SOMALIA: Street Kids Face Drugs, Sex Abuse, Militias in War-torn Region.
MOGADISHU, February 16, 2011 (CISA) -The ongoing civil war in Somalia has taken the lives of many parents whose children end up living on the street.
The kids use all types of drugs, from opium to glue, and become victims of crime, sexual assault, abuse, exploitation and they are prey to recruiters for the country’s militias.
Some children have taken to the streets to support their families. Others have no families to take care of them.
Said Husein Madahey, now 12, lost his parents in the conflict when he was six. He is now a glue sniffer. When he sniffs glue he feels happy, he says.
” I think I’m on the moon, sometimes I dream I am either in New York or Washington,” he says.
“I get pleasure and enjoyment every minute I use glue”
To make ends meet, Madahay collects garbage from the streets of Mogadishu.
He earns little money but ”most of the time the little money you earn in the day is taken away by an older street boy. It is the power that counts.”
And life on the Mogadishu street is dangerous. “I randomly choose the place I spend at night, be prepared to face two risky phenomena, either to be killed by stray bullet or to be molested.”
Madahay, a sharp-eyed youth in a white dirty tee-shirt, is always in bare feet. He said
”I take a bath in the sea once a month, since I believe the water of the city is not clean enough to remove the dirt from my body,” he says.
Mohamed Deq, whose NGO Kalmo deals with child care, says the situation of the street children continues to be dire, especially when the fighting between the Somali government and Al-Shabab militias is still in existence.
War and poverty have thrown thousands of children onto the streets of the Somali capital, leaving them in the crossfire of one of the world’s most brutal guerrilla wars and exposed to disease, drugs and sexual violence.
”The teenagers are living in a scramble life where nobody is prepared to handle them to make or create a better future life,” says Deq, adding that the former regime of Siad Barre had paid a lot of effort for those kids to establish a better life.”
Before the war, most people relied on each other and their extended families for support. Since the war, traditional structures have broken down and immediate and extended families often don’t have enough resources to care for all their children.
And that is why Mohamed Deq believes more and more children must go out and fend for themselves whatever risks they face.