The lack of resources and homes for the upkeep of homeless and vulnerable children who have been picked from the streets is a major hurdle undermining the capacity of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in Accra to rid the capital of child beggars.
Currently, the various offices of the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) at the assemblies lack vehicles to enable officials to move round to pick child beggars from the streets.
Besides, there is currently only one state-operated home for homeless children at Madina Social Welfare, but the facility is not big enough to accommodate many street children.
While the MMDAs seek to get support to help resolve the issue, the Accra Police Command has warned that it will soon embark on an operation to clear child beggars off the streets of the capital.
The regional command said it was investigating a hint that most of those children were brought into Ghana from neighbouring countries by some Ghanaians to be used for “commercial begging”.
“At the moment, you may have seen many children from other West African countries on our streets. There are contractors who bring them to Ghana and place them at vantage points and supervise them to beg.
“The Accra Regional Police Command is investigating that and will soon move to deal with the situation,” the Director of Operations of the Accra Police Command, ACP Kwesi Ofori, told the Daily Graphic.
Currently, most child beggars ply their trade at traffic intersections at the Opeibea Junction, the 37 Military Hospital, the Airport Junction and other areas that lie within the boundaries of the various municipalities, including Ayawaso West, Ayawaso East and La Dade Kotopon.
It has been observed that by 6:30 every morning when the rush hour is peaking, the children, some with their parents, troop onto the streets to start a business, and by 6 p.m. they are nowhere to be found on the streets.
Reacting to the Daily Graphic’s lead story in yesterday’s publication on child beggars invading Accra, the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, and some officials of the DSW who requested to remain anonymous said the challenge was making it difficult for the MMDAs to remove street child beggars to facilitate their reformation and reintegration into society.
“While there are two other private welfare facilities at Agormeda in the Shai Osudoku municipality and Weija, the government has not made budgetary allocation for the children’s upkeep, making it difficult to remove these kids from the streets.
“These private facilities can only accommodate kids when there is a commitment from the state to support the operations of the facilities to ensure the children’s proper grooming and reintegration into society,” they said.
Mr Sowah concurred that streetism, which mostly existed outside the jurisdiction of the AMA, had become a major concern to city authorities and must be tackled with the active support and leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
He said in recent times, the DSW had been decentralized and every assembly was supposed to have an office that should manage the affairs of street children.
He, however, noted that it was impossible for every assembly to construct a facility where children who had been picked from the streets could be put up.
Therefore, he said, all the assemblies in Accra currently had to depend on the only government-owned children’s home at Madina Social Welfare, being managed by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
While the government had several interventions in place to support deprived and vulnerable children, including street kids, such interventions remained out of the reach of children of foreign descent, he said.
The AMA chief executive mentioned free basic education, the school feeding programme, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme and the District Assemblies Common Fund for the physically challenged as some interventions.
He, however, said because the parents of most of those street children were foreigners, they were unable to register to benefit from those interventions.
“Because many of them came with the mindset of begging, they solicit for alms and they do not focus on education at all,” he said.
We don’t have vehicles
For their part, the DSW officers told the Daily Graphic that the department simply lacked official vehicles to move round the city to remove children from the streets.
“For the 31 years I have been a social worker, the department has not earmarked a single vehicle for us to go round. So how do you expect us to effectively help rid our city of child beggars?” an officer asked.
On the way forward, the AMA boss said the various assemblies were collaborating with some foreign embassies on the best way to repatriate foreigners and their children back to their countries of origin.
“We need to intensify this collaboration because we do not want to be seen to be breaching ECOWAS protocols on the free movement of people,” he said and called for education to discourage the public from giving alms to street children.