Life histories and health needs of street children in Lusaka city, Zambia

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Simabwachi, Zama Joel
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The University of Zambia
Street children are among the helpless, marginalized and most at risk populations in society. They are exposed to increased social, physical and psychological sufferings which affect their health and the health of others. There are a number of government and stakeholder’s programs that target to help vulnerable children including street children. Despite these programs, street children keep getting back to the streets and suffer negative health effects. Even though many studies have been done concerning street children, not much has been inquired regarding life histories and health needs of street children in Zambia with regards to exploration of compatibility of interventions provided, and the actual needs of street children. A qualitative narrative approach of a life history design was used. Data was collected using four Focus Group Discussions with street children aged 12-18 years of age, five key informant interviews, ten (10) life history timeline interviews and observations. Participants were purposively selected. Thematic and narrative analysis were used. Histories and backgrounds of street children revealed that most children were compelled into street living due to hardships such as coming from broken homes, loss of parents, irresponsible parents, and poverty. Others were attracted to streets by peer pressure and money seeking habits. Study also revealed that street living exposed children to negative physical, social and psychological health effects arising from hardships such as lack of safe water and food, road accidents, missing vaccination schedules, sexual harassments, rape and illegal drug use. The study also observed a possible gap in conducting removal programs for street children from the streets without working against factors that caused street children’s strong attachments to street living. This was identified as a potential cause for street children’s reverting to street living after removal despite reintegration to families or adoption by institutions of care. Children are probably attracted and forced to street life by several factors which may need to be considered during planning processes aimed at removing street children from the streets. When designing programs that are intended to meet the needs of street children, it could be helpful to carefully consider factors that cause street children to have strong attachments with street living.
Street childern--Zambia , Street children--Health needs--Zambia , Street children--Life histories--Zambia