|Interior Minister Ousman Sonko|
Gambia’s Ministry of Internal Security Thursday raised concerns over the possible violation of street children who are without parental care.
The Ministry of Interior, the Immigration Department, the Police Child Welfare Unit, and the Department of Social Welfare jointly found a “rampant” presence of children on the streets without parental care.
Some of whom they said are brought to Gambia to be engaged in domestic work from neighbouring countries.
Gambian children are also seen in the street working as street vendors without any parental care or guardians during the summer vacation, the Ministry said, citing violations of the Children's Act 2005.
Section 41 (1) of the Act states that a person shall not engage a child in exploitation labour, and section 20 (2) of the Constitution of The Gambia 1997 states “no person shall be required to perform forced labour.”
In an August 9 public statement, the Interior Ministry said: "Parents and guardians are strongly warned to desist from such acts as it's not in the best interest of the children”, and vows to continue work partners in the area of child protection to ensure that all measures are in place for the protection of children found on the streets without parental care.
“Children under such situation are at high risk of being violated," the ministry said.
Early this year, a flagship report of the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, found that Gambia’s urban children are facing some of the greatest inequalities and are most vulnerable to infections and diseases.
The report “The State of the World’s Children 2012: Children in an Urban World” launched on June 5, 2012 at Kotu Quarry, a slum-dwelling in the Kanifing Municipality, Gambia’s Serrekunda West district – found children living in this area grossly excluded from vital services.
“We know that you are among the most vulnerable children in urban Gambia,” UNICEF country representative in Gambia, Mrs. Aichatou Diawara Flambert told the children of Kotu Quarry, where in 2011, the Gambia Government evicted people it said were living in “squatters.”
“We know that you are at high risk of catching infections and diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, from the unclean environment you live in,” she added. “Many of you do not go to school and do not enjoy your basic right to education.”
Most of the children residing at the Kotu Quarry were not registered at birth, and with no proof of age and identity, they may lack the basic protection against abuse and exploitation such as child labour, intensive domestic work, child trafficking, early marriage and prosecution as an adult.
“The children of Kotu Quarry are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children of the country,” admits Mr. Yankuba Colley, Mayor of Kanifing Municipality, who added that “They are usually deprived of the most basic services and denied the right to thrive.”
Written by Modou S. Joof
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