Seventy-one child beggars have been taken off the streets of Accra under a project dubbed: “Operation get off the street for better life.”
Out of the number, 17 have been re-integrated with their families while 54 have been placed in various shelters in Accra.
Initiated in May, 2018, the project is being undertaken by the Department of Social Welfare in conjunction with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
The Director of the Department of Social Welfare, Mr Daniel Nonah, who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic said out of the 17 children who were re-united with their families, seven were foreigners who were sent back to their respective countries of Mali and Niger, while the others were sent to various parts of the country.
“After they were taken off the streets, some of the children wanted to go back home so we traced their families and sent them back to them,” he said.
Mr Nonah said while some of the children in the various shelters were attending school others were being offered training in various skills.
Some children and adults from slum communities in Accra and some West and Central African countries have invaded the streets of Accra, begging for alms to feed themselves and their families.
While their peers are in school, some of these child beggars with the tacit endorsement of their parents, are found on some of the city’s major roads, including the ceremonial routes.
Some even pretend to be sick, preying on unsuspecting members of the public to get their daily bread.
“Operation get off the street now for a better life” was launched this year as part of the government’s efforts to reduce streetism.
The initiative targets street persons, including those with mental problems, beggars, the destitute, persons with disabilities, head porters (kayayei), displaced persons, orphans and delinquents.
It has the objective of providing a better alternative to street life and integrate the targeted persons back into families and communities.
It also sought to include the identification and delivery of the core set of basic services that have the potential of securing the re-integration of persons on the street into mainstream society and strengthening of policies that address the causes of streetism.
More funds needed
According to Mr Nonah, data was initially collected on about 4,809 people on the street, including about 1,000 children in the Greater Accra Region after which it was analysed.
“After the analysis of the data, we moved on to take 71 of them from the streets and sent them to a shelter to access their needs. During the assessment, we realised that some were willing to go back home so we sent them home,” he explained.
Mr Nonah said although the Department of Social Welfare targeted to rescue about 10,000 people from the streets every year, that objective could not be achieved because of inadequate funds.
He said most of the shelters belonged to non-governmental organisations that were supporting the department’s operations.
“We are still mobilising funds to continue with the operations because we don’t have enough, but we are determined so we are hoping to get more support from organisations and the corporate sector,” he said.
Desist from helping street beggars
To achieve the ultimate goal of integrating child beggars back into families and communities, he said poor parents who have their children on the streets would be enrolled onto the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme.
With the foreigners who were returned to their countries, the director explained that the Department of Social Welfare had liaised with other non-governmental organisations in their respective countries to take them through orientation to enable them to go back to their communities.
While discouraging people from getting onto the streets, Mr Nonah also urged the public to desist from giving street beggars money and feeding them all the time as the practice encouraged them to stay on the streets.