The plight of Liberia’s street children
Apr 10, 2006
by Sam K Zinnah / Contributing Writer
For some children in Liberia, the streets are where they look to find their home(s), parents, playground, education, health care & their love. For others, the streets are where they work, from as earlier as sunrise to as late as midnight. To be street child/children is the plight of so many young people not only in Liberia but West Africa or Africa as a whole. In Liberia, relief agencies continued to bring relief to not only street children but the entire war ravage Liberian populace since the out break of the senseless civil crisis that claim thousands of lives and properties for fifteen years. During and after the heat of the civil crisis in Liberia, charitable organizations also provided relief for thousands of people including: Street children, elderly, internally displaced & refugees. Up to present, those charitable organizations remain some of the biggest hopes for homeless street children & war affected Liberians.
Categories of street children in Liberia
In Liberia, nobody actually knows the number of street children. The dictating situation pushes the number higher on the daily basis. According to some recent census conducted by Don Bosco Homes, "a catholic based non governmental organization catering to street & homeless children in Liberia” the number of street children in the city of Monrovia alone is around 3000. Monrovia street children can be placed into two major groups: working street children and children that lives on the streets .working street children comprises of those who leave home in the morning to sell and then return home in the evening. These children are in many instances sent by their parents or relatives to earn money to help with the running of the home.
The second category of street children is the children that live in the streets. This category comprise of those who live in the streets. They do some contracts of fetching water or washing dishes and carrying short distance loads for people, most of them are mentally compared to steal and are involved in other forms of hustle. They sleep in unfinished buildings, market stalls, old & abandon cars, soccer pitches and just any available places they can find regardless of it safety. They are largely self-supervised.
Causes of street children
In Liberia, the unemployment status of many parents & parental neglect leads to children running away from home to go in the streets to hustle on their own to meet the expense of their survival or to make ends meet. Most of the time when the parents of some of these street children are traced, it is pathetic to see the poverty of the homes they come from. Because of the aftermath of the senseless civil war in Liberia, many parents don’t have the means to support their children.
The negative impact of street life on children is enormous. Many street children lack basic rights such as education, family love, health care, good food & safety. Other disadvantages include exposure to drugs, the risk of being knocked down by uninsured cars, harsh punishment for little offences, the early arrival of adulthood, association with the wrong people & criminals and lost of family ties. Another big problem is exploitation. Street children are most time exploited by adults who hire them to work for wages payable at the end of the month but often the contracts are terminated even before the end of the month without good reason and the children remain unpaid. The dictating situation in Liberia is causing children to rebel against their parents and even their own faith. During my stay in Liberia or Africa, I wonder many time weather God was turning his attention away from Liberia.
During the civil crisis in Liberia, I was joining many other Christians that were arguing over the relationship of the great commandment. The multi million dollars question that came to my mind was: What is my primary responsibility in a world without Christ, especially struggling with the poverty, injustice and violence that are the result of sin?
My inner soul "who I called my second self" quickly told me that my primary responsibility should be to verbally share the Gospel to fulfill the great commission” to preach the Gospel to all people”. But others shouted back equally loudly, that no one would listen to or respond to the Gospel unless their more basic needs are met. And doesn’t Christ also give us the great commandment, telling us to love those around us as we love ourselves? Can we glorify God by showing Christ’s love in meeting human need?
My personal experiences in Africa and the studies of the scripture have convinced me that as soon as we start pitting commandment against each other we’ve gotten off track. Scripture makes it clear that the believer’s responsibility is not simply to witness or meet human need. If we are asking about which is more important, social action, we are focusing on the wrong thing all together. Our responsibility as believers is to live as complete Kingdom people and evangelists. As evangelists, we must live with the Gospel on our lips and in our lives all the time.
Christ became human and lived among us (John 1:14) as believers who have encountered God, we should be eager to imitate Christ by living among those who do not yet know him “Christ”.
Sam K Zinnah