Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 16:29 GMT

Kenya: Numbers of street children rising in Eldoret

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 8 August 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Kenya: Numbers of street children rising in Eldoret, 8 August 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/489c1be21a.html [accessed 24 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ELDORET, 8 August 2008 (IRIN) - William, 11, sleeps in an alleyway between two shops in Eldoret town of Kenya's Rift Valley Province, in constant fear of being beaten by police and other security agents.

"The thing I fear the most is being beaten," he said. "Secondly is the fear of going without food and clothes.

"The bad thing is that we are always chased and beaten by government and municipal police," said William, who asked IRIN not to use his real name. "Also when we sleep our things can get stolen ... it's not a safe place for us."

As if on cue, a security guard from a nearby shop approached and hit him twice on the back with his wooden truncheon and kicked him. William and his friends scattered and after regrouping, laughed it off.

"I struggle to find food, but there's nothing I can do about the beatings," he said.

Kenya Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe denied claims that officers were among those who beat up the street children. "We are aware there has been an influx of street children in the town since the post-election violence but allegations that police beat up such children are false," he told IRIN.

"When they [the children] breach the law, all we do is arrest them and hand them over to the Children's Department."

Influx

In January, Eldoret was one of the epicentres of the post-election violence that forced tens of thousands to flee their homes. Across Kenya, more than 1,500 people were killed and many families were split up.

As a result, Save the Children estimates the number of children living on the street in Eldoret has doubled since January 2008.

"We have seen a considerable rise in the number of separated and unaccompanied children as a result of the post-election violence throughout the Rift Valley," said Charlotte Balfour-Poole, a Save the Children programme coordinator.

With the imminent closure of many of the camps for the displaced, even more children are expected to become homeless. Currently, there are over 150 unaccompanied children registered in Eldoret showground camp alone, some as young as six or seven years old.

"Most of these children risk being thrown out on to the streets," Balfour-Poole told IRIN.

Although many children living on the streets were, like William, orphaned during the violence, a considerable number still have one or both parents. Most of the families displaced by the violence fled with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.

Save the Children said the burden of extreme poverty was causing some parents to neglect and even abandon children as they returned to their original farmland and struggled to make ends meet.

Solvent abuse

But William and his friends are optimistic, enterprising and have a strong sense of fraternity; they work together as a barefoot, informal recycling unit.

"I have so many friends, we all look after each other," said William. "We sell these used boxes and scrap metal which we recover from people's rubbish to buy a little food and glue."

Solvent abuse is ubiquitous among William and his friends. The glassy sheen of William's wide unblinking eyes betrays his dependence on glue. Between sentences he draws heavily on a small bottle concealed beneath his grimy sweater.

"I sniff glue for two reasons," he said. "I take it so I feel high and so I can forget."

Although the street-children receive free healthcare at the local district hospital, these vulnerable children are not receiving adequate attention.

"Several of my friends have died from sicknesses. The small ones, most of them get pneumonia and die," William told IRIN.

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