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Street children at risk of death in Juba

Street child in Juba (Photo by Radio Tamazuj)

By Kitab A Unango

Although international declarations upholding children’s rights for survival and development were already enshrined in the domestic laws and policies of South Sudan, street children continue to be deprived of proper health care.

Often torn between giving the SSP 20 charged as consultation fee in public hospitals and buying a meal, the children opt for the later.

Their diseases range from common cold, to serious cases of pneumonia. Their worst fear is being bitten by stray dogs, a common occurrence in the central business district. This is their biggest risk, since it exposes them to rabies.

However, despite the gravity of the illness, they choose not to seek medical attention and instead wait for a “miracle” to happen.

Sebit Ibrahim, 14, said they could not get health services because they did not have money to pay for it.

Ibrahim said sometimes they work and use the money to buy some medicine.

“We collect garbage from restaurants and the owners pay us some money which we use to buy some medicine from clinics whenever we fall sick”, he said. He added that sometimes well-wishers come to their rescue whenever they fall sick. “Sometimes we are taken for treatment at Juba Teaching Hospital by people who take pity on us”, Ibrahim added.

James Loro, 13, said he has never got treatment since he became a street child since time immemorial.

“I have never sought any treatment when I start ailing. I just stay like that hoping that God will be my ultimate healer,” he added. Loro pointed out that they were often beaten whenever they tried to use shops verandas for shelter even during the rainy season, exposing them to serious cold.

“We are beaten for sleeping under verandas. They said they do not want us to be there and we do not have any place to go to”, Loro said. Loro opted for the streets when his parents passed away during the war, since he had no one to take care of him. “I just want a place I can live peacefully,” he added.

Nelson John, 13, said that they do not have mosquito nets and sheets to cover themselves.

“Mosquitoes bite us all nights and sometimes we fall sick because no mosquito nets and sheets for covering”, John said.

The Director of Public Health at the Juba City Council Kalisto Tombe Jube said it was hard to offer proper health care to the street children because they were mobile.

“They have no permanent residence and they move from one place to another. Hence we cannot look into their health”, Tombe said.

Tombe added that his department was ready to teach street children how to maintain their personal hygiene.

“I am appealing to all those who are responsible for street children to bring them together so that we can advise them on personal grooming”, Tombe added.

The Assistance Director of Child Welfare in the State Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, Ms. Fidelsia Hillary Pitia said street children were vulnerable to diseases  due to  lack of basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing.

“They do not have clean food, they use contaminated water and they sleep on the streets making them vulnerable to any disease”, Ms. Pitia said.

She pointed out that before the outbreak of war the number of street children was estimated to be 3000 but the number has shot up drastically. “War, domestic violence, hunger, divorce has contributed to the increase in the number of street”, she said.

Ms. Pitia added that some NGOs have also undermined efforts to minimize the number of street children.

“Some NGOs go to street children without our notice with the aim of gaining and promising them that they would come and take them or provide them their basic needs making them to go back to the street”, Hillary added.

She urged NGOs dealing with street children to channel their activities through the ministry adding that it would contribute in minimizing the ever increasing number of street children.

Ms. Pitia added that any attempt aimed at solving issues of street children such as assessing their situation, providing food, accommodation and health services would succeed if goes through the ministry.


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