A night in the life of street children

OUT in the cold he struggles to sleep every night. He cannot; the freezing weather won’t let him. It won’t and it can’t! Mother Nature and her caprices do not give way to any human suffering. That is the rule on earth.

A tattered blanket and a pile of flattened card boxes are not enough to ward off the chill. Shiver fits throughout the night abolish his dream. The tattered clothes are not helping in any manner. What with sleeping on a pavement deserted by people as they retire to the comforts and warmth of their homes.

When midnight approaches the last of the commuters hurry home while the street children doss down on the cold pavement floors in Harare’s central business district.

Others descend into the drains seeking shelter from the winter winds swirling around the deserted silent city.
For some in the Avenues area they gather around a fire and take turns to pile pieces of cardboard boxes and used vehicle tyres.
These are the daily woes that street children face during the harsh and biting winter season every year.

The Weekend Post managed to track down some of the street children to understand how they survive during the winter season. Rodney Nzuwa, 14, says winter is the most difficult time of the year for him. He says the streets have been his home since the age of six after running away from home when his parents passed on.

Putting on a ragged thin T-shirt and a pair of cotton trousers with his torn shoes flopping behind him Nzuwa says: “My brother we are surviving by the mercy of the Lord. Life is difficult for us. We can freeze to death in this weather. That is how bad it is”.
“I sleep in an alleyway with my friend because we don’t like to join other groups. Groups have ring leaders and we hate being led by someone so we keep it to ourselves. If we manage to get any money or food we share it equally amongst ourselves,” adds Nzuwa.

Asked what they use as their sleeping material he says: “We have some cardboard boxes, plastics and some tattered blankets. We keep them in some dysfunctional drain and collect them at night. The material does not suffice but it’s enough for us to see another day”.

Shamiso Moyo, another street child aged 15 with a baby said winter has taken its toll on her and her child.
“This part of the year is most difficult for me and my two-year-old son and as we don’t have sufficient clothes and blankets to protect ourselves against the cold weather. At night we sleep by a fire together with some of my friends. This helps a lot for us,” she said.

“But it’s challenging because we easily catch flue and colds and we do not have money to seek medication. So winter for us is a nightmare and we always dread it, but there is nothing else we can do,” added Moyo.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) most street children in Zimbabwe come from the rural areas.
“The fact that many street children came originally from rural areas was confirmed in focused group discussions with street adults and interviews with street child-care workers.
“Increasing poverty levels in rural areas, the impact of HIV/Aids on rural people and other socio-economic factors impacting negatively on rural folk, has had the effect of decreasing rural families (households) and communities’ ability to provide adequately for their children,” says the organisation.

“Rural folk are adversely affected when their members, who used to work in towns and used to remit funds, fall ill and have to in turn be cared for by rural people with little resources.
“When many adult members die due to HIV/Aids, children often head households and seek employment in urban areas to help them fulfil their new responsibilities,” adds Unicef.—Lloyd Mbiba

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