Musa is a 14-years-old street-connected boy who migrated with his siblings from Maradi, Niger, to the streets in Kumasi, Ghana. He comes on the streets of Kumasi and stays at different locations to beg and meet his basic needs. Musa dreams of going back to Niger and going back to school.
Surviving On The Streets During A Pandemic: Musa’s Story
As with other street-connected children, Musa faces rejection every day, the humiliation of being considered different or too often invisible. This is a story common to many street-connected children, and Street Work strives to rewrite it.
Musa comes to the streets with his siblings to beg and meet his basic needs. “His situation is not stable and he has to choose different areas in the city to attract the attention of sympathisers. Musa sometimes has to change spots throughout the day”, explains Mohammed, MFCS Street Worker. Sometimes he does not get anything and as the child says, “I just borrow from my friend and pay back the following day if I get something. It is very sad to be a beggar. I do not want it, but there is almost nothing else that I can do”.
Access to work and food became even more challenging to street-connected children like Musa during the lockdown periods as many services on the streets and food centres closed. Since the pandemic, street-connected children have also been exposed to exponential risks of getting ill due to poor living conditions and inadequate knowledge of and access to prevention and treatment. Many children also reported facing discrimination and isolation due to a lack of access to PPEs to protect against Covid spread. However, thanks to MFCS Street Workers, Musa and other street-connected children did receive this type of support.
Protecting SCC&YP From Covid: The Impact Of Street Work On Musa’s Life
Street Workers supported street-connected children like Musa daily with accessing their basic needs. They provided emergency dry foodstuff to street-connected children and empowered them with knowledge of Covid 19 risks and preventative measures. In addition, street-connected children were provided with face masks, hand sanitiser and soap to wash their hands. This enabled many children like Musa, whose livelihoods relied on the streets, to be able to move and look for work or food.
“He (Musa) tells us how much he appreciates the Covid-19 prevention education we always hold with them on the streets, saying that nobody comes around to educate them on how to stay safe as we do with them”, reports Mohammed.
Indeed, Street Workers building a relationship of trust with street-connected children played a crucial role in providing support during the pandemic. As Mohammed reports, “Relationship building with the street-connected children is one significant aspect of our work. We build a relationship with every child we contact on the street. It helps to understand these children, how they cope on the streets and explore opportunities for them to build their future”.
The Street Workers already had a relationship with Musa before the Covid-19 outbreak, but their interactions with the child increased during the pandemic. Building such a relationship of trust with Musa and his peers was crucial to making the children feel seen, loved and protected through such difficult, uncertain and challenging times that the pandemic presented to the world.
“We keep closer to them, thus creating enough time to share with them and speak in their language, which always makes them happy. The children were ready to share anything about themselves with us on the street. They may not have much interaction with people around them as most people on the street hardly take notice of them”, reports Mohammed.
About CSC Network member and StreetInvest Regional Coordinating Partner MFCS
The Muslim Family Counselling Services is a grassroots organisation working with street-connected children and young people in Kumasi and its surroundings since 1990 to support their healthy development and active participation in the community. It has been StreetInvest’s partner since 2017 when it formally became Regional Coordinating Partner for West Africa to develop a regional network of NGOs, communities, academics and other partners to promote and foster Street Work in the Region. MFCS ensures the delivery of our Street Work programme at the local level through their own network of adult Street Workers and through delivering StreetInvest’s Street Worker training to the organisations in their local networks. To date, the MFCS local network of committed NGOs extends to Kumasi and Accra.
From the beginning of 2021, MFCS’ team of 8 Street Workers has conducted 60 street visits to support over 500 street-connected boys and girls who live in the Kumasi area during the Covid-19 pandemic. Considering the escalation of the Covid-19 emergency in Ghana, Street Workers focused their interventions on health emergency prevention, raising awareness of Covid-19 risks and preventative measures. 327 children were also provided with dry food, and 133 children were provided with PPEs. Street Workers from MFSC sent advocacy letters to 7 government authorities to advocate for the rights of street-connected children and draw attention to their situation during the lockdown period.
In October 2021, MFSC partnered with two organisations, Chance for Children (CFC) and Safe Child Advocacy (SCA), to count street-connected children in the central business district of Kumasi, Ghana. The Kumasi Headcount Report helps us get a true reflection of the numbers of street-connected children and understand the reality of their lives. This information is vital for Street Workers to plan services that meet the specific needs of street-connected children and ensure they are safer, better supported and valued by their communities. In summary, Street Workers counted 6,693 street-connected children aged 0-18 years; 2,468 male and 4,180 females. This is a trend common in Ghana and relatively unique as often in other countries, there are more males than females on the streets