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Communities should care for orphaned, abandoned children

ORPHANED and abandoned children pose a big challenge to national inclusive development endeavors. A considerable number of these children end up on the streets of big cities, begging for money to meet their immediate needs– to feed themselves.

No shelter, no school, no family love, their lives and future are always in jeopardy. Their plight is massive, their destiny unknown. Most would develop anti-social behaviours and as fate would have it, rejected by their communities.

They are neither guilty of their bad fortunes nor did they chose to be lead such a miserable life. They’re denied of their fundamental rights-the right to health, education, family life, play and recreation--they are denied their developmental and age-appropriate needs.

With nations across the globe putting more thrust on sustainable and inclusive development that leaves no one behind, more efforts are directed towards supporting this unprivileged group.

Cognizant of that, the SO S Children’s Village Zanzibar is working with other stakeholders, including the government and civil society organizations, to support disadvantaged children across the Indian O cean archipelago and help families stay together.

SO S Children’s Villages in collaboration with Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Zanzibar, is currently implementing a family strengthening program in Tumbatu, Zanzibar’s third largest island, located off the northwest coast of Unguja island.

SO S’ program coordinator, Nyezuma Simai Iddi, says the family strengthening program seeks to educate families and the community on the importance of caring for orphaned and abandoned children.

“The family strengthening program seeks to ensure families and communities are strengthened so they can adequately care for their children,” She says stable families form stable nations, hence every nation needs to work hard to protect this key unit and ensure children, the future of each and every country, are properly groomed so that they become responsible members of their society.

The absence of a stable, protective family exposes children to multiple risk factors and makes them vulnerable to neglect, abuse, discrimination and exploitation, rightly warns SO S.

“We are working with families and communities to help them build their capacities so that children are well cared for and families stay together,” she says.

Numerous childcare centers have been established by the revolutionary government of Zanzibar but Ms Iddi says taking children to these centers should be the last option, insisting that children’s blood relatives and close families should bear the responsibility and ensure they enjoy all their rights.

“Children should be cared by their parents and close relatives; they need to enjoy love family love, that is very important as they grow up, childcare centers should be the last solution,” The SO S program is sought to sensitize the community so that it assumes the role of supporting and taking care of orphaned and abandoned children instead of sending them to government centers.

“We are working with different partners to develop strong social support systems for children to grow and learn in a positive and supportive environment.

Why Tumbatu? A study by SO S revealed that most of the children at the village were originating from Tumbatu, the large and seldom-visited island, just off the northwest coast of Unguja.

The reasons why children from Tumbatu go to SO S village include economic hardship, death of one or both parents and unstable relationships of the parents.

“We discovered that most of the children brought to the SO S village were from Tumbatu, and among the reasons is they lacked parents’ care,” says Ms Iddi.

The historic Tumbatu Island is populated by the Tumbatu people, one of the three original tribal groups on the archipelago and faces a huge family breakdown problem.

She says a total of 50 children have been reached out through the family strengthening program and are now staying within their respective families and cared adequately, with SO S assisting the families financially across all shehias located in Tumbatu.

In order to achieve their objective, that is build resilience in vulnerable families,

SO S works with communitybased organisations, local authorities and the government, says Ms Iddi. Miza Ali Sharif, a Sheha for Tumbatu Jongowe Shehia, says the local government works on educating the public, particularly, men on the significance of taking good care of their familiestheir wives and children.

Poverty is one of the main reasons for family breakdown, a growing problem which affects most fishing communities on the Isles. Ms Sharif says there are more cases whereby married men abandoned their family in desperate pursuit of their fortunes away from native land.

She explains that men from fishing communities often go on fishing missions in Mainland Tanzania, leaving behind their wives and children without any care.

“It is normal for men here to go to fishing camps (popular as DAGO ) in Mainland Tanzania. They stay out there for months, even years, sadly they forget about their wives and children left behind,” she says.

According to a survey by TAMWA Zanzibar, most men who go away for fishing missions on Mainland Tanzania, end up falling in love with other women and eventually ditch their wives and children at home. Supporting the needy Rahma Khamis (35) is taking care of her late sister’s children. Her sister died ten years ago, leaving behind five children.

She had to shoulder the burden of taking care of the children because her late sister’s husband had abandoned the kids long ago.

“My late sister was remained with five children, three of them were enrolled into the SO S program, I am grateful that SO S put up a modern house for our family as part of their support to the kids,” says Ms Khamis.

Miza Mabrouk Jecha, is another beneficiary of the program. She takes care of her granddaughter following the passing away of her daughter about two years ago.

“There was no one to take care for the little girl after her mother died. The kid was only ten days old when her mother died, so I had to care for her and I’m very thankful to SO S as they have helped me take good care of my granddaughter, who is now two years old,” says Miza.

To support the old lady with a reliable source of income, SO S provided her 800,000/-in cash so that she could establish business that would eventually enable her meet the child’s and her own basic needs.

Restoring family values Every child has the right to grow up in a loving family – preferably with one or both parents; this is what SO S, the government and other social development stakeholders stand for.

The Director of Social Welfare in Zanzibar, Wahida Maabad, hence, urges the public to get back to good old days when the family assumed full responsibility of caring for children.

She cannot hide her dismay over a rapidly rising social problem whereas families are becoming more reluctant to care for orphaned and abandon children.

“The society must change and embrace the old tradition whereby families ensured orphaned and abandon children were cared within their families and stop sending them to childcare centers,” she says.

The Director for North Unguja Regional Council, Mussa Ali Makame lays the blame on irresponsible men, who abandon their wives and children. He says family disintegration is largely to blame for the soaring number of street children.

Mr Makame says the government, is however, taking efforts to address the problem. And one of the methods used is conducting family counseling programs across the region, of which couples are trained on parenting and household management skills.

The objective is to avoid family breakdown. Gracing the launching of Mahonda Child Court recently, United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Mr Alvaro Rodriguez said he was pleased with the efforts taken by the government and civil societies in Zanzibar and pleads with the society to maintain love and care for children, arguing that would help solve the street children crisis.

Mr Rodriguez admitted that families experiencing crises or extreme hardship may have difficulty caring adequately for their children, and underscored the need for improving family economies.

The UN boss stressed on the need to protect child’s rights which include access to health care services and education, saying countries should emphasize a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Author: ABDALLAH MSUYA in Zanzibar

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