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Pediatrics and child health; in focus: Children of the street and children on the street (3)

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IMAGE: Nigerian child »

17. June


Children of mentally ill parents may end up as street children when they are unable to get adequate assistance to help them carry the burden of care, this added to the fact that mental illness on its own can either be inherited or acquired

Working parents often leave their kids with members of the family who may not be responsible enough to prevent the kids from straying away

Street children are often characterized by poor housing, unfenced living quarters, slums and excessively permissive parents

Where orphanages are abandoned by governments, you have rigid and expensive adoption conditions, potential parents are scared away . Where there is insufficient background check, poor or inadequate supervision of foster care, any thing is possible

Family conditions may be such that there is enough to go round but not socially conducive; two situations can help readers appreciate this; wife inheritance one involved sudden death of a husband and the inheritance of the widow by a 12 year old boy child, who was living with the family at the time. All normal coping mechanisms broke down and at a point, children who saw their mom as not worthy of respect began as children of the street and later of the street. In the second situation, a polygamous man had 21 children through 5 wives, the children grew up mostly dependent on what their moms could provide, and nearly all ended as street children

Abusive parents, uncles, single parents, abusive foster parents, and others too busy to look after children create multiple avenues for children to abandon homes for the streets. Others include excessively permissive parents, marital disharmony where a mother habitually tries to override decisions taken by the head of the family.

In other situations, weak or inactive parents teachers association (PTA), principals and school heads too harsh to reach either by parents, pupils or students, could make it difficult to effectively monitor activities of children particularly those in boarding schools

Some local trafficking in humans involves trading in house helps who move from one house to another in different locations at times working with street children to steal from unsuspecting employers. Most of them end up becoming vagabonds and carriers of sexually transmitted agents.

Street trading, begging or hawking is a common feature on the streets, in poor communities of the world communities Poor or low risk assessment of personal dangers, in association with low level of education, especially health education is common amongst parents, guardian and children involved in street trading. However for poor families it is the only way to survive economic troubles; affected children may become attracted to the freedom and adventure denied by regimented conditions at home.

Health problems………..

In addition to the issues analyzed so far, Health problems classifiable into physical, mental social, environmental, and psychosocial to effectively capture the extent of the problem and the solution have been recognized; Children on the street are exposed to all sorts of diseases from Malaria(merciless mosquito bites), Staphylococcus and Salmonella food poisoning from contaminated food and drinks, sexually transmitted diseases such as, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, B and C, Syphilis, Cancroids, Herpes and Gonorrhea.

Concerning environmental hazards, water is a major problem for street children and so they drink from sources likely to be contaminated with metals such as Lead, Cadmium, and Arsenic. These will eventually cause damage to organs like the kidneys, brain and liver. Those using mechanic workshop as dwelling places are exposed to petroleum products, metals have been implicated in tumors and street children run the risks of developing cancer of the skin, bladder and liver later in life.

Physical health status of street children can be influenced by many variables; in all, children on the street can act as Infection Bridge, bringing diseases from the street to the homes while children of the street can slip into homes to visit friends when everyone is not paying attention. They also are at risks of direct injury that can break bones of hands, legs, teeth and skull from getting into fights. Violent death can also come very quickly from being run over by motor vehicles or falling from heights. Being caught and flogged can leave telltale marks that can be seen mostly on the extensor (back surfaces) of the upper limbs- arms and forearms.

Frequent micturition with mild biting pain as a child urinates, offensive or very bad vaginal odour, with lower abdominal pay may give away the presence of genitourinary tract infection in the girl child. She may sleeping on her feet, excessively drowsy , wanting to be left alone , unable to take any thing by mouth, or even vomiting if pregnancy has come in. Purulent discharge (pus with or without urine) from the penis with agonizing pain (evidence of infection, urethritis) may make the boy child hide away from parents to urinate.

For street children, the risk of acute disease conditions, developing to become chronic is very high and because they have no money, tendency is to buy a few drugs, e.g. assuming a street child contracts gonorrheal infection, he is not likely to panic, but will go to a patent medicine shop for treatment which in most cases is subclinical paving the way for the infection to become chronic , A young Medical student knowing what structures could be at risk will rush to the Venerology Clinic, undergo medical examination, and lab tests which will assist a Physician to administer drugs that will clear the bacterium within days. For the girl child of the street.the reproductive career can be permanently damaged by a single episode of poorly treated gonorrheal infection. Syphilis could also progress from primary through damage to the heart and the third stage where there is damage to the brain (GPI) which may be irreversible.

Water borne, and water associated diseases are common problems with street children, because access to water is a major problem, they are prone to skin diseases, acute and chronic diarrheal diseases, frequent mouth infections, vaginal yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Food poisoning occurs frequently manifesting with diarrhea, and vomiting because street children may be forced to eat from dust bin and drink contaminated water.

Rape, prostitution, early marriage, teenage pregnancies, baby motherhood are some of the problems associated with street children, victims of child trafficking, sex slavery and rape also become victims of stigma, may develop psycho social problems and may find it difficult to live normal lives. Inhabitants of the street don’t operate in a vacuum. Older children of the street organize themselves into gangs, you must belong to a gang, once you enter the street, involvement in drug use, and hard drugs may start with alcohol and cigarettes and then someone graduates to others that will see him dive into many others with little or no will power to fight addiction. Currently street children consume large quantities of cough mixture, antidepressants, and anabolic steroids to make themselves stronger, assuming false optimism.


First is to make the streets less attractive for street children at different levels. Family, community, local governments, State and the Federal governments.

Practical steps to provide basic necessities of life, such as food, water, and electricity.

If there is no electricity in the homes most of the time, and there is a place where a small generating set can provide light at the cost of a bottle of drink, a street child will jump out.

There has been much talk about how badly the standards of education have fallen, without any reasonable or concrete steps to address the condition.

The recently launched Governor Aregbosola child education project, should be adopted by the Federal government as a sustainable policy for child empowerment development and education.

The benefits are numerous; It will make the school more attractive and the streets less so.

It is indeed very timely going by the possibility of making JME an e exam by 2015.

The governor perhaps gave more devotion to how the problem of our technological stagnation can be solved at the first rungs of the academic ladder. How they can be empowered to learn , build up individual capacity to pass requisite exams and move on to greater heights, at the same time spreading the good hope, not all for the rich as usual but for every one, the arrangement makes provision for continuity and healthy competition

Ogun state has nine registered Universities, the highest of any state in Nigeria, whereas Osun state has four or five .What a proactive enterprise, to ensure that there are enough to feed the universities

This should be taken up as a Federal government project. After all investment in children is investment in the future of the country if mobile phones could be bought and distributed to farmers, then these devices can be bought and made available to our kids, with assistance by the state governments

Children spend quality time face booking, but the contents are mostly on relationships, infatuation, self love etc. they could be redirected to use the equipment to create learning groups, exchange groups, interschool study groups etc

Time spent on wandering /loitering/idling /games can be studied and findings used to review/improve the project

Routine screening can be done on street children (with incentives) to evaluate .psychiatric/mental health, to know those already on alcohol, other drugs including hard drugs

Research.—knowledge attitude and perception ( kAP) studies, can also be sponsored to seek out candidates suitable for rehabilitation…it may then be possible to know the extent of their involvement, identity of their social contacts, those being indoctrinated /brainwashed among other benefits

Some parents give no good examples and so the children have a teacher of bad habits in their Mom or Dad

Intending couples should be encouraged to think seriously about relationships before you go into one, so you don’t end up with unwanted pregnancies.

Health education, age appropriate should be encouraged in schools, churches and family fellowship

Government should also pay more attention to funding in homes for motherless babies and orphanages

It is time young girls stopped looking at Europe and America as pure heaven, reality is that they also have their own problems of people feeding directly from the dustbin.

Parents, churches should to the extent possible monitor what their children are doing in terms of face booking competition, faces simply do not represent human being

What about what children are doing and being allowed to do in the different schools? How age appropriate are the messages they are getting? How gender sensitive. What relationship exists between teachers, pupils and students?

Who and how are records kept? In the Holy Trinity Grammar school of those days, the principal took the matter of children on the street very seriously. He took time to ride bicycle and would chase students anywhere they ran, even into bushes and broth them into schools with severe disciplinary measures to serve as deterrent to others. Students were encouraged to go to the school libraries during free periods. Loitering was forbidden because they were used as avenues to dash to the streets

With the large population of this country, and the presence of vast portions of arable land, the School to land policy which was the brain child of a previous Military Government should be reexamined. Research has shown that more than half of the total number of street boys are secondary school dropouts, and The finance minister has been glad to announce that Non oil exports has now climbed to over 20%, while this is encouraging, poverty and hunger are two conditions which prepare many Nigerian Women(including pregnant women ) and children for Malaria to complete the dying process, One sure way of eradicating hunger and perhaps poverty is to pump money into mechanized agriculture, send young people for training in specific areas, remove the fear attached to farming that farmers die young and because they die for subsistence die poor. With milking machines, tractors, harvesters, incubators, with research laboratories, there will be enough to eat and family coherence needed to bring children close to their families can be guaranteed. Taking inventories, census of those living secondary schools, of youth corps members will enable proper planning and efficient management of a School to land initiative. It is a reliable way of getting children away from the streets, and reducing the number of children and young adults available for recruitment into various crimes and for trafficking. With enough food to eat and sell, female children can have education to what ever level as desired. They will not need to sell their bodies for money, and even if they have to indulge, they will have the capacity to negotiate for safer sex. Capacity building is not all about giving loans, that are tied to so many strings that recipients end up getting poorer while the banks declare unbelievable profits, the school to land initiative is a better alternative for those too poor or too young to assess bank loans.

Governments, National orientation agency and others concerned with the welfare of Children should engage schools, colleges, physicians in family health, child health and pediatrics and support them to carry out research in the problem of street children . Government should bring down the costs of adoption, but do more monitoring once the processes are done with. Relevant agencies can involve social workers in supervision and management of minor conditions.

Governments can build Science and Technology camps, mechanic, Lap top, and cell phone repair centers in strategic locations, where large groups of street boys congregate. Inventors can emerge from such camps and with positive reinforcement, others can emulate and aspire. Dreams and hope will metamorphose into reality, for the individual and for the family/

.It is time wealthy individuals, institutions, multinational companies began to show interest in Debates, quiz contest, and other activities that can reward excellence, and make the streets less attractive for children. Setting up football academies like the one by Channels TV organization is a very good one. The boys are playing fantastic foot ball and are likely to draw others of their age away from street life. Someone should try a similar experiment with the girls and you will be amazed. However, not every one plays foot ball, just as we don’t expect every child to know how to play the saxophone, or guitar, but every child needs an education. Those who give out 50 million naira to sponsor birthday parties for strangers in our midst as a way of showing they have money need to spare a few minutes to imagine what one million can do for a home for the motherless, being managed by Catholic missions. These catholic charity organizations will be wondering whether God gave Wealthy Nigerians such retrogressive mindset that we can actually prefer to build more houses abroad than give financial support to the needy, even within extended family systems.

Churches and religious organizations should encourage activities that teach children to avoid dangerous experiments, avoid attempting to do things they watch and see on television. Church programs for children should include insightful comments and activities on the fear of God, the love and respect for parents, family members and authorities. Such programs for children should not be designed to exploit parents, because no matter in what for it is disguised, children have their own ways of knowing what the intentions are. If Children can not find comfort, assurance and hope in Churches, they will find them on the street, if those telling them to give their lives to Christ hide to engage in anti Christian activities, Children will show that they too can hide and see what goes on in the dark, and if they cant give their lives to Christ, the devil, bacteria and dangerous viruses will all be very happy to take over such lives,

We need Stronger Parents Teachers Associations (PTA) is in our Schools and colleges, where office holders –at least some of them have children in the schools they oversee. Policy makers should also have their children in the schools. Situations exist where female school children are made to go out and look for water in school compounds where there are boys known to belong to the class of children on the street. These innocent girls who are either sent to fetch water or throw dust bins can be enticed with in many ways by these boys hanging around the school premises for just such opportunities so as to give vent to their dangerous feelings. One wonders why people entrusted with oversight functions only pay visits and do so without giving pupils and students the opportunity to share their experience concerning health, safety and environment. When cases of rape are discovered under conditions such as stated above, parents are usually very reluctant understandably to expose their children to the associated negative publicity and the stigma slapped on victims of rape. School authorities report cases late, when if there was transmission of infection, it will have gone past the incubation period. Take the issue of HIV/AIDS for instance, which has incubation period between eight weeks and ten years; bringing a rape victim to the clinic three days after the incidence is useless, except if it is done to have a record of the status of the victim. Similarly, going to the Doctor two weeks after the incidence so you can get a Medical report for the Police are unhelpful over 80% of the forensic evidence would have been lost. Moreover, giving antiretroviral drugs after twenty four hours does not guarantee even up to 40% destruction of the pool of invading viruses. From all these, it should be apparent that every thing humanly possible should be done to either keep young female students in boarding schools away from street children or avoid situations where these little girls are forced into situations where they have no choice. Most of these children are easily frightened when they realize their parents are hundreds and thousands of kilometers away and phones are forbidden.

Article Credit: The Nation Newspaper

Updated 6 Years ago

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Tags:     Pediatrics and child health; in focus: Children of the street and children on the street (3)