claimed many lives, displaced multitudes, orphaned huge number of children, and impoverished families who survived the war and incapacitated them to care for their children (Hirut and Fatuma 2000; UNICEF 2000; Save the Children Sweden 2002). Hence, many children could be lucky to survive the war, but sadly left to themselves to manage their life with the bread they bake on the streets (Belay 2004; Hirut and Fatuma 2000; UNICEF 2000; Save the Children Sweden 2002),

The war has deprived space for building the infrastructures of development and hence the economy is fragile at the moment (e.g. Save the Children Sweden 2006; Save the Children UK 2004). Hence, poverty is with strong hold in South Sudan, possibly enforcing a lifestyle whereby many children need to move into streets to make a living. The breakdown of the rural economy to sustain civilians (Save the Children Sweden 2002, 2006; UNICEF 2000), on the one hand, and the emerging trends of increased expansion of cities and urbanization (Stephens 2011 ; WHO and UNHSP 2010) observed in South Sudan at the moment, on the other hand, may also mean that a large number of unaccompanied children would migrate to cities in search of a better life. …

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