In Burkina Faso, 6,400 children live on the streets*. With no family protection or direction, they are helpless and exposed to all kinds of dangers such as violence, drugs and exploitation. In partnership with the Keoogo child protection association, Médecins du Monde intends to help improve care and access to healthcare for these street children.
Both girls and boys are on the streets for different reasons: to escape physical violence, emotional violence, the shame of an unwanted pregnancy, or they may be attracted by the dream of making easy money. As such, many children end up working on gold panning sites exposed to toxic products, or in child trafficking networks. Every story is different.
'We emphasise the fact that these children live in ‘street conditions’, meaning that their current situation is not an inevitability. No child is happy to live on the streets, all of them dream of having a family or a career. As such, our work to guarantee them access to healthcare is part of a broader strategy to help them (re)gain a place in the community', explains Muriel Gonçalves, Head of Communication at Médecins du Monde.
The cases of girls who are shunned by their families if they fall pregnant are particularly alarming. Without any means of their own, they risk falling into prostitution and becoming victims of violence if they go to urban centres. Keoogo helps them by providing accommodation in reception centres. The association also campaigns against illegal unsafe abortions, and distributes condoms to reduce the risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Prenatal assistance is offered to young pregnant girls. Moreover, a programme to raise awareness of sexually transmitted diseases has been set up and is achieving tangible results: between 2016 and 2017 (over the same period), the number of consultations for STIs has been halved.
Médecins du Monde provides equipment and supplies to the Keoogo Medical Centre, and makes other resources available. This allows it to strengthen its operational effectiveness. In addition, medical convoys to the health centre and the organisation of hospitalisation support effectively improve access to healthcare for street children.
Both girls and boys are on the streets for different reasons: to escape physical violence, emotional violence, the shame of an unwanted pregnancy, or they may be attracted by the dream of making easy money.
Maintaining a connection
On the streets, it is vital to maintain a connection with the children. Around the clock, Keoogo's staff organise patrols (referred to as 'maraudes') in the places where children hang around. Discussion groups are also organised for children, who can give their opinions on topics of interest to them. This regular contact makes it possible to create a climate of trust. As such, medical assistance can be offered more easily, but also invitations to make appointments to discuss social, legal or psychological issues.
Keoogo also aims to reunite children with their families, whenever this is possible. The association traces the families and then takes a mediation role in case of a family conflict. If reintegration within the family is not possible, Keoogo looks for a place in a reception centre and offers the child the opportunity to learn a trade.
Médecins du Monde, in supporting Keoogo, supports street children and improves their access to healthcare. Access to health care for all is one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3 - Good health and well-being) which Belgium is committed to implementing.
(video in French)