The tragedy of 15,000 street children in Malawi

In Malawi, some 15,000 children live on the streets. A tragedy caused by poverty, family disintegration and HIV/AIDS, which has orphaned around 1.2 million children in the southern African country. This number is on the rise, as growing food insecurity takes its toll on families. Poverty leads to children dropping out of school, running away or being thrown out of their homes.

Street children often join criminal gangs to survive. Younger children are given the task of begging and stealing to survive, and remain protected by older gang members. Even those who manage to reunite with their families continue to earn their living through street crime.

Over the years, crimes attributed to these youth gangs have multiplied. Many Malawians now live in fear for their own safety and that of their property. Children, for their part, are abused by older boys and, as adults, they fear going to prison for vagrancy, not to mention the girls who run the risk of being sexually abused.

Among initiatives aimed at remedying this tragedy, the Community of Sant’Egidio has launched a project to educate and improve the well-being of street children in the capital, Lilongwe. At the inauguration of the House of Hope in Chitedze, Lilongwe, the Community of Sant’Egidio’s regional coordinator for Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, Paola Germano, expressed her concern at the growing number of children living on the streets in Malawi’s capital, stressing that it was time for the government and its partners to work together to solve the problem.

« The problem of street children is very present in Malawi. And as the Community of Sant’Egidio, our mission is to complement the government’s efforts to solve this problem, » said Paola Germano. « Street children are our sons and daughters. We cannot abandon them, » she continued. Sant’Egidio’s project has an initial duration of five years and plans to offer education to 40 street children.

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