The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and its partners have held a validation meeting on a Five-year Strategic Plan to curb streetism to commemorate the International Day for Street Children.
The partner organisations are the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Consortium for Street Connected Children and the Catholic Relief Services.
International Day for Street Children is celebrated globally on 12 April every year to provide street children with a voice for their rights not to be ignored.
The theme for this year’s celebration, ‘‘Safety for all street-connected children,’’ focuses on the protection of these children.
Globally, there are over 150 million street children and data from a census in the Greater Accra Region in 2010 by the Department of Social Welfare, indicates that 61,492 children are growing on the streets.
The validation meeting is to solicit input from stakeholders into the Five- year Strategic Plan on Street Connected People, developed in June 2022.
It is to provide street connected children access to essential services, including safety, health and education through collaboration of stakeholders, advocacy and building stronger families for them to become responsible citizens.
It focuses on, but not limited to addressing growing numbers of street connected children in different cities, weakening family structures and different forms of abuse that they are exposed to daily.
Some of the strategies to address the menace are nationwide data collection on children in street situation, delivering of ongoing services and pathways to permanency and build child-sensitive communities.
Madam Francisca Oteng-Mensah, Deputy Gender Minister, said efforts were underway to finalise and print the Strategic Plan for dissemination this year.
She said the phenomenon of street-connected life among children stemmed from the foundation of their interaction with adults they were entrusted with whilst growing up.
Madam Oteng-Mensah said factors that contributed to the influx of children on the streets included lack of parental control, school dropouts, child labour, peer pressure and violence between adults.
The Deputy Minister noted that children were exposed to physical and moral dangers whilst living on the streets and sometimes abused by the ‘‘very’’ adults who were supposed to protect and ensure their safety.
She said the vulnerability of children in the society was alarming, hence, called on all stakeholders to take immediate action to ensure their safety.
In 2017, there were 4,853 street children in Ghana, out of which about 4,000 were of school going age.
The Ministry sent over 400 back to school and they were reunited with their families whilst about 2,200 children on the streets were identified by the National Security at vantage points of Accra and Kumasi in 2021.
On Tuesday, 7th June 2022, the Embassy of Niger in collaboration with the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and other relevant stakeholders deported 1,320 Nigerians to their home country.
Currently, the Ministry, Madam Oteng said, continued to sensitise parents to be more responsible for their children and was able to reach 580 people, including adults begging with children on the streets.
Ms Hilda Mensah, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF, said the lack of accurate data on children in street situations globally made them invisible resulting in no development of policies or measures that were in ad hoc.
That, she said, led to the persistence of multiple rights violations that forced children onto the streets and continued when they were on the streets.
Ms Mensah encouraged all sectors to integrate child protection into all their programmes and policies to ensure that children were protected from abuse, exploitation, neglect and their rights upheld regardless of their location.
The Child Protection Specialist called for allocation of adequate financial and human resources to Social Welfare and child-focused initiatives to promote children’s rights, protection and well-being.
Dr Ernestina Tetteh, Convener, Coalition of Street Connected Children, said the theme for this year’s celebration must be the primary theme that would guide people’s everyday work with street children since safety was a luxury, which was out of the reach of street children.
She noted that lack of safety in the home had driven many children into the streets where they were unsafe from individual assaults by peers to high level police brutalities with no hope of finding justice.
Dr Tetteh said: ‘‘Our individual members continue to work hard for these children against all odds and it is our hope that as we reflect today, we also consider creating an enabling environment within which they can do more for these children.’’