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Some beggars in Accra

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The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) has said the Madina Social Welfare Shelter in Accra is not in the position to take in child beggars from the streets.

Consequently, the department has asked to put in place adequate planning and interventions before child beggars are removed from the streets.

Already, the police have indicated their intention to embark on a major exercise to rid the streets of child beggars.

But, speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, the Director of the DSW, Mrs Comfort Asare, said such a move, for now, would be counter-productive.

Accra’s streets have been inundated with the sordid spectacle of children, some of them as young as three years, begging for alms.

Most of them are from countries in the Sahel Region that operate at various points of the city, with their mothers watching from close range.

Speaking to the development, Mrs Asare said adequate budgetary allocation, security, and psycho-social support to provide counselling were critical in temporary homes, including the Medina Shelter, to facilitate the rehabilitation and upkeep of children prior to being reintegrated with their families.

“It is not easy to round up child beggars from the streets and dump them somewhere when the place is not ready for them.

“That will not work. We have our facility, so before you bring in these vulnerable children, the assemblies must tell us how they are going to help us take care of them,” she said.

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Further emphasising the need for coordination and dialogue among stakeholders, she said that would ensure that the various institutions played their part effectively in the removal of child beggars.

In 2018, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection stated that it had renovated the Madina Social Welfare Shelter to house rescued street children.

According to the then sector Minister, Mrs Cynthia Morrison, who spoke with the Daily Graphic, the ministry had written letters to its supporting agencies for the needed support to operate the shelter efficiently, where the inmates would be fed and clothed and also trained to acquire skills.

The Madina Social Welfare Shelter, which is meant to house 100 rescued vulnerable children, currently has only nine of such children there.

The children include seven survivors of child trafficking and two street children who are currently being taken care of by the government, with the support of some non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Typically, the children are fed and clothed, as well as rehabilitated, to enable them to overcome any trauma they might have experienced at the hands of traffickers and on the streets prior to being reintegrated with their families or placed with foster parents.

In August 2017, the MoGCSP launched “Operation get off the street now for a better life”, with the aim of eradicating the phenomenon of street children from the country.

Over 400 children were said to have been rescued from the streets and many were rehabilitated and reintegrated with their families, while others were placed with foster parents.

Section 16 (1)  of the Children’s Act 1998, states: “A District Assembly shall protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority and shall ensure that within the district, governmental agencies liaise with each other in matters concerning children.”

However, community development and social welfare officers at the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in Accra have identified the lack of resources and homes for the upkeep of homeless and vulnerable children who have been picked from the streets as a major issue undermining the capacity of the assemblies to rid the capital of child beggars.

Meanwhile, the Director of Operations of the Accra Police Command, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Mr Kwasi Ofori, has appealed to NGOs interested in the welfare of street children to help provide accommodation for the upkeep of kids who would be removed from the streets in Accra.

He made the appeal when he shed light on the soon-to-be-launched police operation to remove child beggars in Accra.

Compromised security

Mrs Asare said the Madina Shelter was a transit point where vulnerable children were taken for information on their background, families and other details to be taken.

“Having had that freedom to do what they like on the streets is the challenge. So just rounding child beggars up the streets and dumping them somewhere does not amount to anything because you have to inform those at the receiving end of your plans,” she said.

She said it was not always necessary for rescued child beggars to be sent to the Madina Shelter.

Dialogue

Stressing the need for parents to take good care of their children, Mrs Asare queried: “Why should the government be burdened with taking care of children on the streets? Where are their parents and families? Why should you bring a child to the world and leave him or her to suffer?”

“Some people are poor and do not have the means, but they are forced to take care of their children,” she added.

The director noted that while some child beggars had genuine needs that had pushed them onto the streets, the practice had also become “business” for many other children who take delight in soliciting for alms.

She recounted how she personally interviewed some beggars who were visually challenged to find out if they were not on the government’s Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.

She said the answer she got from them was that they were actually benefitting from the LEAP but they took the money and went back on the streets.

For others, especially the foreigners, Mrs Asare said, begging on the streets had become a “vacation job”, as they visited Ghana to beg for alms and leave for their various countries later.

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