SOMALIA: Just another day for Hargeisa's street children
Children begging on the streets of Hargeisa (file photo)
HARGEISA, 16 June 2009 (IRIN) - For the children living on the streets of Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland, 16 June – Day of the African child - is of little significance.
"My family lives in Burao [about 150km east of Hargeisa]," one child said. "We were so many children. One day I decided to travel to Hargeisa and never went back home."
Social workers in the city say drought and economic hardship have forced an unprecedented number of children on to the streets.
lack adequate shelter, healthcare, education, protection and guidance. Drug abuse is common and many are involved in activities such as pick-pocketing to cover drug costs.
"We interviewed 150 street children, scattered throughout the city, and 88 percent confessed to have experienced different abuse, including sexual abuse and harassment," Khadar Nuur, chairman of Hargeisa Child Protection Network, said.
His network comprises 17 organizations, including the Horn of Africa Youth Voluntary Organization, which has rehabilitated some street children.
Now, the network is spearheading the establishment of schooling for street children at the Somaliland Centre for Youth and Cultural Association (SOCSA).
"It is funded by the Hargeisa Child Protection Network and we as SOCSA are implementing [the project]," Khadar Kalil, spokesman for the centre, said. "We have more than 30 street children to teach here."
In their struggle to survive, some of the children have committed crimes and found themselves in prison.
"We know that a number of street children were sent to prison by the
security committees in Hargeisa," Kalil said. "We are worried about their situation in prison because they are detained with old people, including criminals."
Lul Hassan, who is in charge of child protection at the Somaliland National Human Rights Commission, said the children's prison at Mija Asseye would be rehabilitated soon.
"Somaliland, with the collaboration of international aid organizations, [has found] the funds for rebuilding Mija Asseye child prison [for the] first time since 1991," he added.
According to the commission, an estimated 60 children join others on the streets monthly.
Many of the new arrivals are girls - a phenomenon that was previously uncommon. "We met about 15 female street children, who had suffered sexual abuse," Kalil said. "The number of female street children has increased from 4 to 8 percent."
Among other activities, SOCSA is teaching its first class Somali, maths, Arabic, religion and civic education.
"We also provide them with breakfasts and they stay here from eight to 12am, [before] they go back to the streets," Khadar said.
Nuur said the organizations that were trying to help were also worried that the children would cause insecurity.
"These street children never [learnt] good behaviour," he added. "For that reason, anybody can [exploit] them for his or her or their interests."