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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Street Children in Zambia

The prevalence of street children is a huge problem in Zambia, but I never understood the trend until I came across this recent paper on Breaking the Net : Family Structure and Street Children in Zambia :

The number of street children in Zambia almost doubled over the 1990s. National studies conducted in 1991 and 2004 estimated the number of street children in Zambia to be approximately 35000 and 75000, respectively (Tacon and Lungwangwa 1991; Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development 2004). This represents an increase from about 0.9% to 1.6% of Zambian children living on the street.  
The above is a serious indictment of MMD's policy over the last two decades. The paper goes on to provide some interesting observations on the factors that give rise to the street children phenomenon, following a study of Ndola slums :
Our analysis highlights several interesting features of the role of family structure on the street children phenomenon.

Contrary to common belief, income is not a main determinant of the street children phenomenon as most families in this setting live below the poverty line. The same applies to the impact of HIV
and other shocks at the household level. These play an important role in separating “stable” families from the group of “risk” and “street” families but within the latter group these elements have little influence on the probability of generating street children. While many street children come from poor families and families affected by HIV, poverty and the impact of HIV per se do not lead children to take to the streets

Looking at both set of regressions (i.e. those at household level, assessing the probability a family originates street children, and those at the individual child level, assessing the characteristics of a child within a street family that make him more likely to end up on the street) the following elements emerged: the health status of the male head of the household plays a fundamental role in determining the probability of the street outcome. Moreover the extended family net matters. A higher number of husband’s sisters and the presence of maternal grandparents reduce the probability of originating street children. Finally a younger composition of children in the household, a lower presence of orphans as well as a higher share of girls in the household are all associated with a lower probability of the street children outcome. In addition, the role of the child within the family matters: nephews, stepchildren and household heads’ siblings are less likely to end up on the street compared to natural son and daughters, thus indicating that when an extended family accepts nephews and stepchildren, it is because there is the intention to keep and protect them.

Overall these results confirm the importance of the extended family safety net as well as the key role of the female presence in the household in reducing the likelihood that children end up on the street. They suggest that promoting the role of women in the household and supporting extended family links may represent an important avenue for policies aimed at reducing the risk of street life.
The conclusion on women role accords very well with observations found in Princess Kasune Zulu's remarkable book Warrior Princess.


  1. The government needs to tax the mines over $1.2 billion a year so there is plenty of money availalable to reinstate universal education and healthcare, as well as government investment.

    It is that simple.

  2. MrK, do you really believe our leaders are inclined to reinstate universal education and healthcare? Sadly, I don't. The money would inevitably be mismanaged, and we would have another MoH fiasco on our hands.

  3. Hi MissBwalya,

    There was universal education before, and there can be again.

    Also, there is nothing inevitable about corruption - usually the atmosphere is set by the leadership.

    There are a lot of things that can be done to prevent corruption - having transparant procedures, paying civil servants on time and giving them something to lose, like having a job that pays a living wage.

  4. MrK,

    I couldn’t agree more. The measures you have outlined are pretty common sense, and should be the norm but are not. How do we move from where we are today to that point?

  5. MissBwalya,

    We need to have a party in power that will tax the mines for over $1.2 billion a year. Then, the money will be available for universal education, directly funding local government, etc.

    So the key is to lobby every party (especially the PF-UPND - which has a huge chance of winning in 2011) and make them aware that the people kwow that we need to heavily tax the mines.

    That is the only way the country is going to develop.

  6. AS long as our children, youths and women are left behind! There will not be development in Zambia. As a matter of fact any nation that does not invest in the lives of its youth, children and women will not with stand in the course of time. Any nation that forgets it's children is setting itself for a time bomb, that into catastrophe.

  7. Princess,

    Indeed. I think women in particular becomes crucial as you have observed in your book. I was struck that many of the people who were bringing orphans to Fountain of Life were grandmothers, aunts, etc.

    Unfortunately, our policies on land, inheritance and other areas are discriminatory. If we can empower women we can go a long way - girl education is particularly important. Role models such as yourself, as part of a new generation of Zambian women, can make a huge difference. I fear government is not best placed at present. But I am a strong believer in "signalling" by those who are living examples of change. I think that really does make a difference. I have previously touched on this on this area under More than a woman

  8. "...when an extended family accepts nephews and stepchildren, it is because there is the intention to keep and protect them". Well in my experience this is not really the truth. Most of the children that we accept to our centre (and at the moment we accommodate 47 boys), came to the street after being mistreated or neglected by extended family that took them in after parent's death. Another big portion originates from families of divorcees’, where stepparent makes their life unmanageable to the extent of pushing them out to the street.

  9. Im interested in conducting a research project,some sort of Action Research - examining who ends on the streets,where why?how?and then what can be done,by who, when and how etc.And actually do something as part of the research.
    I no longer live in Zambia,but visit frequently and am troubled by what I see.I can get an expert at my university here in England to supervise the project (to guide design,study and analysis etc).I would need funding/resources to support the study in Zambia.I can pay for myself accommodation and up keep,resources will be strictly for study.Any one interested? or can point me in right direction? NGOs? Government departments? individuals etc .Contact me


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