“What will happen if this situation continues?” asked Abdul during a recent Glad’s House Kenya team meeting. It is two months since the first reported cases of coronavirus reached Kenya. As the country tries to prevent the rate of transmission, curfews and quarantine measures are leaving already vulnerable children more at risk than ever before.
In Mombasa our partner Glad’s House Kenya works to support children and young people on the streets. The city has the country’s second highest number of recorded COVID-19 cases.
For street connected children their normal methods of survival have been taken away. Under lockdown there is no one to beg from or cars to park and wash to earn money. Whilst there are food distributions by County Government and Kenya Red Cross for those with identification and phones, there is nothing for under 18s and those without ID. This means that many street connected children and young people are going hungry. In search of food, vulnerable children are being pushed to the streets, comprising their lives and those of every other person connected to their bases.
Glad’s House Kenya is the only NGO still working on the streets in Mombasa. Everyday, staff are out on the streets distributing food to children and young people.
Kevin, the Head of Street Work at Glad’s House Kenya, recently sent us this report after a day on the streets:
“During our street visits, we realised that most of the street-connected children and young people were hopping around the streets without putting on face masks. We knew we had to start sharing COVID-19 prevention sensitisation to ensure street-connected children get the information to protect themselves and slow the spread of the virus. The team spoke to them and explained the COVID-19 situation in Mombasa. We’ve begun issuing face masks to children who otherwise may not be able to access them. So far, we have issued 75 children and young people connected to the streets with face masks as we continue to encourage them to utilize the available handwashing points.
We also saw a large number of children aged from as young as two to sixteen years old being begging in the city centre. From our headcount by observation, we managed to spot 49 children begging along the streets in less than four hours. The children we spoke to all gave different reasons as why they were not home:
“I came with my grandmother to beg for money so that we can buy food back at home because I could not manage to continue depending on my sister.”girl on the street
“We the poor, we are battling two wars. Hunger and Coronavirus. Hunger has always been there but we have never won. Coronavirus has just come in. We are not yet sure if we will overcome it. We just have to take the risk as there is no alternative.”boy on the street
From our experience what we are witnessing at the moment, Mombasa might be fighting a losing battle against COVID-19.”
Making awareness posters to keep other children safe
Kevin and staff from Glad’s House Kenya are working tirelessly every day to deliver food packages, PPE and care for vulnerable children and young people. But there still are so many who need support.
Tomorrow the team at Glad’s House Kenya will go out onto the streets again. “When I get into a matatu (bus) I can’t stop to worry, what if I get Coronavirus? When I get back to my house and start sneezing, I feel scared. But everyday in the morning I remind myself that those children need me in the streets. That always strengthens me” said Irene, a Glad’s House Kenya Street Worker.
Our partners can’t do it alone. By donating to the BIG Chance you can help us be there for marginalised children at a time when they need us most and get your donation doubled.