Hanna Yohannes with mother Zenash
Zekarias Kiros is a young man who dedicated his life to helping the poor, and homeless.
Ethiopia, especially in its capital city of Addis Ababa, is experiencing a growing homelessness crisis. Young adults and children leave the countryside to try and find work and education in the country’s urban areas, but the cost of living and housing is often unaffordable. Here are seven facts about homeless children in Ethiopia.
7 Facts about Homeless Children in Ethiopia
1.Forty-two percent of Addis Ababa’s homeless population is under the age of 18. An official survey in 2010 counted 12,000 homeless children in Addis Ababa alone but some NGOs have estimated that the number is much higher.
2. Family problems are cited as one of the main reasons that children leave their homes and end up living on the streets. Approximately 46% of street children in Ethiopia live with people other than their birth parents because of death, divorce, or separation.
3. Residential shelters exist for homeless children in Ethiopia, but they must pay their way into them and continue to make money in order to stay there. Shelters are small and fit fewer than 20 children at once. For about 20 birr (57 cents in USD) children can pay to have meals and a bed for a night. One particular shelter, Hold My Hand, has been serving at-risk homeless boys by providing them food at Addis’s largest school, Bole, or by reuniting them with lost family members. Though the shelter’s capacity is small, they have been able to reunite five families with their lost sons and continue to feed children through the Bole Project.
4. Homeless children in Ethiopia are often exploited. Human trafficking networks have a large presence in the country’s crime rings, and often young girls that are experiencing homelessness in Ethiopia fall victim to these syndicates. Once in Addis Ababa, these girls are forced into slavery-like working conditions in domestic service. Close to 400,000 humans were trapped in slavery in 2016. Retrak Ethiopia helps businesses learn more about the people they employ and then tries to rescue homeless children in Ethiopia from human trafficking.
5. Many homeless children experience addiction or substance abuse. Glue-sniffing is a popular form of drug abuse among homeless children in Ethiopia because the substance is inexpensive and easy to obtain on the street. Street children sniff glue in order to try and ease the pain of hunger and exposure to the elements.
6. Ethiopia’s government does not offer any type of public funding for homeless children and has instead relied on a heavy police presence to try and contain the growing crisis in cities. One method used by the police is apprehending children and forcing them back to their hometowns, but this effort has been largely unsuccessful.
7. Ethiopia’s newest prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has charted a new path for the way the country addresses its growing homeless youth population. His new stance is the “Children on the streets have a right to live” which is a far cry from mottos of the past like the one in 2017 that emphasized “Cleaning Addis Ababa’s streets of children.” Now, Ethiopia’s government involves more conversations with on-the-ground NGOs. Habitat for Humanity has opened an Ethiopian chapter to try and rebuild old housing units and provide new ones for the country’s homeless population. Sanitation services in Ethiopia are unavailable in 80% of urban areas, so Habitat focuses on creating communal points of access for water distribution and hygienic purposes in cities like Addis Ababa.