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Living the promise

Hope for Kenya’s future generation

NAIROBI, 23 February 2007 (IRIN) - “I lost my parents three years ago and since then I have been living in the streets without shelter and assurance of having food every day. Nobody cares about me; whether I live or not,” said William Githira, 15, who lives in the streets of the Kenyan capital. “People don’t want to look at me. I’m trash. I don’t want to live in the streets, but I have nobody. My uncle beat me hard when I lived there, and so I ran. Living in the street is the only way to survive”, he added. In the past decade, the number of street children has increased in many African countries due to deepening poverty. The situation described by William is not uncommon in big cities like Nairobi and elsewhere in the developing world. As half of the total population of Kenya is under 18, the living conditions of street children is one of the greatest challenges facing the government of President Mwai Kibaki. Experts estimate that there are 250,000-300,000 children living and working on the streets, with more than 60,000 of them in Nairobi. Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, and Mombasa, on the coast, also have large populations of street children. Street children face endless cruelties. Their rights have been violated many times by the adults who were supposed to protect them. In many cases these children are subject to sexual exploitation in return for food or clothes. Often, police detain and beat them without reason. .

Kenya is a mess! The conditions for street children are terrible,” said Miriam Ndegwa, programme associate of Youth Alive Kenya. Geoffrey, 23, described his experience in a police station: “I was sleeping one night in the street when the police came and took me to the police station. I did nothing wrong. In the police station I was beaten to confess a crime I did not do. [The police officer] wouldn’t stop until I agreed to what he said. He beat me everywhere with his cane.”