Sudan's homeless form "street families" to survive FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 00:49:13 -0700 (PDT)


FWD  http://www.oneworld.org/ips2/june98/07_12_013.html


     MAKING THE BEST OF A HOME AWAY FROM HOME

     By Nhial Bol


KHARTOUM, Jun 1 (IPS) - Life on the streets is far from easy, but for
thousands of children in Sudan, the streets of cities and towns
throughout the country have become the next best thing to what was
once a home. They have no parents and according to some of the
children, they have not rejected society, rather, society has
forgotten them. ''When I go near people, they treat me like a leper,
simply because I live on the streets or because they see me on the
streets daily,'' says Abdalla Abdel Rahman, who is in his late teens.

''We are not the ones rejecting the society. We have been rejected by
the society and therefore we opt to live in the streets,'' he adds.

Rahman says his parents left him in a railway station in western Sudan
when he was very young. He finally made his way to the capital,
Khartoum, where he says he has grown up. ''I know what is good and
what is bad,'' says Rahman, adding that he entered the school of life
early.

Another young boy, from Southern Sudan, told IPS that the young and
the old on the streets, who have found themselves cast out of society,
have tended to form new families among themselves to survive.

Pointing to an elderly man nearby, who is a leper, the young boy says:
''This man is my father, but not my real father, because he treats me
like a son''.

The burden of finding a solution to the growing problem of street
children in Sudan rests with non-governmental organisations.

Poverty, drought and the ongoing civil war in the South has disrupted
families, leaving thousands of children orphaned or abandoned. Some
civic organisations estimate that over 30,000 boys and girls live on
the streets of Khartoum.

''The children wandering in the streets are war and drought victims,''
says Sayda M. Bashir, the State Minister of Social Planning, who
admits that the government alone, with its limited resources, cannot
care for the large number of homeless children nationwide.

''We need the ngos to take care of these children, collect them and
rehabilitate them. The state alone cannot help these children...,''
she says.

International and local organisations, Minister Bashir says, should
come up with plans and strategies to deal with the homeless children.
''We (government) have turned to them (ngos) and now it is their turn
to show their programmes.''

Oxfam United Kingdom and Save The Children Fund (SCF) UK are two
organisations that have attempted to work in the country with
children, but according to an SCF official, there have been government
roadblocks.

''Save the Children Fund UK campaigned to help the street children in
many parts of Sudan, but the programme was so slow due to government
restrictions,'' an SCF official told IPS.

The main problem is raising funds to support programmes for children
due to the tense relations between the donors and the Sudanese
government, explains the official who asked not to be named.

Oxfam UK has worked with street children in the country since 1990. It
has developed vocational training centres where the children can learn
carpentry, mechanics, leather work and plumbing.

Learning skills to be rehabilitated back into society is often
difficult for the boys and girls who make their money on the streets
through drugs, sex and crime, says Mohamed Abaker, a researcher with
the Amal (Hope) Society.

A large number of the youth on the streets are girls, Abaker says, and
this has led to the development of a child prostitution network
throughout the country.

''According to our findings, some of these street girls start
prostitution between the ages of 12 to 16, and many of them are active
these days in the tourists towns of Port Sudan, Gederaf and
Khartoum.''

Some of the children have set up petty businesses in front of shops,
near mosques, and in open squares, but they are often raided by the
police. During special religious celebrations or visits by foreign
heads of state, the children are rounded up by the police and hidden
out of sight on the outskirts of the capital.

Having lived on the streets for so long, some of the children say they
have no desire to be brought back into society's fold.

''I am more happy here now than some years ago,'' Rahman says, but he
admits too that street life is hard.

If he were to leave the streets, what would he want to do? ''To join
the police,'' Rahman answers quickly. Why? ''Because, I can help my
colleagues.'' (end/ips/nb/pm/98)

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