July 9, 2021

Addis Ababa seems ambitious to save street children, but to no avail

City: Addis AbabaSociety

Addis Ababa is the main epitome where street children live.

Avatar: Nigist Berta
By Nigist Berta

Nigist is a senior reporter and content creator at Addis Zeybe, who is experienced in journalism and who explores her passion for storytelling.

Addis Ababa seems ambitious to save street children, but to no avail

Addis Ababa is the main epitome where street children live. It is common to see many young boys and girls flooding the main streets of Addis Ababa, especially at the traffic light sites. Children, teenagers, and sometimes mothers with their children at their back are seen following the drivers or following people on foot on the sidewalk asking for money and water.

 Street children's addiction to high glue as a drug left their social, economic, and psychological traumas in a state of shock, which led them to bad behavioral change.

In this regard, two years ago the Addis Ababa City Administration implemented various plans to change the lives of the kids. 

Evidence shows that the street child lifting project was first launched in 2011. With no decrease in the number of street children, many criticize the project for not making any visible change. And there are no documented results found about the achievements of the project led by the Addis Ababa Mayor Office.

 In the 2019 local calendar,  a program was relaunched by the former Addis Ababa City Administration Deputy Mayor Takele Uma to alleviate this problem in a sustainable way.

When the Deputy Mayor launched the program he said, “The project aimed to raise the homeless and people living by the roadside. Today we begin with about 2,000. For now, this lifting is voluntary. But over time, that is likely to change.”

During that time, the government pledged to give homes to 5,000 people in the first round. It has relocated 3,147 homeless people, the elderly, the disabled, and the like in eight relocation centers, in the capital.

Currently, the project seems to have been forgotten following the resignation of the former deputy mayor. Addis Zeybe asked Addis Ababa City Administration Labor and Social Affairs Bureau, about the current status of the project.

"Nothing has been stopped,"  said Tefera Molla, the head of the Bureau, adding that the evacuation will not stop until the street children start to live a better life. “This will continue to be done by our office.”

According to the head of the Bureau, out of the 11,000 street people who have transitioned from street life in the last ten months, 8,200 have been funded by the government whereas the rest have been assisted by NGOs. But he has failed to show documented evidence due to many reasons.

For the question, why are there still lots of street children in the street, in the city? Tefera responded saying, “As it gives them easy access to addictive substances, some find the street a better place to live,” Tefera explained. “So even if these people are offered alternative employment opportunities, they would find their working money income less than the money they would get from the work given to them and they will go to the street option."

The social trust bank account opened by the Addis Ababa City Administration Finance Bureau, also didn't go as expected, and the available money in the account shows a decrease, and some mentioned this as the issue is neglected, Addis Zeybe learned.

Addis Zeybe asked how much money the trust fundraised for the project and how it was used to the Social Trust Fund Office Administrator, Kagnew Abate, and he replied: “At first almost 290,000,000 were collected and after so many works regarding the project were done, about 80,000,000 birr is left now ”.

He also said that the Trust Fund's office was given the responsibility of mobilizing support but since the plan didn’t go as scheduled due to other related works and missions organizing the centers had taken longer than expected.

“The arrival of Covid-19 in 2012 E.C, has affected the establishment and strength of the project. Even though there has been a lot of work-related to covid and student nutrition, which caused a delay, the work is being done, ”he said.

Although the start of the project and the support of the community are of concern, it is clear that no lasting solution has yet been found for the street children. 

It was remembered that a concert was organized by the Union of Evangelical Leaders on August 4, 2011E.C in support of the City Administration's Trust Fund. The concert was held at the Millennium Hall and was planned to raise 100,000,000.00.

Despite repeated attempts to contact union executives to find out how much the projected revenue had hit the target and what had been done, they have failed to respond for a variety of reasons.

Even though we cited this concert as an example, the motivation of individuals and institutions to pick up street children at that time seems to disappear today.

Tefera Molla says, “In our current situation, the evacuation of the streets requires a lot of coordination. Now the problem is only left to the city Administration. 

According to a study released two years ago, there were 88,000 street people nationwide which more than 50,000 were in Addis Ababa.