UN Children's Fund helps Tanzania address homeless children

By Deodatus Balile in Dar es Salaam

September 04, 2012

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Tanzania kicked off a programme on Saturday (September 1st) to take more than 3,000 homeless children off the streets of Dar es Salaam and return them to their homes, officials told Sabahi.

  • Homeless children lie on the terrace of the Benjamin William Mkapa building on Posta Mpya Street in Dar es Salaam. [Deodatus Balile/Sabahi]

    Homeless children lie on the terrace of the Benjamin William Mkapa building on Posta Mpya Street in Dar es Salaam. [Deodatus Balile/Sabahi]

Social workers are surveying the city street by street and picking up all underage children, said Monica Mwaikenda, one of the social workers participating in the programme.

In the first phase, the government will remove all children off the streets and place them in shelters by the end of the month, she said. The second phase, which will go on until the end of the year, will involve connecting them back with their families.

The programme is a continuation of the National Plan of Action for Most Vulnerable Children, which has provided children with temporary shelters, schooling, and connections with their parents or other family members since it started in 2006.

Last month, Assistant Commissioner for Social Welfare Rabikira Mushi announced the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is sponsoring the project.

Reasons for child homelessness in Tanzania

Most homeless children in Dar es Salaam are runaways who left their villages and towns because of poverty or the loss of family members to HIV/AIDS, according to Doctor Theopista Masenge, a child-health specialist and advocate who works with the state-owned Mbeya Referral Hospital.

While some children left their homes to find jobs in the city, research indicates that others have left their hometowns to escape abusive parents, Masenge told Sabahi. In some cases, extended families are able to absorb those children, but others are left to fend for themselves.

According to a 2009 UNICEF report that surveyed 3,739 females and males age 13 to 24, almost three-quarters reported experiencing physical violence by a relative or authority figure, such as a teacher, or another person close to them prior to age 18.

About 25% of females and almost 30% of males reported experiencing emotional abuse by a relative or authority figure, while between 4% and 5% of females and males reported being threatened with abandonment as a child.

In addition, nearly 30% of females and 13.4% of males reported experiencing at least one incident of sexual violence before turning 18.

Mixed reaction to programme

Executive Director of Legal and Human Rights Centre Helen Kijo-Bisimba told Sabahi that the initial programme was underfunded and social workers did not conduct exit interviews with the runaway children before placing them back with their families

Kijo-Bisimba said children must be provided an alternative to returning home to abusive parents.

She said homeless children have untold stories that deserve to be heard, and the reasons that forced them out of their homes should be addressed before attempting to reunite them with their families.

"Some parents are extremely brutal to their children. Not all street children come from poor families, but rather some are terrified by parents, forcing them to run away," Kijo-Bisimba told Sabahi.

Kijo-Bisimba said a lasting solution to homelessness among children must address the root causes behind the phenomenon. "[The children] should be asked what they want done for them to go back to their families, and depending on their answers, there will be a solution."

Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children Sofia Mnyambi Simba said that despite some criticism, the project has yielded positive results.

"This project is continuous. We have carried it out successfully for the past five years and this time, our development partner UNICEF has accepted to support our efforts to speed up the process -- not because we have failed, but because they support our success," Simba said.

Perspective of a homeless boy

Adnary Cyprian, 13, a homeless boy who sleeps on Posta Mpya Street in central Dar es Salaam, told Sabahi he ran away from his family because of an abusive father.

"My father got married to his second wife and we were all living in one house. He developed the habit of beating us whenever he came back drunk at night," said Cyprian, who is originally from Dodoma.

"I started hiding behind the front door. Then, when he came in, I passed by him to go out without him seeing me," he said. "This continued for about a year, then my friend told me we should follow his brother in Dar es Salaam. We boarded the bus without fare, but thank God the driver was kind enough not to throw us out along the way."

Cyprian said life in the streets is harsh, and homeless children are sometimes called thieves, even if they have not stolen anything. Most of the time, street children eat leftovers from city hotels or buy food whenever they get money through begging, he said.

He said the three years he has spent on the streets have been very hard, but he prefers being on the streets to going back to his family.

"If they are gathering us to go to school, even now I am ready to go, but if they plan to send me back to Dodoma, I would rather die here," he said. "I want to go to school, where I will study hard and become a member of parliament after getting the qualifications."

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Reader's Comments

  • asia
    December 14, 2014 @ 03:11:42AM

    It wil help me on my research about the homeless people in Tanzania...thank u to whoever did it

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  • john mwambene
    March 10, 2014 @ 06:03:33AM

    tz good

  • L.nyangena
    October 25, 2012 @ 02:04:36AM

    i like the article.It is just a gist of what children goes htrough not only in tanzania but in all parts of the world.Policies shuld be put in place to protect such children

  • kuma
    October 23, 2012 @ 09:22:13PM

    This is just gay they take money for their private use it’s just corruption. Tanzania is a gay country

  • mboombili
    October 23, 2012 @ 09:18:26PM

    tanzania is not a good country all leadership to get your money i mean they want help from white people but that money using to other issues and not helping this poor children just dont give them money I HATE TANZANIA

  • ruben mduma
    October 23, 2012 @ 05:33:34AM

    i want to say this is our responsibility to keep them safety

  • SULEYMAN
    October 22, 2012 @ 03:18:19AM

    TANZANIA IS AMONG DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND THEY NEED TO ORGANIZE THEMSELVES ESPECIALLY IN MATTERS OF PLACES TO LIVE, SHELTER AND OTHER IMPORTANT SERVICES SUCH AS EDUCATION, HEALTH AND INFRASTRUCTURE. BY SO DOING THIS WAVE OF YOUTH, CHILDREN AND WOMEN WILL DECREASE ESPECIALLY FOR ALL BEGGARS WHAT TO DO IS TO ORGANIZE THEMSELVES AND TO STOP WAITING UPON THE GOVERNMENT AND TO EMPLOY THEMSELVES LIKE ME. SO MY ADVICE TO ALL WHO ARE LOOKING UPON THE GOVERNMENT IS TO STOP THAT AND TO BECOME ENGAGED. IT WILL REDUCE THIS WAVE OF BEGGING.

  • Thomas
    October 20, 2012 @ 03:40:49PM

    This scenery reflects the Tanzania citizen of tomorow.We have to wake up and change this scenario through finding a sincere mean of sharing our wealth with the most needy.Failure to do so, we will be in for it in the near future.There are riches in the nation of which if well distributed with a a serious and committed state system ,opportunities can be revived for this children unlucky lots

  • Irudi
    October 20, 2012 @ 09:17:10AM

    They will not be able. Those are just Tanzania’s propaganda.

  • BALA
    October 19, 2012 @ 12:01:27PM

    As responsible citizen, we must take care and send them to school, where they can get good education and they can start their life.

  • sebastian
    October 18, 2012 @ 06:25:59AM

    lets think what they get in terms of food,shelter and clothes. No one can serve them in this bad situation. no one can take responsibility to take this burden to those kids.

  • Henry Peter
    October 13, 2012 @ 01:17:07PM

    It pains to see children are staying in this stuations but we pray them every day and we beg the people who can help them lets them help, its not good in the middle city to find some children staying in this ways....!

  • hassan
    October 13, 2012 @ 12:51:32AM

    parents should be very keen from the word go to put down a foundation to their kids to know there is two way of life,postive same with negative when arised no mean of running away from home .better education ,love ,petience is the solution

  • mamaivan2
    October 12, 2012 @ 11:26:49AM

    lets remember is not all creatures has to go to school to achieve their goal in life. Lets take them out of street talk to them and at least they may explore their talent. Let us building their capacity. they are good people is we care as soon as possible but threat for nation if we dont care. let us think how will they be for feature. arm robber, killers yes if we pretend that we dont care, its non of our bussiness. It will cost the nation. IT MAY COST U AND ME. PLEASE LETS THE GOVENMENT HAVE FUND FOR THIS PEPLE.

  • Gabriel Marite Ole Tuke
    October 12, 2012 @ 10:14:52AM

    the case of street children tanzania results from to main corners, one poverty, second families issues and third corruption. our leader are very corrupted and from this they only works for their own famillie members, look for good schools and health facilities for them but not for the ones they pretend to lead.

  • Humphrey
    October 12, 2012 @ 05:43:48AM

    It is very painful to see chidren sleeping on the street like this! we us parents are commiting very big sin against God,it is as if there is no government,no parents. the gap between rich and poor is growing every day in my country! these are some of the outcome! i hate this irresponsible government and as a parent i hate my self for not doing anything to help these young children who are suffering! peolpe let us wake up and support these chidren please.

  • moses wikesi
    October 11, 2012 @ 01:40:44PM

    This is a big problem in the Tanzanian community, because it is not only in Dar es Salaam, it is in all the big cities for example Mwanza, Arusha, Mbeya, etc. So we as community members we should cooperate with all those who have goodwill towards these children so as to help them to have a good direction in their life, otherwise we are preparing criminals who will destroy us.

  • andrew
    October 11, 2012 @ 09:06:56AM

    Sights of homeless children is becoming rather common in Dar es Salaam, sometimes accompanied by their begging parents! The government need to do something about this, like sponsoring some NGOs to take them off the streets. Adults associated with them must be prosecuted for letting children roam the streets instead of sending them to school, where education is, basically, free!

  • John Wallace
    October 11, 2012 @ 07:40:07AM

    The main sources of streets children are conflit between parents or divorces and after one parent die.The society must ensure that they are responsible to look after children who left without parents, dont blames any ones either Goverment or politicians!

  • jack
    October 10, 2012 @ 06:18:08AM

    mariam tells what is real way but one thing;law should be passed first to protect them then we go to an implementations of it,.also we suppose to have direct benefit from our resources as they do in other countries

  • bab sule
    October 10, 2012 @ 02:45:13AM

    TANZANIA IS UNABLE TO MANAGE MANY THINGS BECAUSE OF THE ISSUE OF CORRUPTION SINCE EVEN THOSE WHO ARE GIVEN AUTHORITY TO MANAGE THIS PROJECT WILL END UP THE SAME WAY AND CHILDREN WILL CONTINUE TO LIVE ON THE STREETS/ONLY THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD MANAGE THAT PROJECT.

  • KHAMIS
    October 8, 2012 @ 09:29:37AM

    We have to takecare for the children who got defficulties especcially streets boys,back them to school and give them education.I am Tanzanian I have got shock to see them on the street need help,some times they clean the car front mirror during the car stop on the taffic light to get some money and other are sneafing petrol.We are lostisng the New generation.Plz Help them.

  • shija hussein mtebwa
    October 8, 2012 @ 07:41:50AM

    I ask for this page to continue because some of us are greatly benefitting

  • SOYALARA
    October 2, 2012 @ 03:21:17AM

    we are somaliland youth association for leadership and rights activation who works devolpment of youth and preventing the risks who face the youngesters we are against any child abuse and discrimination against the childeren such like the freedom of opinion and child have pravicy

  • Bruno george sarwatt
    September 30, 2012 @ 11:45:55AM

    MY self i acept all coment of guys but what am trying to think z the gorvnt of tz must tke a huge mesure on this issue of homeless children coz to back them home z not soln.

  • nemes protus
    September 28, 2012 @ 12:51:50PM

    this street childrens is responsibility of every one to take care of them because god made us equally, and we have to make each one equal to the way you are, so i invite everybody to partisipate on this issue,,, its real pain seen children suffering and actual they are not victim for their suffering..

  • ali thabit hamed
    September 25, 2012 @ 08:20:11AM

    i support what miriam has recommened.

  • cj
    September 25, 2012 @ 04:56:40AM

    well at least somebody is doing something about this. They need help and guidence else they will end up dying prematurely

  • Idd Amiri
    September 24, 2012 @ 07:52:55AM

    There is a problem which actually orchesrrated by politicians for not implementing the right policy towards an equal development to all. In regions and villages people are neglected that is why most of them retreat to dar es salaam in hope of getting better life instead they are being compounded with misery and despair.

  • mohamed
    September 15, 2012 @ 04:50:53AM

    i am sorry to see like this problem in africa our lmother land

  • edwin mokaya
    September 6, 2012 @ 06:25:13AM

    thanks alot to UN

  • miriam kasika
    September 5, 2012 @ 01:20:57PM

    Taking them back to their homes wont be the best solution they might end up going back to streets as cyrpian said, unless the child is willing to go back home. i suggest the second phrase should be taking them to school or looking their talents and send them to the required field. after knowing the childs background if parents seems to be the source and the child knows how to get him,measures should be taken to the parent to be responsible paying a certain amount of money each mnth to help run the organisation{it has to be large amount of money} as a punishment of him not being responsble and see that there is no way he can escape his responsibilities.

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