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 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 :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 conclusion on women role accords very well with observations found in Princess Kasune Zulu's remarkable book Warrior Princess.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.