Mr Dela Ashiagbor, the Deputy Director in charge of Programmes for Development at the Department of Social Welfare, has appealed to the government to increase its allocation to help reduce the number of children on the streets.
He said government needed to allocate more funds in the budget for the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Department of Social Welfare to enable them save as many children from the streets and to take care of their welfare.
He also urged non-governmental organisations and benevolent individuals to support the department with funds or help to enrol some of the street children in vocational and skills training to enable them have meaningful lives.
Mr Ashiagbor said speaking at a meeting organised in Accra by the Department in collaboration with Chance for Children, a non-governmental organisation which focuses on empowering street children.
The meeting was held to interact with 20 children on the streets to enable them to express their concerns and needs to the Department for the necessary actions to be taken.
This was part of the activities organised by the Department to commemorate the ninth International Day for Street Children, which is organised annually on April 12, to provide a platform for millions of street children around the world to speak out so that their rights were not ignored.
Mr Ashiagbor explained that even though the Department had initiated many programmes to save children on the streets, the major obstacle and challenge was funding.
This, he said, was because the budget government allocated to the Department through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection was not adequate and therefore deterred the Department from executing most of its programmes.
“Although such children live on the streets, they equally have the right to good health, education, shelter, good food, and skills training,” he said. Mr Ashiagbor disclosed that the Department would spearhead a headcount of street children to place them under categories as they had unique reasons for ending up on the streets and therefore, needed to be handled individually.
He said the children on the streets would be taken through counselling for them to be certain on whether they want to go back to school or enrol in a vocational skills training.
Mr Selassy Gbeglo, the Project Manager of Chance for Children, said some of the children on the streets were visionaries but lacked the needed support and therefore, called on government, groups and individuals to support the fight against streetism in the country. In an interaction with the children, some of them said they left the house out of maltreatment from their step parents or biological parents while others were from broken homes. Kwadwo Agyekum, a 15-year old boy and one of the street children said: “I have six other siblings on the streets at East Legon. Our dad got married to another woman and out of pain and maltreatment, our mother died later. “My dad used to head a church and was later kicked out, so he resorted to selling herbal medicine in cars to survive. Therefore, we also preach at open places and live on the offerings we receive from those who are touched by our preaching,” he said.
Abdulai Haruna, a 14-year old street child said he lost his mum and his dad was not able to take care of him, and he, therefore, left to join his friends who lived on the streets at Accra Railways where they collected waste metals and electronic wastes for sale.
Olivia, a 10-year old street child from Kpandai in the Northern Region, sharing her story in tears said: “I don’t have a father so the only name I have is Olivia. I came to school in Accra with my mother and she developed a severe stomach problem and went back to our hometown.”
“Since then, I have lived with my sister on the streets and we collect onions to sell to make a living. I wished someone would help me to go back to school,” she added.