The daily survival routine of Mogadishu’s street children

The daily survival routine of Mogadishu’s street children

MOGADISHU (AFP) — Stray bullets and molestors are only some of the dangers 11-year-old Abdi Mohamed Abdusamad faces when he chooses a place to sleep in the streets of Mogadishu.

War and poverty have thrown thousands of children into the streets of the Somali capital, leaving them in the crossfire of one of the world’s most brutal guerrilla wars and exposed to disease, drugs and sexual violence.

Abdi spends his days collecting plastic bottles as well as the bags in which khat deliveries arrive several times a day to satisfy the Somali male population’s addiction to the mild narcotic plant.

The children wash them and sell them back, earning enough to buy one or two packs of cigarettes on which they can then make a small profit selling by the stick.

"Sometimes the little money you have earned in the day is taken away by an older street boy… There are also those who want to molest the younger children," says Abdi.

A torn red tee-shirt dangles from his bony shoulders as from a hanger. His face is covered in dirt. "I only get a chance to wash on Fridays," he says.

In the devastated trading neighbourhood of Bakara — from which most residents have fled — little clusters of children clothed in rags and as young as eight or nine can be seen sniffing glue.

"I’ve lived in the streets of Mogadishu since my parents left the capital for safety reasons. I remained here… to collect bags from the streets and shine shoes," says Ahmed Mukhtar, another 11-year-old boy.

He says his daily work can earn him between 6,000 and 10,000 Somali shillings, around half a dollar or just enough to buy a meal of rice in a cheap restaurant and a banana.

According to UNICEF and local aid agencies, there are at least 5,000 street children in the war-torn capital.

"Three thousand of them spend the night at the homes of distant relatives or neighbours, but the remaining 2,000 sleep in the streets most of the time," says Amina Mohamed, a Somali aid worker specialised in child protection.

"They find work in the streets, shoe-shining and also collecting old khat leaves from the market. They sell them to the poorest addicts who can’t afford a fix of fresh bundles," she explains.

The children’s desperate scramble to find in the city’s litter enough to survive until the next day takes place in some of the worst neighbourhoods of a city often described as one of the most dangerous in the world.

"Besides the humanitarian difficulties, the children are at risk of being hit by stray bullets and rockets more than any other person in the capital," says Zeynab Mohamud, a volunteer and retired school teacher.

Every child has tales of narrow escapes and sleepless nights sheltering from the daily clashes pitting Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces against Islamist insurgents.

All sides in the street guerrilla war which has further destroyed an already battered city since last year have been accused by rights group of using disproportionate force and failing to protect civilians.

Some of the children populating the streets of Mogadishu’s deserted flashpoint neighbourhoods still have parents in the city but are being used to bring extra income to the household.

"My mother wakes me up in the morning, she says a prayer for me to be safe and gives me breakfast so that I can spend the day in Bakara," says Ali Sheikh Mohamed, a 12-year-old.

"What money I make I bring mostly back to her so that she can feed my two sisters and brother," he says.

Ali’s nine-year-old brother also works in the streets. "But he rarely gets much money because he’s working from a new neighbourhood."

Some aid agencies pay small amounts of cash to guards working in areas where street children sleep in a bid to protect them from child molestors.

"These children were driven here by poverty. I treat them like they were my own but financially I can do nothing for them," says Mohamed Hassan, a watchman in central Mogadishu’s Hamerweyn district.

Ali says education is a luxury he and his siblings can ill afford since their father was swept away by illness and their mother’s new husband killed by a stray bullet.

In a city which has been turned into a field of ruins by 17 years of bitter civil conflicts, school is low on the list of priorities for many children, who dream of guns and dollars.

"I wish I owned a nice car and had lots of personal guards in vehicles mounted with heavy machineguns," says Issak Mohamed, a boy of 11 years.

Mustafa Daud, who is one year older, says he would like to become a doctor or a successful businessman with hundreds of people working for him.

"I must be nice to be rich and loved by everyone."

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Dangers Faced by Street Children of Mogadishu

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Written by Mohamed Shiil,

Published in : News, Human Rights

Shoe ShinerMogadishu, (insidesomalia.org) abandoned street children are not safe in the streets wrecked by the ongoing fighting in capital city.

Around 2,000 children live in the streets of Mogadishu based on a report released in 2005 by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Most of street children face being caught in cross fire between TFG backed by Ethiopian army and Islamists. A twelve year old street boy called Mohamed Sahal told insidesomalia.org some of his close friends died in the shoot out in the capital, some were wounded and others taken as prisoners,’ I saw two friends of mine shot dead as they were trying cross a junction of one of the main streets in Mogadishu in Bar Ubah, Black Sea and Howl wadaag”.

Another risk is addiction to drugs such sniffing glue and a local narcotic drug Khat. Khat contains the alkaloid cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which causes excitement and euphoria.

Mohamed Sahal earns meager wages by shinning shoes, but this is hard to come by in a city where people have fled and have other pressing issues on their mind.

Mohamed has spoken about his experience from the fighting in Mogadishu and how he had survived from the stray bullets, mortar shells, and rocket propelled grenades. ‘At least for two days consecutively I was hiding under the wooden kiosks where Khat is sold – known as Kabar”.

Mohamed sleeps in a small room he rented, which he shares with other people mostly elderly beggars and some other young street children who are also shoe shiners.

There are no statistics of the official number of the street boys killed or wounded in the fighting in Mogadishu but, many children were either killed or wounded in the recent fighting.

Homeless children get very little support from government, local community and by their relatives. In Somalia, children have little opportunity for education and rights.

The condition of Somaliland street children needs help!

The condition of Somaliland street children needs help!

29 March, 2006 by adnan abdi from Somaliland

Although, the country is in a winter season with strong cold winds blowing mainly in the afternoon, you might also see a young children aged b/w 8 to 17 laying along the walls of Hargeisa down town.

With a condition that isn’t completely suitable for human being. There is not single thing in between them and the ground on that they are sleeping on. Furthermore, the vicinity isn’t healthy. Where they live is used a dual purpose shelter, a place for sleeping and toilet. A part from that, what is far worse than this unhealthy condition in their environment is the use of drugs. They have accustomed to chewing khat, sniffing drugs and smoking cigarettes that are hazard to their health condition.
Some times, these children sniff alcohol from a single tan and this might at ease to transmit diseases easily.  

These children known as street children are growing in number day after day in Hargeisa, capital city of Somaliland.
A survey conducted by UNICEF in 2003 estimated that the number of street children have reached up 974 in Somaliland with 400 of these kids live in Hargeisa alone.
As the study shown, these kids are divided into these following categories;

1. Children living at home and working on the street.
2. Children working and living on the street.
3. Children not working but living on the street and abusing drugs.
4. Children roaming the street and usually not working or abusing drugs. (the minority)

A. Children living at home and working on the street

The majority of children on the street go to work each day and return home at night to give their earnings to their families. These children are generally well behaved, not part of a gang, not involved in criminal or immoral activities and not drug users. Consequently, they are also in better physical and psychological condition than those children living and working on the street. As the study states, the earning of these type of street children were essential on the survival of them and their families.

B. Children living and working on the street

The majority of children living and working on the street say they struggle each day to survive. They report not being involved in criminal activities and not using drugs. They usually do some jobs and have the same working conditions as the children we stated earlier. The major difference is that these children lack the stability and emotional support that come from having a home.
The condition of most of these children is desperate. They struggle to find enough food for one meal a day, often buying leftovers from vendors or restaurants. They often live with out shelter in the markets or on the streets and use the Sea for bathing and public areas for toileting. Unsurprisingly, most appear dirty and malnourished.

C. Children not working but living on the street and abusing drugs

This group is small and seems to include many of the self proclaimed ‘dangerous’ and emotionally disturbed children. Many say they ran away from their homes and came to the street to work, but over time lost hope and were coerced to join drug-using gangs. They report the habitual use of drugs: most commonly sniffing glue, but also chewing qat, smoking hashish and using various pills from pharmacies.

D. Children roaming the street

Although many children play on the streets, only a few were found actually roaming the streets. Some of these said they lived at home, others on the street. They usually neither worked nor used drugs, and most appeared to be lost and vulnerable.

However, there are some local organizations who take responsibility of collecting some of these young street children from the market. Among them is HAVOYOCO. In fact, this is the sole local organization that greatly helped these children. They have collected around 300 children from the streets of the city and they get many them back in to their homes. Now they have 55 street children in their center where they shelter, feed and educate them. As Ifrah rashed told me when they collect these the children interview them. And when they find their families, they get back to their families. A part from this rehabilitation, they also give free education and skills to work. Upon my visit to this center, I find different children from the street children. They are well behaving kids and they are physically good looking.

The important question, can HAVOYOCO take the responsibility of rehabilitating and helping the all street children in Somaliland?

Truly speaking, these children need extensive support from the Somalis around the globe to help them rehabilitate and get them back into the real truck of life.

UNICEF – Street children and Orphans

UNICEF – Street children and Orphans

A 1996 UNICEF preliminary assessment of children in especially difficult circumstances (CEDC) in Somalia revealed that street children in urban centres and children living orphanages face significant and particular problems. Given that the majority of children in Somalia can be classified as living under difficult circumstances, street children and orphans in Somalia constitute a particularly vulnerable and neglected group which cries out for humanitarian assistance. UNICEF proposes to continue to study the problems of street children and orphans in Somalia, to devise appropriate interventions and to monitor the situation.

Many Somali children have witnessed or been involved in periods of armed conflict and experiences of violence perpetrated against family members. Many have lost one or both parents. Often they have been abandoned, separated from their families or fostered by relatives within the extended family (clan). Some local authorities and community members have already taken the initiative of addressing the growing problem of street children.

Estimates of the number of street children in selected urban centres of Somalia are as follows:

Hargeisa

350

Boroma

200

Berbera

300

Bossasso

300

Kismayo

150

TOTAL

1,300

(not including Mogadishu)

It is almost certain that similar numbers of street children can be found in other urban centres, particularly Mogadishu, which could not be covered by the UNICEF survey due to insecurity. The total number of children on the streets is therefore much higher than 1,300.

Orphanages have existed in Somalia for many years. Many were established under the umbrella of UNOSOM but have since ceased functioning due to interruption of support and funds. Some local organisations are trying to rehabilitate disused orphanage premises to provide care to these vulnerable children.

Another aspect of the difficult circumstances faced by orphans is that of adapting to Somali society and conditions once they reach the age of having to leave the orphanages. Having lived comparatively sheltered lives within institutions, many of these children are unprepared for the harsh reality of having to survive without support. Problems related to integrating into their society can be one of the most traumatic experiences for a young adult.

UNICEF proposes to work with local authorities, community leaders and managers of orphanages (and similar institutions) to review the situation at the local level, identify appropriate actions and provide support in addressing these problems.