Facts, figures and a whole lot of challenges
- Date: 25/05/2018
- In: East Africa
We’re only a small charity so it’s vital we make sure our resources are targeted to reach the children that need us most. This means that when we start new projects or work in new areas we have to do our research first.
Our East Africa teams are about to expand their work into six new cities across Tanzania so we have just carried out surveys to count how many children are living on the streets of each area. This is vital to us administratively. But going out to collect the data also gives us an insight into the lives of these children.
Our teams took to the streets of Dar es Salaam, Mbeya, Mwanza, Arusha, Dodoma and Iringa over four days and nights in June 2017.
First we had to select our teams. It goes without saying that everyone involved is fully checked, trained and authorised. But we also needed to mix up ages and backgrounds. It can be hard to tell whether older teenagers are working in the cities or living in ghettos there or just visiting to beg for a living. The best way to do this is by using youths that we’ve worked with before, who have experienced the streets themselves. Often they recognised the patterns of behaviour so were able to identify what the teenagers were doing or even knew them as individuals.
What we wore was also important. Despite many of our counters being from official organisations we knew that uniforms were not a good idea. Children on the streets live in fear of authority figures who regularly round them up and even beat them and 28 per cent of the children counted were under 14.
We had to access some difficult locations too. In Mwanza, many of the children felt safest in the graveyard, camping in and around the tombstones and memorials they could hide behind. In Dar es Salaam a collection of empty boats on the shore gave shelter to groups of boys who climbed inside at night.
The weather also made our job harder. One day and night was particularly rainy so the children moved from their usual places looking for shelter. Many were huddled under a bridge to keep dry, but it was much harder for us to see how many of them there were. When it was cold this was even more difficult. The children use whatever they can to keep warm, often wrapping themselves in plastic bags and bundles of cardboard.
We found our four days on the streets doing the survey a challenge. But it was nothing compared to having to live in those conditions day in day out. We can only hope that this head count gives us the information we need to get help to the children who need it most.