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Context

Over the last five years, unprecedented increases in the cost of living and the level of poverty have been observed in Kenya. Mainly due to the changes in climate and resulting difficulties in the agricultural sector, your money today will buy a quarter of the food it would have done up until 3 or 4 years ago. And, according to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), 52% of the population is living below the national poverty line. In this situation, those most at risk are children. The 2003 census registered the existence of 1.7 million orphans in the country in the 0-14 age group, of which 47% had lost their parents to AIDS. According to the most recent estimates, this figure rose to 2.4 million in 2010. However, the number of vulnerable and disadvantaged children is much higher: according to some sources 8.6 million live in absolute poverty, a fifth of the population as a whole.

The situation is further worsened by the gradual disintegration of the traditional extended family that could look after children who had been abandoned for any reason. Indeed, the sum of these two factors, on the one hand the massive increase in vulnerable children, on the other the impoverishment of the population, considerably undermines the capacity of families to support their own children or take in other children. Many adults, partly because of the significant increase in alcohol and drug abuse, end up indifferent to the fate of their children, or even abuse them.

Thus the street becomes the only way out; according to Unicef, there are 300 thousand children living on the streets of Kenya, concentrated for the most part on the outskirts of Nairobi and forced to live in conditions of absolute poverty. Deprived of all rights and of any form of protection, they are subject to various types of discrimination and exploitation, such as child trafficking and sex tourism. As they do not have the opportunity to go to school and have a regular job, they end up joining gangs and supporting themselves through acts of petty crime.

The Kenyan government, having signed all major international documents for the protection of childhood, has equipped itself in recent years with numerous operational and legal tools in order to achieve specific goals in this area. But there is still a lot to be done. Political and bureaucratic inertia, a weak establishment and deep-seated values and practices make a real and practical change in favour of children difficult.

This English translation has been possible thanks to the project Free translation of websites
for NGOs and non-profit-making organisations
. A project managed by Mondo Services and the translator Lucy Bond

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